Tuesday, June 30, 2015


newsfeed compiled by The Maddy Daily

30June2015  ::  California Senate sends mandatory vaccine bill to governor -- After months of packed committee hearings and lengthy floor debates, California’s controversial mandatory vaccinations proposal now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration. In a 24-14 concurrence vote, the state Senate on Monday accepted Assembly amendments to Senate Bill 277, which would eliminate California’s personal and religious belief exemptions for vaccinating schoolchildren, and sent the measure to Brown’s desk. Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; AP article; San Jose Mercury News article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Monday, June 29, 2015


by Barbara Michelman in the ASCD Policy Priorities | Summer 2015 | Volume 21 | Number 2 | http://bit.ly/1LyDvdY


smf 2centsI was asked last week for a one line quote for PTA publication on the work we do. I’m good at that… and hyperbolized immediately about ‘Educating the Whole Child…” because it’s the thing to do+say.    Of course “Whole” is pretty all-encompassing – but I agree with the following that challenging and engaging curricula; strong social-emotional and physical health supports; moral and ethical development; and safe, supportive learning environments …creating policies and support practices that address the multifaceted and individualized learning needs of each child, regardless of geographic location, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and mental or physical abilities - are no less and probably more important than test scores. OK, cross out probably. Should teachers and schools be accountable for academic outcomes? Yes. But they need be accountable with all the rest of us villagers for all the other moving pieces.

Like Horton, we say what we mean and we mean what we say …but what exactly do we mean? It’s always the right time to ask that question.

115037[1] 29June2015  ::  When asked what defines an excellent preK–12 educational experience, professional educators overwhelmingly provide an answer that goes well beyond academic achievement. Why, then, do the majority of district, state, and federal education policies prioritize annual assessment results over equally important factors, such as challenging and engaging curricula; strong social-emotional and physical health supports; moral and ethical development; and safe, supportive learning environments?

The commonly accepted—but narrow—definition of student "success" that centers on academic achievement dismisses research documenting life-long payoffs of a "whole child-centered" approach to teaching and learning that accounts for children's cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and ethical development. One subtle but significant challenge in shifting toward this expansive approach to education is that shareholders do not agree on the terms and definitions of the factors that make up a whole child framework. The same term can refer to similar—but different—concepts. Also, an educator's understanding of a term may differ from that of a policymaker, parent, or business leader.

To enable thoughtful, engaged conversation on issues that matter to educators, parents, communities, and students, we need clarity on key educational terms and philosophies, such as character education, school climate, social-emotional learning, and 21st century skills. The ability to speak with greater precision and cohesion would help diverse stakeholder groups create policies and support practices that address the multifaceted and individualized learning needs of each (whole) child, regardless of geographic location, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and mental or physical abilities.

Character.org's President and CEO Becky Sipos acknowledges the confusion around educational terms and their application: "Parents don't understand … policymakers don't know what to support. There are a lot of parallel tracks. How can we build the field so that there is public acceptance [as well as] demand … and to respect [all of] these as essential—not 'soft'—skills?"

National School Climate Center (NSCC) President Jonathan Cohen notes that consensus on both individual and shared terminology is an "important and worthwhile goal."

Cohen believes that "there are more similarities than there are differences" between these approaches, adding that it's "politically [and] strategically important to support each other's efforts in a 'coordinated, unified manner.'"

Greater agreement around educational outcomes leads to less importance being placed on the words used to describe them, said Helen Soule, executive director of the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21). While acknowledging the confusion over different terms, she notes that "from a public perspective … I don't know that's the argument we ought to be having." Instead, Soule offers, we should focus on how to reach the best educational outcomes "whatever your definition is."

You Say "Whole Child," I Say ….

While terms such as whole child, social and emotional learning (SEL), character education, school climate, and 21st century skills may be hot topics right now, they have been around in some version for quite a while. As early as the 19th century, philosopher and academic John Dewey used language related to whole child concepts to describe the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual needs of students (Cohen, 2013). When ASCD launched its Whole Child Initiative during a time when high-stakes testing was becoming a disproportionate predictor of student success, the term "whole child" encompassed its vision for ensuring that each child, in each community, had the necessary educational supports and conditions for long-term development and success.

Our nation's founders wanted U.S. children to develop a moral foundation for implementing democratic principles—what we might refer to as a "character education." Shared values and character were integrated into the U.S. public school system. "The founding fathers did think of developing a virtuous citizenry inculcated in those civic values," Sipos says. "In order for the democracy to survive, we needed those shared values."

School climate is "something that educators have explicitly been researching for over 100 years," notes Cohen, "and SEL is something that I would suggest is several thousands of years old. Think of the Greeks and what they had written on the ancient sanctuary of the Oracle of Delphi: 'Know thyself.'"

While the ancient Greeks may have identified the need for social-emotional learning, we can trace its current context to risk prevention researchers who, in the 1970s and 1980s, began to delineate the specific social and emotional skills that support resilience in children.

"Within education and school-based programming, there were a bunch of different prevention and other movements all focused on positive youth development," said Roger Weissberg, board vice chair and chief knowledge officer for the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), describing the early 1990s when CASEL was established. "Schools were also at the time so focused on academics and academic performance. We said that it was important to think about the cognitive as well as social and emotional development of children. We decided that the social and emotional competence of kids was important as well as creating the social and emotional conditions for learning."

As the 20th century edged closer to completion, the business community began to publicly voice concerns over skills gaps among its new hires—skills such as collaboration, creativity, and problem solving that an increasingly global, interconnected, and innovative workforce needed. Companies began to consider these types of skills as educational "must haves" rather than "nice to haves," providing impetus for a comprehensive approach to a child's overall preK–12 education experience. This workforce development conversation created an opportunity for organizations such as P21 to elevate "21st century readiness" in policy conversations about redesigning education systems and individual learning experiences.

"Lumpers" vs. "Splitters"

The education community should seek agreement around the "good conditions to support kids' wholesome development and the skills that children need to learn" to become lifelong learners and successful adults, says Weissberg.

"I think it's important to have agreement around common outcomes, but the means by which you get there … I think there are a variety of different strategies," he added. "My hope is that we can have respect for recognizing there are different strategies and different frameworks that can fit together in some ways. Maybe we can talk about the active agreement on the ingredients—what makes programming effective."

Ultimately, Weissberg said, people join one of two different camps when it comes to terminology: "There are some people who are 'splitters' and some who are 'lumpers.' Lumpers look for commonalities and try to connect them and find synergies. Splitters look for differences, and say what's unique about an approach. In our country right now in education, we need to do a lot more 'lumping' and looking for the synergies."

Defining the What and How

Common threads connect such terms as whole child, character education, social-emotional learning, school climate, and 21st century skills. Certainly all establish that myriad factors—both inside and out of the academic environment—promote a student's long-term development and success. And yet, despite widespread agreement among educators on this vocabulary's importance in a child's overall educational experience, a persistent challenge exists in determining how best to incorporate it into the overall school setting and direct instruction. The difficulty in measuring the efficacy of each term on student outcomes, given our current limited assessment models, may be partly to blame. It's hard, say, for a standardized test to measure how safe and supported children feel in their education settings.

What follows is a shorthand definition of each of these terms, as defined by organizations such as ASCD, Character.org, CASEL, NSCC, and P21. Individual nuances are important, but more "lumping" than "splitting" appears to be occurring between each.

Whole Child: An education that ensures that "each child, in each school, in each community is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged," describes ASCD's whole child approach. With these tenets, ASCD hopes to change the conversation about education from a narrow focus on academic achievement to one that promotes the long-term development and success of children. Such an environment can help educators, families, community members, and policymakers move beyond a vision about educating the whole child to sustainable, collaborative action.

