Friday, February 27, 2015


An estimated 15,000 educators rally for better wages, smaller class as contract negotiations with LAUSD stall

By Zahira Torres, LA Times |

27 February 2015  ::  The sign hanging around Luis Blazer's neck listed the reason he was standing outside with thousands of teachers Thursday evening, calling on the country's second-largest school district to accept the demands of United Teachers Los Angeles.

Blazer has 45 students in his ninth-grade algebra class at Rancho Dominguez Preparatory School, a number he said is too high for him to effectively do his job.

LAUSD teachers

Thousands of teachers from throughout the L.A. Unified School District rally in downtown's Grand Park on Feb. 26 to press for contract demands. / Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

"Class size is the main reason I'm here," Blazer said. "If you have 54 minutes of class time and you have 45 students that means each student is getting less than two minutes of attention. No matter how good of a teacher you are, you're always going to lose the group."

Blazer, like many other educators who filled Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles, said that he is not financially prepared to strike but that he would if the Los Angeles Unified School District does not reach an agreement with the teachers union to reduce class sizes, raise teacher pay and develop a new system for evaluating teachers. 

The district and the teachers union announced this month that they had reached an impasse in contract negotiations. Each side argues that the other is being unreasonable. The union is seeking a pay raise of 8.5%; the district has offered 5%.

"United Teachers Los Angeles promoted today’s rally weeks before it declared an impasse in labor negotiations," Supt. Ramon Cortines said in a statement. "We remain focused on securing an agreement, like we have with the majority of other labor partners at the Los Angeles Unified School District, which takes into account our fiscal reality and our commitment to students, teachers, support service personnel and the district at large."

UTLA President Alex Caputo Pearl, who estimated that 15,000 people attended the rally, told the crowd that district officials had offered no legitimate counter offer during negotiations. He said educators should flood the phone lines for the superintendent and board members, vote in Tuesday's school board election against candidates who have support from former Supt. John Deasy, and fill out commitment cards agreeing to escalating steps including protests on busy streets and striking, if necessary.

"Our demands, they're not radical," Caputo Pearl said. "When did it become radical to have class sizes that you could actually teach in? When did it become radical to have staffing and to pay people back after eight years of nothing?"

A sea of red shirts began filing into the park around 4 p.m. Educators wore signs calling for respect, better wages, and clean and safe classrooms. Some chanted: "Call your school board let them know, parents and educators run the show."

"We haven't been given a raise in eight years, yet my apartment has gone from $750 to $1,800 a month and I'm expected to pay that on the same salary," Blazer said.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


L.A. Unified Board of Education campaign pits charter school group (+ the usual billionaires)  against teachers union

By Howard Blume | LA Times |

Charter school

A dance class at Gabriella Charter School in Los Angeles. The next Board of Education will choose a superintendent for the nation's second-largest district and contend with the growing number of charter schools. (Andrew Renneisen / For The Times)

26 Feb 2015  ::  Los Angeles mayors once played the role of kingmaker in school board elections.

Both Richard Riordan and Antonio Villaraigosa took on the teachers union, leading campaigns to raise money for favored candidates. When those candidates won, the mayors influenced district spending, the hiring of superintendents and the direction of reforms — often over union opposition.

In Tuesday's election, this role has shifted to a statewide charter school group, which is raising money, sending mailers and rallying parents in an effort to become a permanent political force. The push comes at a crucial time for charter schools, which have been growing at a rapid clip in Los Angeles Unified despite concerns from some — including union officials — that they are sapping vital resources from traditional public schools.

California Charter Schools Assn. Advocates, a political action committee, has put its muscle into a race it considers crucial. The charter group seeks to unseat one-term incumbent Bennett Kayser and elect charter school founder Ref Rodriguez to represent an area that encompasses Silver Lake and Eagle Rock as well as southeast L.A. County.

The teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, is pouring money into the race on behalf of Kayser.

Another candidate for District 5 is parent leader and education consultant Andrew Thomas, who frequently reaches for middle ground between his two opponents.

Through Wednesday's campaign filings, the charter group had spent $699,688 to support Rodriguez. UTLA had spent $384,109 for Kayser. Those totals far surpass donations directly to the candidates as well as the spending totals for the other contested board races.

Since September, the donors to the charter PAC include Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings ($1.5 million), former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ($450,000), Jim Walton of the Wal-Mart founding family ($250,000) and local philanthropist Eli Broad ($155,000). All are longtime charter school backers with a broad interest in education.

"At least for this election, and in board District 5, where it's going to be the most competitive race, this looks like a proxy war between the California Charter Schools Assn. and United Teachers Los Angeles," said Dan Chang, who heads a different political action committee that supports the same candidates as the charter PAC. [●●smf: Chang is a former member of Deasy’s staff and later worked for the the LA Fund, Deasy’s independent “Robin Hood’ fundraiser …and (some say) slush fund.]

Four seats are on the ballot for the seven-member school board. George McKenna, who recently took office in a special election, is unopposed. Two other incumbents, Tamar Galatzan and Richard Vladovic, are seeking to retain their seats in contested but lower-cost races. The union is silent in these races; the charter group endorses the incumbents.

The next Board of Education will choose a superintendent for the nation's second-largest district and face difficult decisions over how best to restore programs and staffing as funding recovers from the recent recession. L.A. Unified also is mired in contract talks with the teachers union.

Another challenge is how to deal with the growing number of charter schools, a main point of distinction between the candidates.

Charters are independently operated and exempt from some rules that govern traditional campuses. Most are nonunion.

According to the charter group, Kayser cast votes supportive of charter schools only 11% of the time. Kayser's vote was usually symbolic because the board majority regularly approved valid petitions for new charters, as required by state law.

But Kayser's reflexive opposition made him enemy No. 1 for charter advocates.

More than 100,000 students, or 15% of L.A. Unified's enrollment, attend charters, the most of any school system in the nation. State funding, at least $8,000 per student, goes to the charter school where a student enrolls, leaving fewer resources in L.A. Unified to pay for infrastructure, programs for the disabled, retiree pensions and benefits, along with other expenses.

For the union and many teachers, the anti-charter stance of Kayser, a retired teacher, has made him especially popular.

At campaign forums, Kayser, 68, said he initially supported charters as laboratories of innovation. But too many, he said, have become corporate-style franchises that hurt students by "taking away resources from the traditional public schools."

Rodriguez, 43, said that options for families should include charters, which have proven their worth.

"You see it as the district's money," he said to Kayser. "I see it as the kids' money."

Thomas, 49, said he sympathized with Kayser's points, but as a parent, he could not routinely oppose charter schools.

Charters are not the only issue that sets Kayser apart. He was, for example, the board's most steadfast opponent of former Supt. John Deasy, who resigned under pressure in October.

Before he left, Deasy had been part of a lawsuit that overturned traditional teacher protections, including tenure. Kayser has defended such job protections; Rodriguez said he generally supported the lawsuit. Thomas said teachers should be more accountable for performance but shared concerns that higher-paid veteran instructors could become targets for dismissal.

Deasy had strong support from charter advocates and key city leaders, who formerly organized behind Villaraigosa to raise money for school board elections. Mayors in Los Angeles have no authority over schools, but some have used their influence in elections to exert control, just as the union has tried to do.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has preferred to stay out of the fray.

"Now that Antonio Villaraigosa has left ... the existential question for this movement is: Can it stand on its own two legs?" said Ben Austin, who headed a group that helped dissatisfied parents revamp their schools. He was a part of the Villaraigosa coalition.

If the charter-led campaign doesn't prevail, "there's going to be real questions about the sustainability of this movement when a mayor is not leading it," Austin said.

Negative campaigning has obscured the candidates' differences. The charter PAC has paid for fliers that characterize Kayser as a racist and slumlord who wants to spend billions on iPads and keep child molesters in the classroom.

The allegations range from false to misleading. The same goes for union-funded fliers that depict Rodriguez, a career educator, as a profiteer who skirts financial disclosures rules.

Hastings, the largest recent donor to the charter group, said there was a natural overlap between what affects charters and other schools, such as funding, standardized testing and new state learning standards. But he does not want the association to stray from its core mission.

"Issues that don't affect charter schools," such as rules over teacher tenure at traditional schools, "don't make sense" for the charter group to be directly involved in, he said.