School Climate: The "quality and character of school life as it relates to norms and values, interpersonal relations and social interactions, and organizational processes and structures" describes the NSCC's definition of school climate. As they see it, "school climate sets the tone for all the learning and teaching done in the school environment and predicts a student's ability to learn and develop in healthy ways."

Social-Emotional Learning: The "process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions," is the definition of SEL according to CASEL. They note that "SEL programming assumes that the best learning emerges in the context of supportive relationships that make learning challenging, engaging, and meaningful."

Character Education: The phrase, "an educational movement that supports the social, emotional, and ethical development of students," articulates Character.org's use of this term. The organization defines it as "the proactive effort by schools, districts, communities, and states to help students develop important core ethical (recognizing what's right) and performance (doing what's right) values such as caring, honesty, diligence, fairness, fortitude, responsibility, grit, creativity, critical thinking, and respect for self and others." Through character education, "students learn how to be their best selves and how to do their best work while making school a place where students and educators feel comfortable and able to work."

21st Century Skills: Abilities that enable students to "actively engage in their education and directly apply their content knowledge through collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity," is how P21 defines this term. As detailed in P21's Framework for 21st Century Learning, these skills include digital, media, and information literacy to evaluate content and use technology effectively; life and career competencies such as flexibility, time and project management, and self-direction; cultural awareness; leadership; and responsibility. According to P21, these skills "are essential in enabling students to leave school prepared for success in college, careers, and citizenship in a global and interconnected world."

True Grit … or True Resilience … or True Perseverance

Ambiguity with educational terms certainly doesn't end with the five concepts listed above. More specific or granular terms—many of which are related to the above approaches—are often used interchangeably, despite nuanced differences, or as stand-ins for broader educational concepts.

Nonacademic, noncognitive, soft skills, and people skills are terms that educators and researchers use to describe vital attributes for students to succeed in higher education, inside the workforce, and across society. These terms are often used in conjunction with 21st century skills such as collaboration, creativity, team building, and innovation, which can overlap with social-emotional learning skills. Typical standardized achievement tests lack the capability to measure most of these skills. But widespread agreement exists on the need to incorporate them into a student's educational experience, especially when preparing today's students for tomorrow's workforce.

The challenge in these skills being universally accepted as integral components to a whole child education, however, is in dispelling their negative connotations. For example, prefacing a term with "non" or "soft" mistakenly implies that it's not important to achievement.

Terms such as grit, resilience, and perseverance provide an even more granular example of the skills mentioned earlier. And too, these terms seem to be used interchangeably or their definitions overlap each other, often in very subtle ways. These terms certainly have received their share of recent attention, in part from the popularity of Paul Tough's 2013 book (How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character) as well as the research of individuals such as Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist. Each trait is a component of learning approaches and educational programs that seek to develop life-long skills and attributes in students.

Resilience has been described as the ability of students to bounce back from adversity or a quality exhibited by those who thrive despite coming from at-risk environments (Perkins-Gough, 2013), while grit has been explained as sticking with a goal over the long term despite obstacles (Edutopia, 2014). The term perseverance often describes a student's tendency to complete their work thoroughly and on time, to the best of their ability despite obstacles or level of challenge. Skills such as staying focused on a goal, regardless of distractions or challenges; prioritizing higher pursuits while delaying gratification; and exhibiting self-control seem to weave in and out of such definitions.

Stakeholders often use adjectives such as well-rounded, holistic, and student-centered to describe programmatic approaches to supporting the whole child. While we should not consider these approaches as substitutes for whole child–centered teaching and learning, they certainly serve as important components inside a whole child framework.

According to many, a well-rounded education expands "core academic subjects" to include English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, foreign languages, physical education, art, music, civics, government, economics, geography, and health education. In this learning environment, students receive enriched learning experiences as well as extracurricular activities.

A holistic education helps students find identity and purpose in life through connections to their communities, nature, and humanitarian values. This model values not only academic success but also students' ability to learn about themselves, healthy relationships, social responsibility, and compassion.

The term student-centered learning can refer to a variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic support strategies that address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students. This term describes forms of instruction that allow students to lead learning activities, participate actively in discussions, design their own learning projects, explore topics that interest them, and contribute to the design of their own course of study.

Terms such as community schools, wrap-around services, and full-service schools often describe partnerships between schools and local, community-based service providers that support the academic, physical, mental, social, and emotional development of students, their families, and the community. Services that support student's academic success may be offered at or near the school building, and can include primary, mental, and dental health care; family engagement, including adult education; preschool learning; academic enrichment; expanded afterschool or summer programming; mentoring; postsecondary education; and career options awareness.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Today's educators strive to balance the complex learning needs of their students to ensure measurable academic achievement as well as help them build solid foundations for career and life success. But policymakers who "want to see the 'magic research study'" make their work more difficult, said Sipos.

"We say, 'think crock pot, not microwave.' You've got to put all of this stuff together," she added. "This is hard work, but it's valuable work. And I want it to be respected among policymakers and the community."

"Everyone should be familiar with the terms and concepts used to support a whole child education," said ASCD Policy Director David Griffith. "There are no right or wrong terms, but it would help if we could use a common framework. We hurt ourselves by fostering confusion across parents, policymakers, and business and community leaders. The goal is for everyone to support learning and achievement beyond academic performance."

Cohen says that his first goal is to educate the whole child, "whatever label is used"—and that his second goal is to support the "whole village—school, parents, guardians—working together."

Education, he added, is a "continuous process of learning and development, both instructionally and systemically. I'm in favor of doing anything that's within a continuous process of learning and development."

"We want people to be thoughtful about the education they provide, and offer the resources and supports for them to do it well," said Weissberg. "I want people talking, communicating with each other about the paradigms that guide their work. What that's going to lead to in terms of language? I guess we'll find out."

"Bringing in all stakeholders is key," Sipos said. "We all implement together. It's not one more thing on the plate. It is the plate."


By Rong-Gong Lin II | LA Times | http://lat.ms/1Ht3GD2

A victim of SSPE

Marissa Cortes-Torres holds a photo of her son, Ramon "Junior" Cortes, 9, who died of a complication of measles, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, after having contracted measles as a baby. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

24 June 2015  ::  Measles is commonly thought to be a one-time deal: Get it once, survive, and you’re immune for life.

But like a Trojan horse, the virus can find a way to hide from a baby’s undeveloped immune system. The baby will survive, but within his or her body, a weakened form of the measles lurks, beginning to infect the brain.

Over the ensuing years, the disease gets stronger. Then the infected human being, long past being a baby, experiences mood swings and behavioral problems. Convulsions, coma and death follow.

There is no cure. It is always fatal.

There were at least 11 cases of this deadly complication, known as SSPE, or subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, after the 1988-91 measles epidemic in the United States, which infected more than 55,000.

Dr. James Cherry, primary editor of the Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and a UCLA professor, said the complication underscores the need for measles vaccination rates to remain as high as possible, as inoculations have fallen in the last decade.

“Measles is not a benign disease,” Cherry said. And SSPE, he said, is a “horrible disease.”

The most vulnerable to getting SSPE are those younger than 2, who have undeveloped immune systems. Especially at risk are babies too young to get their first measles shot, which happens at 12 months.

That’s what happened to Ramon “Junior” Cortes, a boy born in Orange County 26 years ago.

His mother, Marissa Cortes-Torres, was 24 when she gave birth to him. When Junior was a month old, Marissa became very ill.

Doctors didn’t figure out she had contracted measles until the baby fell ill. (Marissa had been vaccinated in the 1960s, when mistakes were made in how the newly introduced inoculation was administered.)

The infant was in the hospital for two months, hooked up to tubes, struggling to breathe.

By the time Junior reached age 3 months, he seemed to recover.

Years later, in kindergarten in Escondido, he would stand when a teacher told him to sit. He struggled to add. At home, he would arbitrarily take clothes out of the drawers. When he biked or rollerbladed, the boy would take surprising spills, bruising his legs.

Finally, a neurologist at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego told Marissa, “I’m sorry to tell you: Your son is going to die.”

SSPE, she was told, “attacks the nervous system and it destroys the brain.”

It was the day before her son turned 7.

Soon, the boy who used to “swim like a little fish” became confined to a wheelchair.

Junior started to suffer tremors so bad he couldn’t feed himself. He became so frustrated that he would push his food away and refuse to eat. He had to wear diapers again. Seizures sapped his strength. When he hallucinated, all Marissa could do to try to soothe him was say, “Junior, Junior. Mommy’s here.”

One day, after he turned 9, he laughed while watching "Barney & Friends," but while looking away from the television.

“I put my hand in front of his eyes,” Marissa said. “He was blind.”

Junior breathed his last breath a month later, on his mother’s lap.

There have been at least 16 cases of SSPE in California since 1998, which is likely an undercount because not all cases may be diagnosed nor are they required to be reported to the state, according to the Department of Public Health. There are several suspect cases that have not been confirmed.

Seven of the 16 cases involved people born in the United States.  The other nine cases involved people born outside of the country who fell ill with SSPE in California.

Kathleen Harriman, chief of the state’s vaccine-preventable diseases epidemiology section, said she often hears from people who say that getting a disease like measles naturally is best.

“I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard that ... ‘My child will be fine, because I feed them really good food and they’re well nourished and so they will survive measles,’” Harriman said. “This is a clear example where it’s not better to get a natural infection.”

Officials say they hear a report about SSPE about once a year in California.

In the Bay Area, a 4-year-old boy is currently dying of SSPE, said Dr. Catherine Sonquist Forest, the medical director of the Stanford Health Care clinic in Los Altos.

The boy, born in the United States, was only 5 months old when he was infected with a severe viral illness. After he turned 3, the once healthy young boy began to struggle with behavioral problems and seizures. Soon he was diagnosed with SSPE.

He is now in hospice care. His eyes are open, but he can no longer move on his own and cannot respond to commands.

“He was exposed because other people weren’t immunized,” Forest said.

Two weeks ago, Forest recounted the boy’s diagnosis to a California Assembly committee on health. She urged lawmakers in a letter to require that children, barring an allergy or other medical reason, be vaccinated as a condition of entry into school.

The Assembly is scheduled to vote on the bill, SB 277, on Thursday. The Senate passed the bill in May.

“As the mother of my patient told me last week, ‘My child is dying because someone who chose not to be immunized exposed my vulnerable baby, and nothing can be done to save him,’” she wrote.


by Laura Colby | Bloomberg News | http://bloom.bg/1HsQttL

June 26, 2015 — 8:39 AM PDT  ::  News Corp. is winding down sales of custom-made tablet computers after few schools bought the devices, once central to the company’s goal of overhauling U.S. education, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The media company, whose executive chairman is billionaire Rupert Murdoch, is no longer ordering new tablets from its manufacturer in Asia, though it has stock on hand for existing school customers, according to the people, who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

By the end of this month, New York-based News Corp. will have invested more than $1 billion in Amplify, its education division, which sells a digital curriculum and testing services in addition to the tablets. Few districts have bought the units, which can be used for classroom work, homework assignments and tracking student performance. The head of the tablet business left the company earlier this year.

“We continue to support our tablet customers and are still fulfilling orders for additional tablets,” Amplify said in an-email. The company said it “continues to receive and consider new contract requests” for the tablets.

Greensboro Glitches

The Greensboro, North Carolina, school district placed a $14.6 million order for the tablets. The contract, which included service, is by far the largest one Amplify received. Technical glitches marred their introduction in fall of 2013, and the district canceled the rollout and tried again a year later with a redesigned device, Bloomberg reported in April. Amplify said the feedback from the district had been positive with the revamped tablets.

Amplify said it is still committed to marketing its digital classroom materials to U.S. schools. It has received “several million dollars” of orders in the past 10 weeks for its software-based curriculum, according to the company.

Amplify makes up about 1 percent of the $8.6 billion in annual revenue of News Corp., which also publishes newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and competes with Bloomberg News. School testing, a business News Corp. entered in 2010 with the $360 million purchase of Brooklyn-based Wireless Generation, is the largest part of Amplify’s revenue. The testing business sells software that lets teachers gauge student progress and remediate reading skills. Amplify also markets English, math and science curricula as well as educational games.

News Corp. shares rose 1.9 percent to $15.03 at 12:34 p.m. in New York. They have fallen 4.3 percent this year.

For the year ended June 30, 2014, Amplify reported a $193 million loss on sales of $88 million. The loss narrowed 51 percent, to $69 million in the first nine months of the current fiscal year, compared with a year earlier.

Earlier this month at a London investor conference, News Corp. Chief Executive Officer Robert Thomson said the company’s investment in Amplify would be “significantly lower” over the next year and praised the quality of the company’s curriculum.

Executive Departures

The head of Amplify’s tablet unit, Stephen Smyth, left the company in February. An interim leader is in place as the company, under a program called One Amplify, attempts to integrate its units into a single organization and eliminate duplication, the company said. Smyth didn’t return messages seeking comment.

Smyth wasn’t the only high-level departure at Amplify this year. In June, Christopher Cerf, the head of its testing unit, left the company after slightly more than a year. Cerf previously worked with Amplify CEO Joel Klein in the New York City schools. Klein was chancellor under then Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News. Cerf was named superintendent of the Newark, New Jersey, public schools starting July 1. He didn’t return messages.

Prevent another tragedy, TEACH CPR IN HIGH SCHOOL



By Dr. Jared Salvo, MD | Op-Ed in the Bakersfield Californian | http://bit.ly/1NtQtIl

Monday, Jun 29, 2015 1:45 AM  ::  How many more deaths from cardiac arrest does our community need before action is taken to change this grim reality? Every year there are almost 424,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the United States, and of this figure an estimated 10,200 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen to children. In our community, we have lost two beautiful young teens to cardiac arrest within the past few months.

Jose Manuel Beltran, died on January 26, 2015, after collapsing at Cecil Avenue Middle School. Jose had undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which led to his sudden cardiac arrest. Most recently, a 14 year-old student at Richland Jr. High School passed away from a sudden cardiac arrest as she walked to get a drink of water. 4 out of 5 cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital setting and sadly less than 10 percent of those victims survive the event, but effective cardiopulmonary resuscitation can double or triple survival rates. Let’s not wait for another tragedy to unfold; we can proactively take steps to improve survival rates in our community.

In order to improve the chain of survival in Kern County, I urge local school boards to pass legislation to train students in CPR techniques and receive overview of automated external defibrillators prior to high school graduation, as well as require that all schools have AEDs onsite. High school is filled with countless life lessons, and I believe a school setting is the perfect place to teach life-saving skills like Hands-On CPR. If we pass legislation to train our high school students, we will put thousands of lifesavers in our community every year, creating a generation of lifesavers.

Studies have shown that young people are capable of learning CPR techniques and are capable of retaining the basic skills for the rest of their life. For example, American Heart Association volunteer and Taft Union High School student Sara Jewell, age 18, was able to save the life of a toddler, by administering CPR while attending Disneyland to perform with the Taft Union High School Advanced Choir. Sara learned CPR as a lifeguard at the Westside Recreation and Park District.