Under campaign law, the PAC decides what portion of its resources go to the L.A. races and what goes to campaigns elsewhere or lobbying activities.

The union won recent elections against the mayor's coalition after labeling its donors as rich outsiders and profit-minded business interests.

It hopes to do so again.

"There is a fundamental problem with outside entities coming into our community and dictating how our school board should look and what its policies should be," said Oraiu Amoni, the union's political director.

The charter group hopes it is immune from that stigma and that voters will identify instead with families who have left the traditional system, said Gary Borden, executive director of the charter PAC.

"These are public school kids with taxpaying parents — parents who are concerned about public education," Borden said.


By Hillel Aron, LA Weekly |

Charter Schools Take on Charter-Hating LAUSD Board Member Bennett KayserIllustration by Eric Davison

Wednesday, February 25, 2015  ::  The first charter school in L.A. was the Open School, an elementary school that petitioned the school district to be converted into a charter in 1993, allowing it to operate autonomously, beyond the thicket of LAUSD rules. One of the parents who signed that petition was a teacher named Bennett Kayser, whose youngest son attended the school.

Twenty-two years later, Kayser, now on the L.A. Unified School District Board of Education, is the bête noire of the growing charter school movement.

By law, every proposed new charter school must go before the elected, seven-member LAUSD board for approval. And every five years the same seven politicians must renew every school's "charter" — rules by which charter schools operate outside the reach of LAUSD.

Most charter schools are approved with little to no discussion. Even controversial schools are often approved, despite the worries of some on the board that the charter schools are draining away students.

But Kayser takes it to a whole other level. The one-time parent of a child in L.A.'s first charter school votes against charter schools — nearly every chance he gets.

"[Monica] Ratliff and [Steve] Zimmer, they're open to listening," says Gary Borden of the California Charter Schools Association Advocates. "They judge each issue on its merits. We can work with them." But Kayser's "nearly 100 percent" opposition is "a reflexively reactionary vote."

Borden's advocacy group, CCSA Advocates, wants to push Kayser, who's up for re-election in L.A.'s March 3 primary, off the school board.

The group is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on glossy mailers, radio ads, even TV ads, trashing Kayser. They hope to elect Ref Rodriguez, co-founder of Partnerships to Uplift Communities, or PUC, a chain of charter schools spread from Eagle Rock to Sylmar serving primarily minority and working-class kids.

PUC students earn academic scores well above the state average, the kind of scores seen in the nicest suburbs.

Meanwhile, the teachers union, UTLA, is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars touting Kayser and blasting Ref Rodriguez.

Rodriguez agrees that LAUSD should close down underperforming charter schools. But he's disturbed by Kayser's nuclear option of opposing even the ones where minority children are excelling.

Last year, the board voted to close Aspire Antonio Maria Lugo Academy, a heavily Latino school whose low-income kids were thriving academically. Rodriguez calls the vote "morally reprehensible." The board had insisted the school use LAUSD's special education plan, not its own.

Says Rodriguez: "Here's a high-performing school, by all measures, in a city that does not have a whole lot of options. By forcing it to close, how is that not morally wrong?"

Andrew Thomas, an educational researcher and parent activist also running for that LAUSD seat on March 3, has tried to present himself as the happy medium between Kayser and Rodriguez.

But even Thomas can't believe Kayser's litany of no votes. "To vote on principal or ideology to close a school — it's beyond the pale for me," he said at a candidate debate.

About 22 percent of LAUSD students — 143,187 kids — now attend charter schools. An overwhelming 73 percent are Hispanic and 9 percent are black, closely tracking the greater LAUSD enrollment (which is 78 percent Hispanic and 9 percent black).

One reason Kayser is anti-charter is that every LAUSD student who enrolls in a charter reduces the headcount, which in turn leads to less money for the district.

Kayser, in a debate in El Sereno, claimed that charters are "taking the district's money away." To which Rodriguez responded: "That's the problem, Mr. Kayser. You see it as the district's money. I see it as the students' money."

In theory, a shrinking LAUSD should mean lower district costs. But school employees belong to powerful unions where layoffs are rigorously opposed, and the schools are costly, having been built to a bigger size for big enrollments.

In the early 2000s, voters passed bonds to build new schools in then-overcrowded LAUSD. During construction, the flowering charter schools acted as an escape valve for packed LAUSD classrooms.

But in 2004, enrollment in LAUSD started to drop. That was in part due to a lower birthrate and young families moving to the suburbs ­— but a major factor is the parent-driven mass exodus to charters, which are often smaller, with younger teachers and greater parent involvement.

Some LAUSD schools are so empty that charter schools are allowed to share the campus space with district schools. This "co-location," as it's called, has caused internecine squabbles — between the parents, educators and other adults.

Critics say charters don't accept enough special education or disabled students, a charge CCSA vigorously denies. Kayser needles even successful charter schools that boast high student achievement, such as Rodriguez's PUC schools and the well-regarded Aspire and Green Dot chains, calling them "corporate charters."

"The corporate charter schools are all the same," he said at the El Sereno debate. "It's like going from Burger King to McDonald's to Jack in the Box."

He's referring to the fact that charter schools are strongly backed, as a key component of education reform, by corporate leaders including the Walton family and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Charter opponents imply that charters are part of a plot to privatize schools for personal profit.

To seasoned charter-school founders, Kayser's accusation is absurd. "I started Green Dot with my life savings and didn't pay myself for three years," says Steve Barr. "I don't know what he's talking about. I give money to Planned Parenthood, KPCC and KPFK. Are those corporations? I wouldn't say it's libel, but it's pretty close to it."

Kayser is, more often than not, the lone no vote against renewing a charter school. After all, charter schools are incredibly popular. A 2014 Gallup poll found that between 63 and 70 percent of Americans support them, while 54 percent think they are better than their public school counterparts. Thousands of parents are yanking their kids out of district schools.

To what does Kayser attribute this exodus? He dismisses the academic achievements cited by parents. "Charter schools have spent money to brand themselves and market themselves. I think if the same effort were being made by public schools, they would be much more popular."

The intent of charter schools is to not only provide a choice to parents who couldn't afford private school but also, as in any free market, to experiment and innovate — and force the school districts to compete and adopt their best practices.

That has largely happened here. LAUSD has given more local control to schools and converted others into "pilot" schools run by LAUSD employees but using innovative ideas. And LAUSD has improved its test scores and graduation rates.

But in Kayser's worldview, charters are "not doing any innovation anymore." He wants to convert every charter to an LAUSD-controlled "pilot" school, giving them certain freedoms but not full independence. However, state law wouldn't allow that radical move.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

¡PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE 4LAKids’ MOUTH IS! Come support Bennett Kayser at Meet+Greet Fun(d)raiser at Olvera Street 4:30-6pm Wednesday Afternoon!

a shameless and uncompensated political party because it can’t just all be precinct walking, phone banking and cold pizza!



by Craig Clough, LA School Report |

Do the Write Thing Challenge winner Destiny Lopez (L) and Lori Vollandt

Student Destiny Lopez (L) and Lori Vollandt at Tuesday’s LA Unified school board Committee of the Whole meeting

February 20, 2015 2:20 pm  ::   Those attending this week’s meeting of the LA Unified school board’s Committee of the Whole got a sobering reminder of the horrific levels of violence some of the district’s students live with as Destiny Lopez, a 9th grader at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, stepped to the microphone and read from her winning Do the Write Thing Challenge essay.

“My father, as a result of being a gang member, became a quadriplegic, meaning he can’t move from the neck down as a result of him having been shot three times — once in his eyebrow, once in his upper lip and once in his arm, which is the one that did the most damage,” she said.

But the violence “didn’t stop there. There’s no one in the world who can stop all the violence in the world,” she added, explaining that her uncle, who was also a member of the same gang, was shot and killed. (See the full video of Lopez reading her essay below.)

Lopez and 8th grader David Berecca were the 2014 challenge winners chosen from LA Unified. Thirty communities across the country participated in the essay contest, which was launched in 1994. As part of the National Campaign to Stop Violence, it asks middle school students to write about how violence impacts them.

Two “national ambassadors” from each community visited the Library of Congress in Washington D. C. last summer to read their essays, which were printed and entered into the record.