“The mom was holding her child and the child was limp. She hadn’t been breathing for a while. Her lips were blue, her eyes were rolled into the back of her head and she was convulsing. I immediately started giving her CPR. I did the breathing and a nurse did chest compressions. After more breathing treatments, the child turned her head and threw up spaghetti noodles and started coughing, and coughing is breathing.”

We can build on our momentum, improving the chain of survival. Last year, the Start A Heart committee championed the placement of AED’s in all Bakersfield high schools. This year we need AED’s to be placed in all middle schools and high schools in all Kern County.

If we build CPR training into the high school curriculum, we will equip our students with lifesaving skills, and we will hear more stories of survival and less stories of tragic results.

I believe implementing CPR in Schools at the local School Board level and placement of AEDs on all school campuses will empower our students to be heart savers ready to respond appropriately in an emergency cardiac situation.

Dr. Jared Salvo of Bakersfield is a cardiologist at Central Cardiology Medical Clinic and board president of the American Heart Association, Kern County


By Sarah Tully | EdSource | http://bit.ly/1KkxSiB


Jun 26, 2015 | The state canceled next month’s administration of the California High School Exit Exam because the test contract expired, leaving possibly thousands of students’ graduation status in limbo.

State law began requiring that students pass an exit exam to graduate from high school starting with the Class of 2006, giving students eight chances to take it during high school.

But the contract with Educational Testing Service, which administered the exam, only ran through the May test, prompting the California Department of Education to halt the July exam, said Keric Ashley, the department’s deputy superintendent. State officials were awaiting direction from the state Legislature before taking action on the test contract.

About 5,000 seniors, who would have been part of the Class of 2015, are missing the opportunity to take the July exam – often the last-ditch chance to graduate over the summer.

The cancellation comes as the state Legislature considers a bill, SB 172, which would suspend the exit exam requirement for three years.

As introduced earlier this year, the bill called for the exam’s suspension starting in 2016-17 so there would be time to develop a graduation requirement aligned to the new Common Core standards. The exit exam, known as CAHSEE, is based on the former state standards, which are no longer taught in classes.

When state lawmakers learned that the exam’s contract was expiring, the bill was changed to either suspend the requirement that students pass the exam during those three years or “when the exit exam is no longer available.” Because of the uncertainty of the test’s contract, lawmakers added the clause to give flexibility to schools on the graduation requirement.

“It was discovered in actuality, it’s ended anyway because the contact expired,” said Suzanne Reed, chief of staff for Sen. Carol Liu, who is sponsoring the bill.

The California Department of Education sent a June 1 letter to districts, notifying them of the July test cancellation.

Ashley said state officials are watching what the Legislature does with the bill to determine what will happen to the exam and those students who have yet to pass it. A hearing is set for Wednesday on the bill in the Assembly Education Committee. The bill already passed in the Senate.

“Everyone is aware that students are out there waiting and hoping to graduate and they are anxious to hear what the news is,” Ashley said.

It’s unclear what will happen to those students. If the bill passes, the students may be able to skip the exam requirement to graduate. If the bill fails, the state may attempt to extend the test contract so students could take it later, Ashley said.

But there is reluctance to extend the contract for an exam that no longer tests the standards that students are learning.

“There were some folks who opposed suspending the exit exam, saying we need something to hold (students) to some standards,” Reed said. “This is holding them to meet a standard they are not prepared to meet. I don’t know what the purpose would be.”

The vast majority of students pass the exit exam, which includes a math section that goes through Algebra 1 and English sections based on 10th grade standards.

For the Class of 2014, 95.5 percent, or 417,960 students, passed both sections by the end of senior year, according to the California Department of Education.

The July testing is usually small: 4,847 students took the math section and 5,826 students took the English section in July 2013, the most recent figures available. Many of those failing students are often missing school credits and would not have graduated anyway, education officials said.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, the state’s largest district, between 400 and 500 students usually take the July exit exam, said Cynthia Lim, executive director of the district’s office of data and accountability.

District officials were in the middle of setting up places for students to take the July test when the state called off the exam. Also, the district nixed summer school classes to prepare for the exit exam.

“Anytime we take away an opportunity for students, I don’t think it’s a good thing,” Lim said. “On the other hand, CAHSEE is a test aligned to the old California standards, so it’s probably time for revamping that.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


By The LA Times Editorial Board | http://lat.ms/1JgbwgA

Don Julian School students

Fourth grade students at Don Julian School in La Puente show off some of their artwork on June 2.(Los Angeles Times)

28 June 2015  ::  Despite broad bipartisan support, legislation to repeal an onerous cap on school district reserve funds didn't have much of a chance in the Democrat-controlled California Legislature. The bill by Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon) died in the Assembly Education Committee faster than you can say “opposed by the California Teachers Assn.”

But good ideas with broad support have a way of persisting, even in the toxic environment of partisan politics. The repeal bill may be dead, but in its place is a new campaign — backed by school districts, the state PTA, the League of Women Voters, education policy groups and others — to “modify” the cap in order to get Democrats on board. Hey, if that's what it takes to relax the irresponsible rule that prohibits schools from socking away extra cash during boom years, that's fine with us.

That's how things go in the Capitol sometimes. But the new vernacular has so far improved the prospects for a legislative fix to the cap this year.

In a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) in early June, 26 Democratic legislators said they support modifying the cap because of its deleterious effects on the ability of school districts to save for unforeseen capital expenses and on their credit ratings. “Modification” was not defined explicitly, but the letter did suggest that it would include lifting the cap to a workable level. If not a repeal, then supporters want a cap high enough that it wouldn't be a burden.

[The cap] is not just a case of school districts complaining about the state meddling with their finances. It's bad policy. - 

And they should have it. This is not just a case of school districts complaining about the state meddling with their finances. It's bad policy. The Legislative Analyst's Office concluded as much in a January report that said the reserve cap puts the state's school districts in financial jeopardy and ought to be removed. And restricting the amount school districts can save is antithetical to everything the governor has done to empower them to use their money as they see fit.

Teachers unions are pretty much the only fans of a limit on reserve funds, because it stops school districts from holding on to money that might otherwise be left on the bargaining table during contract negotiations. The cap was passed by the Legislature last year, and was seen as a bone to get teachers unions' support for Proposition 2, the state's rainy day fund.

Proponents think they can find a legislative vehicle for changing the cap as early as this summer. Gov. Jerry Brown may be open to signing whatever legislation results from a deal, even though he supported the cap last year. In January, Brown said his administration was aware of the concerns about the cap and would “engage in a dialogue” in the coming months. Those months have come and gone, and it's time for more than talk. Repeal — or at least modify — the school reserve cap.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Bennett Kayser

by smf for 4LAKids

This originally appeared in the Sunday, May 24, 2015  It's complicated  edition of the 4LAKids blog/e-newsletter

Former UTLA President Warren Fletcher read it verbatim at the June 23rd Board of Ed  meeting and I was asked to republish it.  Warren apologized for “plagiarizing”, though he quoted me as the author.  But no apology is ever needed. As a screenwriter I have always written words for others to say. 

It sounded good Warren – and thank you.

But mostly Thank You Bennett!


BENNETT KAYSER is one of the most decent men I have ever met – and a good friend to me and kids and parents and teachers and public education.

There is a crazy selflessness that afflicts middle school educators like a mutant gene: ‘Who, in their right mind, would return there?’ Bennett possesses this in spades.

The victory-at-all-costs campaign waged against him was particularly brutal and unnecessarily hurtful to him, his wife Peggy and his friends, colleagues and family.

‘It’s not personal, it’s politics’ is easy to say and tougher to live.

Forgiveness+forgetting will be harder to come by from his friends than from Bennett.

“A righteous man does not conceive of himself as righteous; he is ‘only doing what anyone else would do,’ except, of course, that no one else does it.” ― Martin Berman-Gorvine, 36

FEDERAL EDUCATION UPDATE: New Federal Grant Regs, Ed Funding Bills OKed, Senate to Debate ESEA/NCLB, 8 more NCLB Waivers OKed

by email | best of Brustein & Manasevit - Federal Update | Contributors: Steven Spillan and Phillip Burgoyne-Allen | M&S represents the CDE in DC

Brustein & Manasevit logo

Date:  June 26, 2015

ED Offers Guidance on Implementation of New Federal Rules

As the July 1st implementation date (for State-administered programs) for the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) Uniform Grant Guidance quickly approaches, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is working to answer lingering questions from grantees and subrecipients.  Through a series of responses to questions, as well as a revised frequently asked questions (FAQ) document, ED has provided a few key clarifications, though a number of unresolved issues remain.

In March, ED released an updated FAQ document detailing certain issues with implementing the Uniform Grant Guidance.  In response to these FAQs, grantees were left with additional unanswered questions.  For example, upon reviewing the requirements in 2 CFR § 200.331(a)(1), many grantees and subrecipients were confused about the meaning of certain data elements that must be included in each subaward agreement.  Of the 13 data elements listed in this subsection, few are defined or explained.  After receiving a number of questions, ED clarified the meaning of data elements that must be included in subaward notifications under 2 CFR §200.331(a)(1)(vi), (vii), and (viii).

According to the latest FAQ, the “Amount of Federal Funds Obligated by this action” is the amount of funds awarded by the State grantee to the subrecipient in this particular award notice.  Please bear in mind, this is in reference to the amount of funds that are subawarded, and the obligation definitions and dates found in 34 CFR §76.707 remain unchanged.  The FAQ also states that “Total Amount of Federal Funds Obligated to the subrecipient” is the cumulative total amount awarded by the State, before the current subaward in question, to the subrecipient under the same program and from the same fiscal year (FY) appropriation.  Finally, “Total Amount of the Federal Award” refers to the total amount of funds awarded by the grantee to the subrecipient during that fiscal year. For some subawards, these elements may all be the same number, or may not have a number to be included.

In addition to the FAQs, ED has responded to a number of individual questions submitted via email over the last few months.  For example, in one response, ED notes that 2 CFR § 200.318(e) authorizes non-federal entities to “enter into State and local intergovernmental agreements or inter‐entity agreements where appropriate for procurement or use of common or shared goods and services.”  Some States have established lists of pre-qualified bidders that certain entities may use to select a contractor without going through the full procurement process.  Thus, according to ED, a non-federal entity can select a contractor from the pre‐qualified list without requesting bids as would otherwise be required.  However, the non-federal entity would have to ask a reasonable number of pre‐qualified bidders to submit proposals before selecting one of the entities that would provide the requested service or goods.

The responses provided by ED, as well as other up-to-date resources on Part 200, can be found on Brustein & Manasevit, PLLC’s website.

ED has also promised additional guidance in the coming weeks, though nothing of substance is expected before the new rules become effective for State-administered programs on July 1st.  As more guidance is made available, Brustein & Manasevit, PLLC will continue to update its resources page with applicable links and documents.

Author: SAS

House and Senate Appropriations Committees Approve Ed Funding Bills

Last week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education held a two-hour markup on its annual funding bill for fiscal year (FY) 2016.  This week, the corresponding Senate Subcommittee held a 20-minute markup before both bills were sent on and approved by both full committees.  While the Senate bill does not go as far as the House bill, both chambers are planning cuts for education programs.

The funding levels approved by the House Appropriations Committee remain largely unchanged from the subcommittee bill.  The bill would cut funding for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) by about $2.8 billion.  That would include eliminating 20 different ED programs, including school improvement grants, the striving readers programs, math and science partnerships, teacher incentive grants, and a number of other competitive grants.  Using the savings generated by these eliminations, the bill would allow for some increases for special education, charter schools, impact aid, and a few higher education programs.  Meanwhile, Title I grants under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), career and technical education (CTE) State grants, and adult education State grants would remain level funded.

Here is a list of all 20 programs targeted for elimination by the House, along with a (*) notation for those programs that are also zeroed out in the Senate:

  • School Improvement State Grants;
  • Striving Readers*;
  • Preschool Development Grants*;
  • Mathematics and Science Partnerships;
  • Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities National Programs;
  • Elementary and Secondary School Counseling;
  • Carol M. White Physical Education Program*;
  • Investing in Innovation*;
  • Teacher Incentive Fund;
  • Transition to Teaching*;
  • School Leadership*;
  • Magnet Schools Assistance;
  • Advanced Placement;
  • Ready-to-Learn Television;
  • Innovative Approaches to Literacy;
  • Full Service Community Schools*;
  • Javits Gifted and Talented;
  • Arts in Education;
  • Teacher Quality Partnerships; and
  • Regional Education Laboratories.

On the Senate side, the bill would cut about $1.7 billion in ED funding.  While the Senate bill would also eliminate some programs, it does not eliminate all 20 programs targeted in the House.  Instead, the Senate bill merely makes significant cuts to those programs while providing small increases for Title I, charter schools, and special education.  The Senate is planning to level fund CTE programs while cutting adult education basic State grants.  The following chart describes some program funding levels from each committee compared to the previous fiscal year.  These numbers are still preliminary and are subject to change pending final approval by both the House and the Senate.



FY 15

House FY 16

Senate FY 16

ESEA Title I

$14.4 billion

$14.4 billion

$14.6 billion


$11.5 billion

$12 billion

$11.6 billion

CTE State Grants

$1.1 billion

$1.1 billion

$1.1 billion

Adult Ed State Grants

$569 million

$569 million

$548 million


$840 million

$900 million

$840 million


$302 million

$323 million

$302 million


$506 million


$450 million

21st Century

$1.2 billion

$1.2 billion

$1 billion

Charter Schools

$253 million

$275 million

$273 million

Head Start

$8.6 billion

$8.8 billion

$8.7 billion

Child Care Development Block

$2.4 billion

$2.4 billion

$2.6 billion

As this chart illustrates, while the House and Senate do have some similar priorities, there are still a number of differences in the funding levels proposed in both bills.  For example, both bills would cut funding for workforce training programs, but by different amounts and in different ways.  The one true commonality of both bills is that both would prohibit ED from implementing the gainful employment rules that were promulgated this year.  Even though those rules just survived a legal challenge in federal court, Republicans have continually voiced opposition to the rules.  Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) attempted to have the probation language removed, but his amendment failed.

Once both bills get to their respective floors, we are likely to have another slew of amendments.  While the House can limit the amendments that are offered, it is very difficult in the Senate to keep Senators from offering any germane amendment they choose to draft.  As such, we may not see final legislation until after the July 4th break, and a conference between the two chambers could be a lengthy one.  The odds of Congress finishing work before the end of the current fiscal year are slim, meaning the federal government is likely headed for a fall season of continuing resolutions before a final omnibus bill is considered in November.  As the debate continues, and funding prospects change, Brustein & Manasevit, PLLC will continue to monitor the process and provide updates accordingly.

Author: SAS

Senate Will Debate ESEA Reauthorization Bill

The Senate’s bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – the Every Child Achieves Act – will likely be debated on the Senate Floor on Tuesday, July 7th.  This week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) officially scheduled the bill for floor debate in an email to Senate offices.  His announcement comes after weeks of speculation on the bill’s fate, as it had fallen behind various other congressional priorities – most recently the Obama Administration’s trade agenda.

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), who co-authored the bill, said that she is “looking forward to debating our bipartisan bill on the Senate floor and continuing to make progress toward finally fixing No Child Left Behind in a way that works for States and schools and makes sure every child has access to a quality education, regardless of where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.”