Both Lopez and Berecca had been invited to appear before the committee, but Berecca couldn’t make it so Scott Folsom, a member of the Bond Oversight Committee and parent activist, stood in for him. While Lopez’s essay was straightforward and sobering, letting the sheer weight of her plain-spoken words carry the piece, Berecca’s read like a poem:

“I was bullied before. I couldn’t take the pain before. I couldn’t come out the door. I was in my room crying and being afraid, I just hoped that one day everything will change. I was thrown, pushed, socked in the arm. It hurt me more right here in my heart.”

The Do the Write Thing Challenge references Spike Lee’s 1989 award-winning film, “Do the Right Thing,” which explored race relations and the differing viewpoints on violent vs. non-violent acts of protest.

LA Unified’s participation in the program is organized by Lori Vollandt, the district’s coordinator of health education programs. Vollandt and the program were given an enthusiastic introduction by board member Steve Zimmer, who described Vollandt as “a leader the district, state and national level on youth violence reduction.” He also started explaining the program in detail before pointing at Vollandt in the audience.

“I’m stealing your whole presentation, I’m sorry. It’s a truly moving experience, and it’s one that we are proud to support,” Zimmer said.

Vollandt explained that students are asked to consider several different questions about how violence impacts them, including what they can do about it.

“That’s one thing that I like about this program, is it doesn’t ask what everybody else can do, but it takes that personal responsibility,” Vollandt said.

Lopez’s essay explained that she participates in charity walks and awareness programs to help battle violence, but also that “I will not let it define me but in fact make me a better person in life.”


smf 2cents 


I was asked to read it – and at the last minute was asked to edit it. I did this word butchery unhappily and under protest; Eighth graders deserve better from adults; I knew it when I was one and I believe it all the more strongly now.

Here is his entire poem, as archived in the Library of Congress.:

image image

READERS: “LAUSD’s iPad plan doomed from the start…” + LA TIMES: “…but try, try again!” + smf’s 2¢

Ramon C. Cortines

L.A. Unified Supt Ramon C. Cortines said the district cannot afford to provide a computer to every student. (Los Angeles Times)



LAUSD teachers attend a training session to improve their skills at using technology at Los Angeles Elementary School. (Los Angeles Times)

L.A. Unified's iPad plan was doomed from the start

letters to the editor of the LA Times |

LAUSD should try again on supplying computers

By The Times Editorial Board |

24 Feb 2015

To the editor: As a 10-year veteran of the Los Angeles Unified School District, I've seen corporate feeders convince district administrators of the need to spend taxpayer money on various overblown and ill-considered schemes. Profiteers benefit from the LAUSD's largesse while underserved students suffer. ("L.A. Unified says it can't afford 'computer for all' plan," Feb. 20)

The notion that it is the district's responsibility to provide one computer per student is preposterous, considering that one of teachers' greatest challenges is to wrest students' attention away from texting.

I applaud Supt. Ramon C. Cortines' decision to back away from the Apple iPad plan. He should now carefully examine the district's disastrous rollouts and play hardball with any company that wants the district's business. Vendors must guarantee that their products and services will work; if they don't, the district gets its money back.

Teachers, clerks, custodians, nurses, librarians, arts teachers, counselors, deans and security all need to be restored to sufficient levels so that ill-disciplined students are not allowed to interrupt instruction and students' academic and social needs can be met.

Diane Rabinowitz, Los Angeles


To the editor: This debacle is no surprise to those of us experienced in tech support. Despite the misleading hype and creepy cult following, Apple's products are grossly overpriced and offer far fewer options than competitors' devices.

But this company has bullied organizations into "Mac-only" edicts that blow budgets and reduce productivity. The apparent corruption in the LAUSD was a perfect home for this outfit to push its iPads at an inflated cost.

Administrators now realize what a colossal failure this was and decided to cut their losses, but without holding anyone accountable. Too bad taxpayers are left on the hook funding Apple's profiteering.

Pat Murphy, Pacific Palisades


To the editor: Here are some helpful hints on technology for the LAUSD.

Hint 1: Lease, do not buy, computers that will soon be obsolete.

Hint 2: Supply PC laptops, not Apple iPads, because there is far more educational software available.

Hint 3: Do not contract for software to be developed with my money.

Hint 4: Allow greater access to the Internet. There's a lot of information out there.

Hint 5: Ask the students (all grades) how a computer might help them learn things and how they would use it.

Hint 6: Plan.

Elizabeth Wright, Marina del Rey

24 Feb 2015  ::  Education without access to technology is unthinkable today

LAUSD leaders should seek out creative and tech-savvy teachers and reward their ideas

The idea of equipping every Los Angeles Unified student and teacher with a computer suffered its final blow with the announcement last week that the school district simply couldn't afford to buy some 700,000 of them. If ever a proposal was half-baked, it was the iPad project, which was marked by a lamentable lack of planning, grave concerns over the enormous price tag, and an ongoing criminal grand jury investigation into possible ethics violations on the part of district officials.

If ever a proposal was half-baked, it was [LAUSD's] iPad project. - 

But this shouldn't be the last word about the ill-conceived iPad proposal by former Supt. John Deasy. Though he mishandled the project on multiple fronts, he was right about this: Education without access to technology is unthinkable today. It's the modern-day equivalent of sticking kids in a one-room schoolhouse with a slate board and chalk.


L.A. Unified must buy more technology; its students would be left woefully behind the college-and-employment curve without it. The current lack of funding for a massive iPad purchase creates a much-needed time-out, though, so that L.A. Unified can do it right next time. Here are some things the district needs to do:

Identify an appropriate funding source. For the $1.3-billion program, the district justifiably turned to construction bonds to pay for $800 million in Internet infrastructure at schools. But the proposal to spend $500 million of the bond revenue on the iPads, which have a life span of a few years, was inappropriate because it sought to use long-term funds for short-term purposes.

smf 2cents OK, I agree with the Editorial Board on almost everything  recounted here, but the above repeats a falsehood The Times is most guilty of perpetuating. Using long term bond debt to finance short term assets isn’t just inappropriate, it is illegaland it was not done in this instance. The Editorial Board knows this  yet continues the prevarication. Shame.

L.A. Unified should set aside a yearly sum in its operating budget for purchasing technology as state funding improves, and should buy its devices over time. This would allow for better budget planning and make the process more affordable — and also would allow the district to bring in the most recent technology and try out new devices to find the best ones.

Curriculum before technology. A federal review of the now-defunct iPad project found that L.A. Unified was focused on buying technology with too little idea of how it would be used in classrooms. It bought a packaged curriculum that was widely criticized as poorly written. But there is lots of good educational software in existence — some of it free or relatively inexpensive. The district should first look for the best software and then pick the hardware that's most compatible with the curriculum for each grade.

Consult teachers. See above. Creative and tech-savvy teachers have been finding all kinds of helpful and free educational software on the Internet. District leaders should seek out and reward their ideas.

Don't worry too much about security filters. The early rollout of the iPad program was quickly embarrassed by students who maneuvered around security safeguards to access social media. This isn't the horror people made of it. Students will be using technology all their lives; better to teach them about responsible use than to try to control every move they make online.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Troubled school districts need more than prizes: PUNISHING SCHOOLS FOR CHILD POVERTY DOESN’T HELP STUDENTS

Troubled school districts need more than prizes

letters to the editor  | | re:

Op-Ed : Troubled school districts need more than prizes

18 Feb 2015

To the editor: Richard Whitmire thinks the answer to "turning around" school districts is more "gutsy" leadership, closer relationships with charter schools and pushing students to take more demanding courses. ("Troubled school districts need more than prizes," Op-Ed, Feb. 12)

All this macho talk ignores the big problem: poverty. The rate of child poverty in the U.S. is at an astonishing 25%, the second highest among industrialized countries. In contrast, child poverty in high-scoring Finland is about 5%.

There is strong evidence that poverty is the major problem in American education: When researchers control for poverty, our performance on international tests is at the top of the world. Poverty means poor diet, inadequate healthcare and lack of access to books.

The best teaching and strongest exhortations to work hard have little effect when students are hungry and ill and have nothing to read. Let's not worry about "turning around" school districts; instead, let's work on protecting children from the effects of poverty.

Stephen Krashen, Los Angeles

The writer is a professor emeritus of education at USC.


To the editor: I nearly choked on my coffee Friday morning when I read the line, "In the Long Beach Unified School District, I marveled at the success of a community that saw tremendous economic change coming and quickly whipped its schools into shape to deal with that change."

As a teacher in that school district, I remember 2009 very well, but not with the apparent fondness that Whitmire does.

That was the year hundreds of teachers were pink-slipped, when summer school, health and computer tech classes were cut, when our Camp Hi-Hill outdoor school program was suspended, and when I and many teachers each spent hundreds of dollars out of our own pocket so that our students had books to read and tissue to blow their noses.

Teachers, students and staff were "whipped" into shape all right — a whipping from which we have yet to recover.

Andrea Hoover, Long Beach

L.A. UNIFIED TRACKS MEASLES SHOTS, REPORTS HIGHER VACCINATION LEVELS; Measles outbreak under control – Whooping Cough (Pertussis) not so much

By Howard Blume | L.A. Times |


A vial containing the measles vaccine is loaded into a syringe before being given to a child at a local medical center this month. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

18 Feb 2015  ::  Los Angeles school officials have launched an effort to increase and document the percentage of young children who've been vaccinated against measles, including hiring 10 nurses on a temporary basis.

The plan, presented before members of the Los Angeles school board on Tuesday, focuses on students in early education centers, out of concern that they could be unvaccinated in greater numbers.


Over one week, the percentage of students vaccinated against measles at these centers rose from 88% to 92%. This number could mainly reflect better record-keeping of students who'd already been vaccinated, said Kimberly Uyeda, director of student medical services for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

As of Feb. 12, 9,397 children were enrolled in these centers. Of these, 763 were not immunized;  28 had an exemption based on personal beliefs and six had a medical exemption.

The early education centers offer preschool programs for lower-income families, but children up to  second grade are eligible for some services.1

Part of the challenge for L.A. Unified has been a shortage of nursing staff, officials said. Before the recent recession, the district employed 678 nurses, which was less than one per school. That number dropped by 200 because of budget and enrollment reductions as well as retirements, said Tonya Ross, the district's director of nursing.

The school system has hired about 40 nurses this year and is still interviewing applicants, she said.

A reduction in clerical staff also has contributed to record-keeping problems and also a lack of follow-up with families regarding vaccines.

Fears of measles crossing southern border into U.S. are unfounded

<< Fears of measles crossing southern border into U.S. are unfounded

Measles vaccinations became a high-profile concern after a recent outbreak at Disneyland and reports on parents who choose not to vaccinate.

L.A. Unified began reviewing its documentation and discovered that 20% of kindergartners this year were admitted "conditionally," that is, without a record that they were up to date on vaccines. The 20% figure compares to typical rates of 13% to 16% in recent years.

The spike could be a result of a new, balky student records system, Ross said.

The records system, called MISIS, has made operations difficult in various ways, including hindering students from receiving accurate transcripts and from getting courses they needed to graduate.

Overall, the measles risk in L.A. Unified is low, Uyeda said. More common is pertussis or whooping cough, a contagious disease that preceded measles in the headlines. A case was reported at five different schools on Tuesday, Uyeda said.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

FEDERAL COURT RULING AGAINST CHARTER MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATION RESONATES THROUGH THE CHARTER MOVEMENT; Too many CMO’s seek to install "clueless" board members who won't ask probing questions.

By Allie Grasgreen With help from Stephanie Simon in Politico Morning Ed |

A JUDGMENT RESONATES: A recent federal court ruling against a major charter school operator [ ] could shake up the charter school movement. U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey last month ordered Imagine Schools, Inc. to pay $1 million to the school board that nominally ran Renaissance Academy, a Kansas City, Mo., charter managed by Imagine. In a scathing ruling, Laughrey blasted Imagine for installing ineffective and unqualified people on the school board and then directing them not to ask questions as Imagine proceeded to arrange a real-estate lease that enriched the company while leaving the school with precious few resources for the classrooms. "This clearly constituted self-dealing," Laughrey declared. Imagine Schools has run into problems on this front before. Several years ago, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a memo from co-founder Dennis Bakke arguing that the company needed to do a better job picking more pliable board members. But this was the first financial judgment of its kind. (Imagine has since reached a confidential settlement with the board and thus won't appeal.)

"The million-dollar judgment catches the eye , and that is important," said Greg Richmond, president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, "but what this underscores is the absolute necessity for charter schools to have independent boards to exercise appropriate oversight." Richmond acknowledges that authorizers don't always take the time to make sure boards can meet that standard. Charter management companies put together impressive proposals, and some authorizers find it hard to turn down such slick applications, even if it's evident a board was thrown together at the last minute and lacks appropriate expertise, Richmond said. "The charter school community is moving in the right direction on this," he said, "but I wish it were moving more quickly."

The ruling might prod more board members to stand up to their charter management companies, said Gary Miron, an education policy professor at Western Michigan University. But Miron is doubtful much will change. He notes that 45 percent of charter students attend schools run by management companies, both for-profit and non-profit. And he said too many of those companies still seek to install "clueless" board members who won't ask probing questions. To counteract the trend, Miron urges authorizers to make sure every board has the power to fire its management company; to hire its own lawyer, auditor and accountant; and to put big contracts out for competitive bid. "The board represents the public interest," he said. "They represent the taxpayer."

Monday, February 16, 2015


by email from the Kayser Campaign


Contact: Dan Nyaradi February 16, 2015

Cell: 541-480-4948





Los Angeles – Since Thursday, supporters have been reporting sightings of a political attack ad with a coffee cup dropping and shattering in slow motion, linking the image to Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board Member Bennett Kayser, who has Parkinson’s symptoms. The California Charter School Association’s (CCSA’s) political arm, the CCSA Advocates (CCSAA) are responsible for the ad’s content. Despite a mandatory 24-hour reporting period required by the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, much of the ad remains a mystery, including who paid for it.

The City Ethics website was repeatedly checked for the required online posting of the “Coffee Cup ad”, but nothing was available. Today, February 16, 2015 it appeared!!! CCSAA incorrectly filed its hit-piece on Kayser as $110,000 in “SUPPORT.”, then states: “No communications reported.” Four days later, CCSAA has yet to come clean and post the content as required. It was filmed as it ran however on television and is now on YouTube. Here is the ad.

There remains a $50,000 radio buy with no content listed on 2/12/15, the same day the TV attack ad was spotted. They too are probably mean-spirited but no one knows because the CCSSA has again failed to provide documentation.

Kayser proudly represents the tens of thousands of LAUSD students, families and employees with special needs and people with Parkinson’s everywhere. His perseverance should be applauded.

CCSAA listed its hit-piece today as SUPPORT for Kayser (LA City Ethics Website):clip_image004

REAUTHORIZING NCLB: LAUSD COULD LOSE $86 MILLION, 24% OF TITLE ONE, California could lose millions in funding, report states


By Laurie Udesky |EdSource |

February 15, 2015  ::   The White House released a report that shows that school districts with large numbers of low-income students, including Los Angeles, Fresno and San Diego, stand to lose millions of dollars in federal funding under the House version of amendments to the nation’s education law.

The House amendments to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would cut out $7 billion over six years in federal funding  known as Title 1, which goes to school districts based on their numbers of low-income students. California would lose $877 million in Title 1 funding, according to the report, released Friday.

Los Angeles Unified, for example, would lose $86 million in Title 1 funding, representing a 24 percent drop over the next six years, according to the report.

Other California districts that would lose Title 1 funds under the House bill (HR 5) include:

  • Fresno Unified, which would lose $4.9 million, a 10.7 percent drop;
  • San Diego City Unified, which now gets $41 million in Title 1 funds, would lose $4.1 million;
  • San Bernardino City Unified School District, which would lose $2.5 million;
  • Long Beach Unified, which would lose $2.1 million.

According to the report, education spending has dropped by $800 million since 2012, when it was cut during the height of the recession. The House bill would lock in the current price tag for education at its current rate until fiscal year 2021.

Laurie Udesky covers the implementation of Common Core.


Photo of Jill Barshay


Education by the Numbers Column by Jill Barshay in The Hechinger Report |

February 2, 2015  ::  Despite occasional taxpayer revolts, the United States has a history of spending more and more each year on public education. From 1996 to 2008, spending per student, on average, steadily climbed at least 1 percent a year, after adjusting for inflation, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). But newer data is showing that this seemingly inexorable upward climb hit a plateau with the 2008 recession, and then began declining in 2010.