However, she added that the Senate still has “a long way to go” before sending a bill to the President's desk.  A long debate, possibly spanning multiple weeks, is expected.  For comparison, when the Senate passed the last reauthorization of ESEA in 2001 – the No Child Left Behind Act – the bill was considered on the floor for nearly two months.

Additionally, there are only 16 legislative days next month before Congress breaks for its August recess.  Once legislators return in September, appropriations bills will be the chamber’s major priority, leaving little time for other substantive issues.  Even if the Senate does manage to pass the bill, it will still face consideration in the House, which has had its own delays in ESEA reauthorization this Congress.


Lauren Camera, “Senate Schedules Debate on Bipartisan ESEA Reauthorization,” Education Week: Politics K-12, June 24, 2015.

Author: PBA

ED Approves Eight More ESEA Waivers

This week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) renewed the waivers from certain accountability provisions under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for the District of Columbia and seven States – Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, New York, and West Virginia.

These waivers were renewed under a fast-track approval process for States following through on their commitments from the original round of waivers.  Last March, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Virginia also received renewed waivers through the expedited process.  In 2011, 42 States received ESEA waivers, all of which were set to expire at the end of the 2014-2015 school year, and every waiver State has applied for renewal.  States that receive renewed waivers under the normal approval process will be notified this summer.

In order to receive the waivers, States had to outline accountability plans and implement certain policies favored by ED, such as rigorous academic standards and teacher evaluations that incorporate student test scores.


Emma Brown, “Feds Renew No Child Left Behind Waivers for D.C. and Seven States,” Washington Post, June 23, 2015.

Author: PBA

The Federal Update has been prepared to inform Brustein & Manasevit, PLLC’s legislative clients of recent events in federal education legislation and/or administrative law.  It is not intended as legal advice, should not serve as the basis for decision-making in specific situations, and does not create an attorney-client relationship between Brustein & Manasevit, PLLC and the reader.


Friday, June 26, 2015

WESTCHESTER CHARTER v. LAUSD: Court of Appeal Affirms School District's Discretion to Locate Charter Schools Under Proposition 39

Education Law Alert by By John R. Yeh OF Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP | http://bit.ly/1KgIvmn

June 25, 2015  ::  Proposition 39 (Education Code section 47614), the law requiring school districts to allocate reasonably equivalent facilities to eligible charter schools, continues to generate numerous legal challenges and court rulings. The most recent published case, Westchester Secondary Charter School v. Los Angeles Unified School District, affirms the important principle that school districts must have discretion to weigh the respective interests of both school district and charter school programs in making facilities allocations under Proposition 39.

The Court of Appeal in the Westchester case interpreted the specific provision in Proposition 39 that "[t]he school district shall make reasonable efforts to provide the charter school with facilities near to where the charter school wishes to locate." (Education Code section 47614(b).) The charter school sued when the school district offered a site that was 6½ miles from the charter school's first choice, and over 7 miles from its second choice of campuses. The Court rejected the charter school's argument, stating that "'near' is a flexible concept," and the District met the location preference by offering a site only 2.53 miles from the perimeter of the charter school's preferred location in the City of Westchester.

The Court also rejected the charter school's attempts to second-guess the District's other facilities allocations, including a decision to place a District pilot program, and not the charter school, at the charter school's second choice campus; the decision not to place both the District pilot program and the charter school at the second choice campus; the decision not to eliminate "set-asides" (classrooms used for purposes other than general education) to free up more classrooms; and not placing the charter school at a closed adult education school site.

In reaching its ruling, the Court recognized that school districts must have the discretion to balance the impact on school district programs in meeting their obligations to provide reasonably equivalent facilities to charter school students under Proposition 39.   "In sum, the law requires the District to treat charter and noncharter students fairly, but not favor one group over the other," the court stated. The Court's decision in Westchester is an important reminder that traditional public schools and their students also have rights and interests that must be considered during the Proposition 39 facilities allocation process.

Atty photo - Yeh, John

Attorney Spotlight

John R. Yeh is a partner in Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP and a member of the Education Law Practice Group. He has been practicing law in California since 1991, and specializes in representing and advising school districts in charter school, labor and employment, and litigation matters




Westchester Secondary Charter v. LAUSD (B261234, 6-19-15)


Alan Singer Headshot


by Alan Singer Social studies educator, Hofstra University/Huffington Post Contributor | http://huff.to/1KiVKog

safe_image[1] 06/25/2015 2:56 pm EDT    ::  You can't make this stuff up. On June 23, 2015 the New York Times reported on Pearson mass Common Core grading centers where a college degree but no special knowledge is required to grade tests and temporary employees make between $12 and $14 an hour plus small bonuses if they "hit daily quality and volume targets." [4LAKidsNews:Grading the Common Core: NO TEACHING EXPERIENCE REQUIRED http://bit.ly/1KaaC8l ]

According to the article, Pearson insists "strict training and scoring protocols are intended to ensure consistency, no matter who is marking the tests."

Pearson advertised for people to grade the Common Core aligned tests on Craigslist and Facebook and hired about 14,500 temporary employees. To ensure "quality," already grading exams were sorted in with new exams to see if the graders come up with the same score. It is not clear what happens if they don't.

Bob Sanders, vice president of content and scoring management at Pearson North America compared the scoring of high-stakes standardized Common Core-aligned exams to making hamburgers at McDonald's. "McDonald's has a process in place to make sure they put two patties on that Big Mac. We do that exact same thing. We have processes to oversee our processes, and to make sure they are being followed." Mr. Sanders, of course, has a degree from the University of Iowa in business and has never been a teacher. According to his Linkedin page, he cares about children and considers himself a "A respected dynamic leader, strategic thinker, and creative problem solver within technology, retail, and the educational assessment industries."

Comparing Common Core grading with McDonald's is certainly a great analogy. A Big Mac combo meal (Big Mac, large fries, and 32 oz. Coke) has a total of 1,330 fatting calories, about 65% of a recommended daily calorie intact, with almost no nutritional value. You also get 54 grams of fat, 83% of the recommended daily intake, and 1,320 mg of sodium, more than half of the normal daily allowance, and 85 grams of sugar, double the recommended daily dosage.

This year about 12 million children in grades three through twelve took Common Core aligned tests and were processed like hamburgers at McDonald's.

Thank you Mr. Sanders and Pearson for so aptly describing the value of the Common Core diet.

CORE CALIFORNIA: Oversight Panel recommends continuing six districts’ waiver from NCLB

Two members of the committee express skepticism that LAUSD has shown sufficient evidence of progress.

By John Fensterwald | EdSource | http://bit.ly/1CyLq3H


Jun 25, 2015 | An oversight committee is recommending that the U.S. Department of Education again extend a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law to six California school districts, collectively known as CORE.

Some of the districts had not met the deadline for improvements, particularly for adopting key parts of a new teacher evaluation system, but the committee concluded that all had shown enough overall progress to merit an extension.

“In order to support progress and continual learning, the Oversight Panel chose to recommend continued implementation of the waivers so that all districts, even those struggling to make progress in certain areas, are supported in furthering this important work,” David Plank, the committee’s chair, wrote in a June 18 letter to federal officials. The seven members of the committee, which included researchers and representatives of school and civil rights organizations, endorsed the waivers following an all-day review earlier this month.


<< Source: California Office to Reform Education :: Each summer, CORE holds multi-day summer institutes for teachers in member districts on developing strategies and assessments for teaching the Common Core standards in math and English language arts.

CORE, the California Office to Reform Education, is a nonprofit organization that the districts formed to promote their work. The districts include three of the state’s largest unified districts: Los Angeles, Long Beach and Fresno, along with Santa Ana, San Francisco and Oakland. Together they enroll about 1 million students.