The most recent data, from the 2011-12 school year, released by NCES on Jan. 29, 2015, show that average per-pupil spending fell 2.8 percent, to $10,667, from the previous school year. That’s the second year in a row that per-student spending fell. In the previous year, 2010-11, per-pupil spending fell 1.6 percent from a year earlier — the first time that spending growth reversed and began declining. (These annual spending figures don’t include capital expenditures on buildings and renovations, which can spike from year to year.)


Visit Original Story to use interactive map: (Use arrows to navigate and click on any state to see student spending data. Interactive map created by Jill Barshay of The Hechinger Report. Source data: Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2011-12, NCES)

This $10,667 is an average figure that includes all public elementary, middle and high schools across the country. Some places, such as Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston, spent more than $19,000 per student in 2011-12. By contrast, average per-student spending in the state of Utah was just $6,441. The figures aren’t adjusted for cost-of-living differences. So you’d expect higher costs in pricier cities.

Not all states saw a decline in spending. Vermont boosted its education spending per student by 10 percent in 2011-12 from 2010-11. Both Delaware and New Jersey raised their spending per student, too. Among the 37 states that saw at least a 1 percent decline in spending, the steepest drops were in Arizona, Florida, Texas, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.

The new reports (which can be found here and here) offer some clues as to why education spending is decreasing. One major reason is that federal funding to schools fell by more than 20 percent, or nearly $17 billion. That’s because schools had been big beneficiaries of federal stimulus funds to revive the economy after the 2008 recession, but by 2011, those funds had been exhausted. Local and state funding also fell by 0.6 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. (Federal funds for low-income students, known as Title I funding, were stable).


How the drop in spending is affecting the quality of education is an open question. According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, there isn’t a correlation between how much a society spends on education and the performance of its school system. The United States has long been a top spender in these international rankings, but never a top academic performer.

On the other hand, the United States has a higher percentage of children in poverty than other top performing countries, and many experts say that poor children need more resources to catch up to their wealthier peers. Just last month, the Southern Education Foundation calculated that poverty is increasing so much in the United States that for the first time the majority of public school students qualified for free or reduced price lunch in 2012-13.

It is troubling to see the rise in poverty and a decline in education spending happen at the same time.

Related: Public-school spending dropped for the first time

Related: Per pupil spending by school district in the United States

EUUCATION AT HEART OF CHICAGO MAYOR’S RACE. Local and national unions have made Rahm Emanuel a top target.

By Stephanie Simon, Politico PRO |

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 05:  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (L) announces additions to the city's all-day kindergarten program during a visit to Tonti elementary School on August 5, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  Last fall, Chicago Public Schools, with the support of the mayor, announced it would be closing 49 elementary schools in the city forcing the transfer of thousands of students into new schools. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)


2/16/15 3:36 PM EST  ::  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel touts his education reform agenda as one of his greatest achievements as he campaigns for reelection.

It may also be his greatest vulnerability.

Emanuel is facing an unexpectedly tough challenge in his bid for a second term. Polls suggest his four opponents could pull enough votes in the Feb. 24 election to force a runoff.

That would be a political shocker, and it could reverberate far outside Chicago.

Democratic mayors and governors across the nation are increasingly standing up to their traditional allies in the teachers unions to demand huge changes in urban school districts — and labor is frantically, furiously fighting back. Local and national unions have made Emanuel a top target, pouring resources into the effort to oust him. If they succeed, they’ll gain momentum, not to mention a huge PR victory.

But if Emanuel wins despite the unions’ best efforts, analysts say it would embolden other Democratic reformers to forge ahead with a controversial agenda that includes closing struggling neighborhood schools, expanding privately run charter schools and overhauling the teaching profession by repealing tenure, trimming benefits and paying teachers in part based on how well their students score on standardized tests.

Portions of this agenda are already being championed by high-profile Democrats including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy — and, most notably, by Emanuel’s one-time boss in the White House, President Barack Obama. But the reform camp predicts more mayors, in particular, will be willing to jump into the fray if Emanuel proves that a big-city Democrat can defy the teachers union, anger a whole lot of black and Hispanic parents — and still pull off a win against liberal rivals in his own party.

“A lot of folks in the education debate are watching this race closely,” said Owen Kilmer, who is running the political activities of Democrats for Education Reform Illinois, which supports Emanuel and his allies on the city council. “They want to know if education reform policies are going to succeed at the polls.”

The most recent Chicago Tribune poll of likely voters, taken at the end of January, had Emanuel’s support at 42 percent, well short of the 50 percent he needs to avoid a runoff. His closest challenger, Cook County Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, had support from about 18 percent of voters — and the backing of the teachers union. Fully 20 percent of those polled were undecided.

Plenty to boast about

On the surface, Emanuel would appear to have plenty to boast about when it comes to education.

He appoints the board that runs Chicago Public Schools. And the sprawling district, once labeled the worst in the nation, has been on a winning streak.

The graduation rate has soared 11 percentage points since Emanuel was elected, hitting a record 69.4 percent last year. The attendance rate is at a record, too. So is the average ACT composite score: At 18, it’s still far below the benchmark that indicates a student is ready for college, but it’s been slowly, steadily improving.

In his campaign literature, Emanuel talks of “a rising tide of achievement” in Chicago Public Schools, which is the nation’s third-largest district, with 600 schools serving 400,000 students.

Emanuel has also enacted populist education programs with wide appeal: He’s making pre-K and full-day kindergarten widely available, for instance. And he has promised free community college tuition — and even free books — to any student who passes math and reading tests and graduates a public high school with at least a 3.0 GPA.

After a long and bitter tussle with the teachers union, Emanuel even succeeded in getting an agreement to lengthen the school day and extend the year — something his predecessors had talked about for years but never got done. Over the course of their K-12 education, students will receive the equivalent of two full years’ worth of additional learning time thanks to the schedule change.

“Rahm has done some extraordinarily important things, and some very difficult things,” said Timothy Knowles, director of the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago.

But many voters have a different view.

“As it relates to education, ‘Anybody but Rahm’ is the mantra I hear,” said Rose Joshua, president of the NAACP’s Southside branch.

A Chicago Tribune poll last summer found 65 percent of registered voters, including 77 percent of black voters, disapproved of Emanuel’s handling of the public schools.

Asked whether they sided more with the mayor or Chicago Teachers Union, 62 percent said the union. Just 23 percent chose the mayor.

Sea of red shirts

Emanuel won election in 2011 with strong support from minority voters.

But that goodwill faded in the fall of 2012, when Emanuel faced off with the fiery union leader, Karen Lewis, over a slew of contract issues, including pay for the extended school day.

The union voted to strike. A sea of teachers in bright red shirts poured into the streets. They marched. They rallied. And over and over, they denounced the mayor as a tool of corporate interests, intent on turning public schools over to private-sector profiteers.

The strike lasted seven days. Despite the inconvenience of having schools closed, many parents rallied around their teachers and the union.

It didn’t help the mayor when rumors spread that he had leveled a crude playground curse at Lewis, who is African-American, during a private meeting about the contract negotiations. (The famously profane Emanuel didn’t deny it.)

Teachers declared victory after the strike, though they didn’t win many concessions. For a brief stretch, things settled down.

Then in 2013 the district announced, with the mayor’s support, that it would shutter dozens of low-performing, under-enrolled schools — the vast majority of them in the heavily minority neighborhoods on Chicago’s south and west sides.

The closure list in the end was pruned to 49 schools. It was the largest school closing in the U.S. And it triggered enormous rage at the mayor.

“Those wounds are very fresh,” said Jitu Brown, a parent activist who has fought Emanuel on school issues.

The schools targeted for closure had posted dismal test scores for years. But many of them were anchors in their neighborhoods: They hired local moms and dads to fill jobs such as recess monitor; they offered after-school activities to keep kids off dangerous streets; they employed teachers who knew local families so well, they didn’t hesitate to call up an aunt or a grandma if a child was slacking off in class.

Garcia, the challenger backed by the teachers union, said he sees the school closings as a symbol of Emanuel’s “insensitivity” to ordinary constituents.

A sense of despair

“He was totally uncaring about, or unaware of, the impact it would have on communities,” Garcia said. “In many of those neighborhoods, the schools were the only sense of stability. Now they sit there as an eyesore. It sucked out any vitality that was there and created a sense of despair in those communities.”

Many residents of those neighborhoods were especially piqued when they considered the resources the mayor has poured into sprucing up schools taken over by private charter management organizations.

Emanuel has long been a big advocate for charters, which are publicly funded but privately run — and are often not unionized. Some Chicago charters have stellar records: Last year, all 12 of the open-enrollment high schools with the best ACT scores were charters. Others, however, have struggled academically and drawn criticism for their high rates of student suspensions and expulsions.

David Spielfogel, a senior campaign adviser to Emanuel, said the mayor considered closing the schools the toughest decision he had to make in his four years in office, but remains convinced it was the right call.

Subsequent research has found that 93 percent of the children displaced by the shutdowns ended up attending a school with a better performance rating — though in many cases, only marginally better.

The mayor has made clear he’s in this job to improve public school options for all Chicago school children,” Spielfogel said. “He puts that above any political price he might have to pay.”

That decisiveness does resonate with some voters.

“He has the ability and willingness to make politically tough decisions,” said Michael Butz, who has a fifth grader in a public magnet school.

Voters elected Emanuel in 2011 “to be an SOB, because only an SOB could stand up to the personnel costs that are embodied in union contracts,” said Charles Lipson, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. “He has not disappointed.”

Call for a charter moratorium

All last fall, CTU President Lewis flirted with running against Emanuel. Political analysts thought she’d have a strong chance at toppling him if she did. Then she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and pulled out.

That left Garcia to pick up the union mantle. He has raised a little over $1 million, including more than $200,000 from the national American Federation of Teachers. The CTU has pumped $300,000 into an independent PAC supporting him. Garcia just put up his first TV ad last week.

Emanuel, by contrast, has raised some $13 million and has been on the air for weeks with upbeat TV ads.

Garcia’s education platform includes a call for a moratorium on charter schools and a pledge to push the state legislature to change the law so that Chicagoans can elect school board members, rather than have them appointed by the mayor. Other planks are somewhat vague: He wants to reduce class size and limit high-stakes standardized testing to “the barest legal minimum.”

Also on the ballot: Alderman Bob Fioretti, a member of the progressive caucus; businessman Willie Wilson, who touts his personal story of rising to wealth after dropping out of school in seventh grade; and perennial candidate William “Dock” Walls. All three support an elected school board.

Whoever wins is likely to face more tensions over education policy quite quickly.

Chicago Public Schools is facing a deficit of nearly $1 billion due to skyrocketing pension costs.

And negotiations are just opening on a new teacher contract. Lewis has already warned that the union has a list of demands that are “going to cost money.”

If the city won’t listen, she says, her members will strike.


By Barry Garelick, EducationNews.Org |

●●smf: This article, written in 2012, is new to me.      A reader writes to the author: “I see this excellent paper is dated almost three years ago. Since then, has anything happened to lessen or to heighten your concerns?”    Barry Garelick replies:  “The same elements are at play, but I notice that ed school professors have changed their tune about what approach should be used for students identified as "special ed". While "explicit instruction" is still recommended, so is the teaching of critical thinking and all the other edu-jargon you can think of. I haven't changed my opinions.”


Monday, 01 30, 2012  ::  In a well-publicized paper that addressed why some students were not learning to read, Reid Lyon (2001) concluded that children from disadvantaged backgrounds where early childhood education was not available failed to read because they did not receive effective instruction in the early grades. Many of these children then required special education services to make up for this early failure in reading instruction, which were by and large instruction in phonics as the means of decoding. Some of these students had no specific learning disability other than lack of access to effective instruction. These findings are significant because a similar dynamic is at play in math education: the effective treatment for many students who would otherwise be labeled learning disabled is also the effective preventative measure.

In 2010 approximately 2.4 million students were identified with learning disabilities — about three times as many as were identified in 1976-1977. (See and This increase raises the question of whether the shift in instructional emphasis over the past several decades has increased the number of low achieving children because of poor or ineffective instruction who would have swum with the rest of the pack when traditional math teaching prevailed. I believe that what is offered as treatment for learning disabilities in mathematics is what we could have done—and need to be doing—in the first place. While there has been a good amount of research and effort into early interventions in reading and decoding instruction, extremely little research of equivalent quality on the learning of math in the United States exists. Given the education establishment’s resistance to the idea that traditional math teaching methods are effective, this research is very much needed to draw such a definitive conclusion about the effect of instruction on the diagnosis of learning disabilities.1

Some Background

Over the past several decades, math education in the United States has shifted from the traditional model of math instruction to “reform math”. The traditional model has been criticized for relying on rote memorization rather than conceptual understanding. Calling the traditional approach “skills based”, math reformers deride it and claim that it teaches students only how to follow the teacher’s direction in solving routine problems, but does not teach students how to think critically or to solve non-routine problems. Traditional/skills-based teaching, the argument goes, doesn’t meet the demands of our 21st century world.

As I’ve discussed elsewhere, the criticism of traditional math teaching is based largely on a mischaracterization of how it is/has been taught, and misrepresented as having failed thousands of students in math education despite evidence of its effectiveness in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Reacting to this characterization of the traditional model, math reformers promote a teaching approach in which understanding and process dominate over content. In lower grades, mental math and number sense are emphasized before students are fluent with procedures and number facts. Procedural fluency is seldom achieved. In lieu of the standard methods for adding/subtracting, multiplying and dividing, in some programs students are taught strategies and alternative methods. Whole class and teacher-led explicit instruction (and even teacher-led discovery) has given way to what the education establishment believes is superior: students working in groups in a collaborative learning environment. Classrooms have become student-centered and inquiry-based. The grouping of students by ability has almost entirely disappeared in the lower grades—full inclusion has become the norm. Reformers dismiss the possibility that understanding and discovery can be achieved by students working on sets of math problems individually and that procedural fluency is a prerequisite to understanding. Much of the education establishment now believes it is the other way around; if students have the understanding, then the need to work many problems (which they term “drill and kill”) can be avoided.

The de-emphasis on mastery of basic facts, skills and procedures has met with growing opposition, not only from parents but also from university mathematicians. At a recent conference on math education held in Winnipeg, math professor Stephen Wilson from Johns Hopkins University said, much to the consternation of the educationists on the panel, that “the way mathematicians learn is to learn how to do it first and then figure out how it works later.” This sentiment was also echoed in an article written by Keith Devlin (2006). Such opposition has had limited success, however, in turning the tide away from reform approaches.

The Growth of Learning Disabilities

Students struggling in math may not have an actual learning disability but may be in the category termed “low achieving” (LA). Recent studies have begun to distinguish between students who are LA and those who have mathematical learning disabilities (MLD). Geary (2004) states that LA students don’t have any serious cognitive deficits that would prevent them from learning math with appropriate instruction. Students with MLD, however, (about 5-6% of students) do appear to have both general (working memory) and specific (fact retrieval) deficits that result in a real learning disability. Among other reasons, ineffective instruction, may account for the subset of LA students struggling in mathematics.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) initially established the criteria by which students are designated as “learning disabled”. IDEA was reauthorized in 2004 and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA). The reauthorized act changed the criteria by which learning disabilities are defined and removed the requirements of the “significant discrepancy” formula. That formula identified students as learning disabled if they performed significantly worse in school than indicated by their cognitive potential as measured by IQ. IDEIA required instead that states must permit districts to adopt alternative models including the “Response to Intervention” (RtI) model in which struggling students are pulled out of class and given alternative instruction.

What type of alternative instruction is effective? A popular textbook on special education (Rosenberg, et. al, 2008), notes that up to 50% of students with learning disabilities have been shown to overcome their learning difficulties when given explicit instruction. This idea is echoed by others and has become the mainstay of the Response to Intervention model. What Works Clearinghouse finds strong evidence that explicit instruction is an effective intervention, stating: “Instruction during the intervention should be explicit and systematic. This includes providing models of proficient problem solving, verbalization of thought processes, guided practice, corrective feedback, and frequent cumulative review”. Also, the final report of the President’s National Math Advisory Panel states: “Explicit instruction with students who have mathematical difficulties has shown consistently positive effects on performance with word problems and computation. Results are consistent for students with learning disabilities, as well as other students who perform in the lowest third of a typical class.” (p. xxiii). The treatment for low achieving, learning disabled and otherwise struggling students in math thus includes math memorization and the other traditional methods for teaching the subject that have been decried by reformers as having failed millions of students.