Oversight Panel members

The seven members of the CORE Oversight Panel who recommended the waiver extension were:

      • Chairman David Plank, executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), a research center based at Stanford University;
      • Jennifer O’Day, a researcher and policy analyst with American Institutes for Research;
      • Manuel Buenrostro, a policy and programs officer with the California School Boards Association;
      • Celia Jaffe, vice chair of the Education Commission of the California State PTA;
      • Brian Rivas, director of policy and government relations for the Education Trust-West;
      • Marc Winger, a retired school superintendent, representing the Association of California School Administrators;
      • Kenji Hakuta, a professor of linguistics and education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, representing the interests of English language learners.

Federal officials will consider the committee’s recommendation; a decision on whether to extend the waiver is expected before the start of the new school year. Rick Miller, CORE’s executive director and a former California deputy state superintendent, said he was optimistic the waiver would be approved for one or three years. CORE also has asked federal officials to permit other California districts that join CORE to seek the waiver, starting in fall 2016. Those districts would have to make the same commitments to improvement, which include extensive data collection and analysis and collaboration with member districts.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has granted 42 states a wavier from the law in response to a deadlocked Congress’ failure to amend or rewrite No Child Left Behind, formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. So far this year, Duncan has extended the waiver for an additional three or, in some cases, four years, for a dozen states and Washington, D.C., with more approvals expected in coming months (see here and here).

The biggest benefit of the waiver is giving school districts discretion over 20 percent of federal Title I money, which provides funding for low-income children, that they would have spent transporting students to better-performing schools and paying outside tutoring companies. States with waivers also have more discretion to decide how to improve their lowest-performing schools.

In 2013, after Gov. Jerry Brown and the State Board of Education balked at the conditions that Duncan required for a state wavier, the CORE districts sought and got the only waivers awarded to districts nationwide. Sanger Unified, where a longtime superintendent retired, and Sacramento City Unified, where resistance among teachers to the waiver was strong, were initially part of the waiver but have since dropped out while remaining affiliated with CORE.

In September 2014, the U.S. Department of Education gave a one-year waiver extension to the districts. While acknowledging that they faced “very challenging work,” the department put the districts on “high-risk” status because they had not completed work on some accountability metrics and had not progressed far enough in meeting requirements for a new teacher evaluation system, including the use of student test scores. CORE is not alone; other states also have struggled with teacher evaluations, and Duncan in August 2014 said they could seek a year’s extension.

The CORE superintendents and Miller say their distinct approach offers a model that could benefit California as the state board and other policy makers create a new school accountability system based on multiple measures, rather than using standardized tests alone. As one condition of the waiver, CORE districts are creating a School Quality Improvement Index, which will base 60 percent of a school’s score on students’ academic performance and 40 percent on indicators of school climate and culture and the difficult-to-quantify factors of perseverance and attitudes toward learning. The initial scores are due out in the fall.

The districts had to fulfill three key requirements, with multiple elements, to satisfy the conditions of the waiver:

  • Implement the Common Core standards, including creating districtwide interim tests during the year to show progress and providing training for all teachers and administrators. The CORE districts were among the first in California to roll out the new standards, hold joint trainings and design and share complex practice assessments. They are now among those furthest along in implementing the standards.
  • Implement the School Quality Improvement Index and show improvement among the districts’ lowest-performing schools, called priority schools, and schools with the widest gaps in achievement among student subgroups, called focus schools. CORE’s approach was to pair teachers and principals from the 47 priority schools with high-performing schools, called reward schools, both within districts and with other CORE districts, so that they could share successful practices. All schools were to form “communities of practice” – collaborative efforts among teachers to identify a key problem at their schools and work to fix it. Some districts had few priority and focus schools, while Los Angeles Unified had dozens operating within a complex structure of regional sub-districts. Two members of the oversight committee, Celia Jaffe, vice chair of the Education Commission of the California State PTA, and Brian Rivas, director of policy and government relations for the Education Trust-West, expressed skepticism that the district had shown sufficient evidence of progress.
  • Adopt evaluation systems for teachers and administrators that incorporate common guidelines, including measures of student learning. They should also include teachers and principals in the development of the evaluation; have preferably four, but at least three, rating categories; and provide meaningful feedback directed toward professional growth. Districts were supposed to have completed pilots of their evaluation systems in 2014-15 and, in the coming year, implement them districtwide for teachers who were scheduled to be evaluated.

“I have been researching how to turn around low-performing schools for 25 years. I have never seen greater accountability at a district level than what I saw in these reports.” – Jennifer O’Day

The differences among districts were most pronounced regarding teacher evaluations. Long Beach already had a satisfactory system in place at the time of the waiver, and Fresno, following 200 hours of negotiations, is ready to move ahead. But teachers in only one school in Santa Ana agreed to do a trial run in 2015-16, a year behind the waiver timeline, and there is no commitment from the teachers union beyond that. Former Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy antagonized United Teachers Los Angeles by creating a pilot evaluation system without consulting the union. Talks started from scratch when he resigned last year. In the teachers contract ratified in May, the union agreed to add a third rating category– the minimum under the waiver – and to continue discussions next year.

Oversight committee members said they recognized that some districts were out of compliance but agreed that cutting off the waiver would be a worse option. Ending the waiver would remove leverage for improvement, said Manuel Buenrostro, a policy and programs officer representing the California School Boards Association. “We should cite the fact that there are challenges, and districts need more time.”

The oversight panel served as a check on the CORE districts’ peer reviews. Administrators from two teams made up of three districts each – San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland; and Santa Ana, Fresno and Long Beach – met three or four times over the year to review districts’ performance data and self-evaluations. They graded the progress toward satisfying the conditions of the waiver. The feedback from other districts led to revisions and helped clarify thinking, said Michelle Rodriguez, assistant superintendent of Santa Ana Unified.

Miller, CORE’s executive director, praised the process of peer evaluations and criticism as more constructive than the traditional approach of  “checking boxes” to verify compliance. Members of the oversight panel agreed for the most part.

“I have been researching how to turn around low-performing schools for 25 years. I have never seen greater accountability at a district level than what I saw in these reports,” said Jennifer O’Day, a researcher and policy analyst with American Institutes for Research who also chairs the California Collaborative on District Reform.

The seven oversight panel members had access to hundreds of pages of peer reviews and conducted a half-hour presentation and discussion with each district before voting on the individual district waivers. The vote in each case was unanimous, although Rivas, a last-minute fill-in, abstained from the vote on Los Angeles Unified, saying he didn’t have enough information about the district’s work to close the achievement gap.

The oversight panel was supposed to have representatives from a cross-section of 14 organizations and government agencies. But Gov. Jerry Brown, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, and the California Teachers Association, which opposed the waiver, declined to send voting representatives. The State Board of Education sent an observer.

The only superintendent to attend the day-long oversight meeting, Christopher Steinhauser of Long Beach Unified, made his position on the waiver extension clear. The waiver, providing flexibility in Title I funding, shifting attention to “continuous improvement” and coinciding with the transition to local control through the LCAP process “came at a perfect time,” he said. “I am more excited now about education than any time before in my life.”


Going Deeper

IS SPECIAL EDUCATION RACIST? Are minority students overrepresented or underrepresented in Special Ed?

from the AUTHORS:

“Our findings indicate that federal legislation and policies currently designed to reduce minority over-representation in special education may be misdirected.”

from the study:

“Minority children were consistently less likely than otherwise similar White, English-speaking children to be identified as disabled and so to receive special education services. From kindergarten entry to the end of middle school, racial- and ethnic-minority children were less likely to be identified as having (a) learning disabilities, (b) speech or language impairments, (c) intellectual disabilities, (d) health impairments, or (e) emotional disturbances. Language-minority children were less likely to be identified as having (a) learning disabilities or (b) speech or language impairments.”