The Stealth Growth of Effective Instruction

Although the number of students classified as learning disabled has grown since 1976, the number of students classified as LD since the passage of IDEIA has decreased (see Figure 1). Why the decrease has occurred is not clear. A number of factors may be at play. One may be a provision of No Child Left Behind that allows schools with low numbers of special-education students to avoid reporting the academic progress of those students. Other factors include more charter schools, expanded access to preschools, improved technologies, and greater understanding of which students need specialized services. Last but not least, the decrease may also be due to targeted RtI programs that have reduced the identification of struggling and/or low achieving students as learning disabled. .

Having seen the results of ineffective math curricula and pedagogy as well as having worked with the casualties of such educational experiments, I have no difficulty assuming that RtI plays a significant role in reducing the identification of students with learning disabilities. In my opinion it is only a matter of time before high-quality research and the best professional judgment and experience of accomplished classroom teachers verify it. Such research should include 1) the effect of collaborative/group work compared to individual work, including the effect of grouping on students who may have difficulty socially; 2) the degree to which students on the autistic spectrum (as well as those with other learning disabilities) may depend on direct, structured, systematic instruction; 3) the effect of explicit and systematic instruction of procedures, skills and problem solving, compared with inquiry-based approaches; 4) the effect of sequential and logical presentation of topics that require mastery of specific skills, compared with a spiral approaches to topics that do not lead to closure and 5) Identifying which conditions result in student-led/teacher-facilitated discovery, inquiry-based, and problem-based learning having a positive effect, compared with teacher-led discovery, inquiry-based and problem-based learning. Would such research show that the use of RtI is higher in schools that rely on programs that are low on skills and content but high on trendy unproven techniques and which promise to build critical thinking and higher order thinking skills? If so, shouldn’t we be doing more of the RtI style of teaching in the first place instead of waiting to heal the casualties of reform math?

Until any such research is in, the educational establishment will continue to resist recognizing the merits of traditional math teaching. One education professor with whom I spoke stated that the RtI education model fits mathematics for the 1960s, when “skills throughout the K-8 spectrum were the main focus of instruction and is seriously out of date.” Another reformer argued that reform curricula require a good deal of conceptual understanding and that students have to do more than solve word problems. These confident statements assume that traditional methods—and the methods used in RtI—do not provide this understanding. In their view, students who respond to more explicit instruction constitute a group who may simply learn better on a superficial level. Based on these views, I fear that RtI will incorporate the pedagogical features of reform math that has resulted in the use of RtI in the first place.

While the criticism of traditional methods may have merit for those occasions when it has been taught poorly, the fact that traditional math has been taught badly doesn’t mean we should give up on teaching it properly. Without sufficient skills, critical thinking doesn’t amount to much more than a sound bite. If in fact there is an increasing trend toward effective math instruction, it will have to be stealth enough to fly underneath the radar of the dominant edu-reformers. Unless and until this happens, the thoughtworld of the well-intentioned educational establishment will prevail. Parents and professionals who benefitted from traditional teaching techniques and environments will remain on the outside — and the public will continue to be outwitted by stupidity.


Barry Garelick

Barry Garelick
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  • Barry Garelick has written extensively about math education in various publications including The Atlantic, Education Next, Educational Leadership, and Education News. He recently retired from the U.S. EPA and is teaching middle and high school math in California. He has written a book about his experiences in ed. school, student and substitute teaching: "Letters from John Dewey/Letters from Huck Finn".


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    WHITE HOUSE REPORT: Investing in our Future: Helping Teachers and Schools Prepare Our Children for College and Careers

    Kline Statement on White House Education Report: "The White House is using scare tactics and budget gimmicks to kill K-12 education reform"

    16 Feb 2015  ::   On Wednesday, Republicans on the House Education and Workforce Committee approved H.R. 5, the Student Success Act. The legislation would lock-in sequestration funding levels, eliminate accountability for taxpayer dollars, and allow states to shift Title I funds from high-poverty schools to more affluent districts. Today, the White House is releasing a report that provides a state-by-state impact of locking in ESEA funding levels at sequestration and a list of the school districts most negatively impacted by changes to the Title I allocation formula.
    After an economic crisis that hit school budgets and educators hard, we cannot just cut our way to better schools and more opportunity.  H.R. 5 would deny students and teachers the resources they need by:
    ·         Cementing recent education cuts, ensuring that federal education funding will be lower in 2021 than it was in 2012, before the recent education cuts and despite inflation and growing enrollment. The House Republican proposal caps spending on the ESEA for the next six years at $800 million lower than it was in 2012. In Title I alone, the bill will provide over $7 billion less to our schools than the President's budget over six years, and the impact on each state is presented in Appendix 1.
    ·         Eliminating guarantees that education funding reaches the classroom, while opening the door for education investments to be wasted on things like sports stadiums and other unrelated pet projects. The House Republican proposal would allow states and localities to reduce the overall amount they spend on education and the funding they direct to classrooms and teachers without losing a dime of federal resources. 
    ·         Cutting investments to those schools that need help most by allowing states to cut federal resources for schools that need it most, while giving it to wealthier schools instead. The 100 school districts facing the largest cuts in dollar terms face an average 15 percent cut, and some especially high-poverty school districts would see cuts as large as 74 percent.                                           
    ·         Eliminating accountability for taxpayer dollars rather than working to use them in ways that improve student learning and ensuring that all students succeed and we do what works to improve even the lowest performing schools.
    President Obama has a different vision to improve schools and help teachers by giving them the resources they need, identifying what is working, and fixing what doesn't work so that we can guarantee every child has a world-class education. He would reduce student testing to the bare minimum to let teachers get back to teaching, while ensuring that parents and teachers know how students and schools are doing each year so we can ensure that every child is learning and problems in low-performing schools are addressed. And his Budget would strengthen our schools by investing an additional $2.7 billion in ESEA programs next year alone and expand high-quality preschool, so teachers, principals and educators have the support and resources they need to help students succeed in the classroom

    16 Feb 2105  ::  House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement in response to the White House education report released on Friday:

    "The White House report pretends the president's budget proposal is the law of the land. It isn't and never will be. In fact, in past years, the president's budget requests have been soundly rejected by both Republicans and Democrats. The White House has entered the realm of make-believe in order to falsely suggest states will lose money, when in reality the Student Success Act maintains current K-12 education spending and even increases funding for low-income students.

    "The Student Success Act also offers states and families new opportunities to rescue children from failing schools. Encouraging good schools to serve more low-income students is the right thing to do. Ensuring low-income children receive the best possible education and their fair share of federal assistance is the right thing to do. It is disappointing the White House and powerful special interests are rallying against these commonsense reforms.

    "Over the last six years, the Obama administration has dictated national education policy from the U.S. Department of Education. The White House is using scare tactics and budget gimmicks to kill K-12 education reform, because they know a new law will lead to less control in the hands of Washington bureaucrats and more control in the hands of parents and education leaders. This biased report is just further proof the president is out of touch with the priorities of our country."         

    Fact: The Student Success Act authorizes funding for fiscal years 2016 through 2021 at $23.2 billion per year, the appropriated amount for the current fiscal year. Overall there is no cut to education spending in H.R. 5. Only the Obama White House calls current funding a cut.

    Fact: The Student Success Act increases funding for the Title I programs serving low-income students. The program currently receives $14.4 billion. Under H.R. 5, Title I would receive $14.9 billion, an increase of nearly $500 million (more than the program received in FY 2012).

    Fact: The Student Success Act allows states the option to restructure how Title I funds are distributed to help all low-income children receive their fair share of federal assistance. This is a state option and no state is required to adopt it.

    Fact: The president's budget doubles down on the same flawed approach that more spending is the answer to a broken education system.

    smf 2cents THE ROCK is Arne Duncan’s Dept of Education (masquerading as The White House)  and all the enlightenment that flows therefrom

    THE HARD PLACE is House Republicans, awakening from six years of doing nothing and opposing everything – and now seeing their shadow.

    BETWEEN THEM is American Public Education, Schoolchildren, Teachers and Parents. Would you like some tea with your finger sandwiches?

    Sunday, February 15, 2015


    Educators, Builders Oppose Brown's Plan to Stop State Bonds to Pay for Schools

    BY Timm Herdt from Ventura County Star (CAmarillo) via California ENR news wire |

    Lawmakers skeptical of Brown’s facility funding plan

    by Kimberly Beltran:: SI&A Cabinet Report :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet

    Feb. 12 -- SACRAMENTO -- Lawmakers, educators and representatives of the homebuilding industry pushed back Wednesday against Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to end a long-standing state policy of issuing bonds to help pay for school construction.

    Since 1998, California voters have approved three statewide school bonds, most recently in 2006. Those bonds have provided $35 billion in state funds, which have been matched by $89 billion in local funds, to build new schools and modernize old ones across the state.

    Now that money is almost exhausted, and Brown says the state should stop borrowing money to pay for school facilities.

    His January budget proposal seeks to provide limited state assistance for schools with the most need, but would largely shift the responsibility entirely to local districts, which would have to either get voter approval to borrow money locally or fund their facilities on a pay-as-you-go basis.

    A Brown administration spokesman told the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday that under the new Local Control Funding Formula, districts have the ability to set aside some of their annual funding from the state to rehabilitate aging schools.

    "That's not what most schools thought they were buying into with LCFF," said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber , D- San Diego . "There's a kind of bait-and-switch going on."

    Education advocates, joined by representatives of the homebuilding industry, are pushing to place a new statewide school bond on the 2016 ballot. Lawmakers are expected to put forward legislation this year to do that.

    "We have a program that works," said Education Committee Chairman Patrick O'Donnell , D- Long Beach . "Why would we change it?"

    Given Brown's opposition to that idea, however, the California Building Industry Association has taken the first step toward placing a $9 billion bond on the ballot through the initiative process.

    "We believe the state has a constitutional obligation to provide schoolchildren with safe and secure facilities," testified Richard Lyon , lobbyist for the association. "That obligation has historically been met by general obligation bonds. This is an appropriate financing mechanism."

    Although school enrollment, after decades of growth, has either leveled off or declined in most areas of the state, educators say there is a great need to either rehabilitate or replace schools, a majority of which are now more than 25 years old.

    Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Stan Mantooth said in an email to The Star that school districts in the county cannot keep up with their needs without state assistance.

    "Virtually every school district in Ventura County -- with or without a local bond authorization -- is dependent upon the passage of state facilities bonds in order to complete necessary and in many cases long overdue projects," Mantooth said.

    The state program begun in 1998 has provided a 50 percent state match for new construction and 60 percent of the funds for modernization projects.

    That program was part of an agreement that also capped the school fees local governments can levy on new housing projects. But that provision includes an escape clause that allows local governments to require new projects to pay for 100 percent of the cost of new schools if state bond money runs dry.

    "We're hanging on by our fingernails," Lyon said. "If that kicks in, homebuyers are required to pick up the entirety of the cost."

    If that were to happen, he said, fees of from $20,000 to $30,000 per house could be placed on new developments, driving up housing costs beyond the reach of middle-income buyers.

    State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson told the panel the state-local funding program enabled by the state bonds has been "very, very successful." It has funded the construction of 51,000 new classrooms and the rehabilitation of 134,000 more.

    Torlakson said significant need remains, given that 1 in 10 schools in the state are more than 75 years old and demand is increasing for career-technical classrooms that require more expensive equipment and design.

    "Partnering the public funds has been sensible, logical and good for students," he said.

    Speaking for the Brown administration, Thomas Todd of the Department of Finance told lawmakers that the state budget cannot absorb additional annual debt payments from passage of a new school bond.

    "One of our foremost concerns is the state's own capacity to carry debt," he said.

    Todd noted that payments on existing school bonds amount to about $2.5 billion a year and will remain at that level for another 15 years even if no additional bonds are issued.

    That money comes from the state's general fund, he said, and debt payments squeeze out the state's ability to pay for other services, such as school operations, universities, prisons and social service programs.

    He added that many school districts would be able to meet their needs by asking local voters to approve bonds that would be repaid through property taxes.

    "There is very clearly local capacity in many areas of the state to absorb these costs," he said. "We think there is untapped potential out there that should be tapped into."

    February 12, 2015 (Calif.)  ::  Lawmakers on Wednesday expressed skepticism of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to reduce the state's role in building and maintaining schools by pushing the bulk of the financial burden onto local districts and their communities.

    Members of a key legislative committee, many with backgrounds in education, said districts are already struggling to cover day-to-day operations and that withdrawing state support for school construction would likely leave them unable to meet what is already an overwhelming need for new or revitalized facilities.

    “My concern is that [the governor’s] proposal leaves a lot of school districts out there. Essentially they’re on their own in providing future school facilities and modernization thereof,” said Long Beach Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, a former teacher who now chairs the Assembly’s education committee. “This proposal leaves me scratching my head a bit.”

    Brown has repeatedly criticized the state’s current system for supporting school construction as overly complex and cumbersome.

    His office convened a meeting of school officials last fall with the intent of proposing some sweeping changes to the School Facilities Program, which uses voter-approved bonds to provide matching funds to districts for a variety of facility needs – from new construction and modernization to seismic upgrades and energy efficient installations.

    But funds in the program are nearly depleted and Brown has blocked recent efforts to place a new statewide bond measure before voters, arguing that the system contributes to the state’s wall of debt and saying there are other options to consider.

    Among the alternatives offered by the governor’s administration are increasing the borrowing caps on schools based on community property assessments; charging home developers for a portion of the costs by establishing a single statewide fee; and providing districts with more flexibility in their use of currently-restricted maintenance money.

    Brown’s Department of Finance also argues that under the new education finance system – the Local Control Funding Formula – school districts are free to prioritize what they spend their money on and could put some of this cash toward facilities.

    Members of the education committee agreed that there are some changes that could be made to both streamline and equalize the existing system, but completely abandoning what has been a successful program, they say, is the wrong approach – and expecting schools to use LCFF funds for school construction is unrealistic.

    With over 1,000 districts and more than 10,000 schools – many of which are 50 or more years old – maintenance and upkeep alone would require somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 billion if fully funded each year, according to facilities expert Jeffrey Vincent of Berkeley’s Center for Cities and Schools, who testified before the committee Wednesday.

    “I don’t think we as a state have fully committed to the cost of ownership of these public buildings,” Vincent told committee members. “We have to spend money on our facilities. It’s not an option not to or we run enormous risks of health and safety.”

    Two state legislators have introduced separate bills this session that would place statewide facilities bond measures on the 2016 ballot. A proposal last year sailed through the Assembly with broad bi-partisan support and likely would’ve passed the Senate if not for Brown’s opposition.

    Members of his finance team said Wednesday that the governor is open to suggestions coming out of the Legislature unless they add to the $2.5 billion annual debt service the state already pays for prior facilities bond costs.

    “There are a lot of folks that are just tapped out, we get that. This is the conundrum we’re facing,” said Brown spokesman Thomas Todd. “But Prop. 98 resources in the form of LCFF have to be considered ultimately in whatever level of state funding we decide is necessary.

    “However, when it comes to [funding from the state’s General Fund],” he said, “there’s really not a lot of room there right now but we are absolutely willing to engage in a dialogue with all of you to explore options to fund something that would be sort of a pay-as-you-go program.”

    Panel members countered that without a new revenue source, school districts are not in a position to use their own General Fund monies to pay for school construction.

    “You’re dumping a lot on LCFF and yet you haven’t taken anything off the LCFF, said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego. “The only thing we’ve done with the Local Control Funding Formula is taken what probably would’ve come anyway in terms of the same money and just took away the categoricals, put it all in one pot and said do the same stuff you’ve done before.”

    Todd noted that the administration does not plan to introduce a policy proposal through legislation but rather is leaving it up to state law makers to come up with a plan based on his suggestions.



    smf 2cents In my two days in the Capital+Capitol last week I spoke-to and heard-from a lot o’ folks: Politicos and Staff and Pundits and CDE types and tassel-loafered-lobbyists and parent advocates and union bigwigs of both the Democrat+Republican persuasion. Only those who work for the governor’s office expressed favor for his plan – and even then the enthusiasm was lacking.