Is Special Education Racist?

Op-Ed in the New York Times By PAUL L. MORGAN and GEORGE FARKAS | http://nyti.ms/1GOr9el

New study challenges previous research about special education students

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez | KPCC 89.3 | http://bit.ly/1GxHqC5

JUNE 24, 2015  ::  MORE than six million children in the United States receive special-education services for their disabilities. Of those age 6 and older, nearly 20 percent are black.

Critics claim that this high number — blacks are 1.4 times more likely to be placed in special education than other races and ethnicities combined — shows that black children are put into special education because schools are racially biased.

But our new research suggests just the opposite. The real problem is that black children are underrepresented in special-education classes when compared with white children with similar levels of academic achievement, behavior and family economic resources.

The belief that black children are overrepresented in special education is driving some misguided attempts at policy changes. To flag supposed racial bias in special-education placement, the United States Department of Education is thinking of adopting a single standard for all states of what is an allowable amount of overrepresentation of minority children.

If well-intentioned but misguided advocates succeed in arbitrarily limiting placement in special education based on racial demographics, even more black children with disabilities will miss out on beneficial services.

Black children face double jeopardy when it comes to succeeding in school. They are far more likely to be exposed to the gestational, environmental and economic risk factors that often result in disabilities. Yet black children are less likely to be told they have disabilities, and to be treated for them, than otherwise similar white children.

About 65 percent of black children, compared with about 30 percent of white children, live in families with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty line. From 1985 to 2000 about 80 percent of black children grew up in highly disadvantaged neighborhoods characterized by widespread unemployment, racial segregation, poverty, single-parent households and welfare.

Thirty-six percent of inner-city black children have elevated levels of lead in their blood. The figure for suburban white children is only 4 percent. Black children are about twice as likely to be born prematurely and three times more likely to suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome.

In a study published today, we report that the under-diagnosis of black children occurs across five disability conditions for which special services are commonly provided — learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, intellectual disabilities, health impairments and emotional disturbances. From the beginning of kindergarten to the end of eighth grade, black children are less, not more, likely than white children with similar levels of academic performance and behaviors to be identified as having each of these disabilities.

In fact, our study statistically controlled for many possible factors that might explain these disparities. Examples included differences in children’s academic achievement, behavior, gender and age, birth weight, the mother’s marital status and the family’s income and education levels. In contrast, many previous studies reporting overrepresentation have not adjusted for these factors. Instead, these prior studies have relied on school- or district-level data that did not adequately control for differences in risk factor exposure between black and white children.

It may be that black children are less likely to be identified and treated for disabilities because of a greater responsiveness by education professionals to white parents. Low expectations regarding black children’s abilities may also lead some professionals to ignore the neurological basis of low academic achievement and “problem” behavior. Even those black children who do receive a diagnosis are less likely to receive help. For example, despite being more likely to experience symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, black children are less likely than white children to be given a diagnosis of A.D.H.D. And even among those who are given an A.D.H.D. diagnosis, black children are less likely than white children to receive medication to treat the condition.

The last thing we need is to compound these widespread disparities in disability diagnosis and treatment by making school officials reluctant to refer black children for special-education eligibility evaluations out of fear of being labeled racially biased.

Pamphlets describing a school district’s disability eligibility procedures are often written in dense legalese that may be hard for many parents to understand. Revising them might make it easier for parents to advocate for their children during the eligibility evaluation process. Community outreach programs can also help overcome cultural barriers to identifying children with disabilities.

Such programs have already been shown to reduce racial disparities in children’s health and health care access. We should be trying to identify children with disabilities and to provide them with an education adapted to their individual academic, physical or behavioral needs.

  • Paul L. Morgan is an associate professor of education at Pennsylvania State University.
  •  George Farkas is a professor of education at the University of California, Irvine.

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In this April 3, 2012, photo, teacher Bev Campbell holds up images of animals and insects for identification by students in her special education class at Amelia Earhart Elementary School in Hialeah, Fla. Lynne Sladky/AP

26June2015  5:30AM/updated 8:48AM::  A national study by Southern California and Pennsylvania researchers is raising questions about previous reports that identify which students end up in special education.

Earlier research that looked at students nationwide suggest minorities are more likely to be placed in special ed programs compared to white students.

George Farkas, an education researcher at the University of California, Irvine, said that's not the case, at least not nationally. Countrywide, minority groups are less likely to be placed in special ed and less likely to be diagnosed with a disability than otherwise identical white students, he said.

The findings were published in the current issue of Educational Researcher.

California differs from what researchers found nationally. In this state, the numbers match the common view, and prior studies, that minorities make up the majority of special ed students.

The largest group students served by California special education programs are those in the “specific learning disability” category, which includes students with problems speaking, reading, writing or doing math, state data shows. Hispanic students make up 65 percent of students in this category while African-American students make up 10 percent of the group.

Both Hispanic and African-American children are overrepresented in comparison to their numbers in the general student population — and that could pose a problem for the state.

Overrepresentation of minority groups is a concern of many, from policymakers in Washington, D.C., to local school principals. They question if minority students are too often labeled as needing special education, which could take them out of mainstream classes and deny them a normal track through school and onto college.

But the study by Farkas and his colleagues challenges whether there is indeed minority overrepresentation in special education nationally.

“African-American kids, and in fact other minority groups, are less likely to be placed in special education and less likely to be diagnosed with a disability than otherwise identical white students,” he said. “Otherwise identical” is the key.

For example, a white student would typically be enrolled in a higher performing school. So if he is performing in the lowest third of the class, that would trigger special ed services.

A black or Latino student, Farkas said, would typically be enrolled in a lower-performing school where scoring in the lowest third on test scores may be more of the norm. Those students wouldn’t stand out for special education services as readily. The result: more white students than minority students receiving special ed services.

“I think this is ground-breaking research,” said Carl Cohn, former Long Beach Unified superintendent who chairs the Statewide Special Education Task Force. If minority students are underrepresented in special education as the study suggests, Cohn said it would compel school administrators to shift their thinking and more readily give those students special education services.

The study comes as the federal government is considering a limit on the number of minority students in special ed classes when they are overrepresented compared to the general student population.

“Our findings indicate that federal legislation and policies currently designed to reduce minority over-representation in special education may be misdirected,” said study co-author Paul Morgan of Pennsylvania State University in a news release.

“These well-intentioned policies instead may be exacerbating the nation’s education inequities by limiting minority children’s access to potentially beneficial special education and related services to which they may be legally entitled.”

For California and other states, such limits could have serious impact if they lead to fewer minority students receiving special education services that they need.


Minorities Are Disproportionately Underrepresented in Special Education

Longitudinal Evidence Across Five Disability Conditions

  1. Paul L. Morgan1
  2. George Farkas2
  3. Marianne M. Hillemeier1
  4. Richard Mattison3
  5. Steve Maczuga1
  6. Hui Li1
  7. Michael Cook1
  1. 1Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
  2. 2University of California, Irvine, CA
  3. 3Pennsylvania State University, Hershey, PA


We investigated whether minority children attending U.S. elementary and middle schools are disproportionately represented in special education. We did so using hazard modeling of multiyear longitudinal data and extensive covariate adjustment for potential child-, family-, and state-level confounds. Minority children were consistently less likely than otherwise similar White, English-speaking children to be identified as disabled and so to receive special education services. From kindergarten entry to the end of middle school, racial- and ethnic-minority children were less likely to be identified as having (a) learning disabilities, (b) speech or language impairments, (c) intellectual disabilities, (d) health impairments, or (e) emotional disturbances. Language-minority children were less likely to be identified as having (a) learning disabilities or (b) speech or language impairments.