Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Mrach 29, 2016  ::  Eighth grade math is changing: instead of emphasizing Algebra I where only some students thrive, many schools are placing all students in the same general class that covers several concepts.

Common Core standards for the eighth grade call for all students to learn the same general math concepts, a departure from the push toward Algebra I that middle schools made in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Common Core is a set of English and math learning standards that most states have adopted, meant to be more rigorous and uniform than states' previous learning goals.

 A new study from the Brown Center at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit research group, found that the percentage of students in advanced math classes has decreased, while the share of students in general math has gone up.

That doesn't mean that the "general" classes are less difficult than Algebra I. Instead, they're supposed to include concepts of algebra, geometry and statistics. But in his study, author Tom Loveless considered advanced classes to include Algebra I, and general math enrollment to include Common Core math classes.

That change is even more stark in California since 2013, when the state got rid of incentives for middle schools to offer Algebra I, instead shifting its focus to Common Core math implementation.

Having more students taking a single, general eighth grade math course might help solve a different problem: the segregation that happens inside schools and between classrooms, when black and Latino students are kept out of high-level classes.

Students are still separated into different classes — there are others in pre-algebra classes, not shown in the results.  And even within Common Core, school districts can implement an "accelerated pathway" for high-achieving middle school students, as L.A. Unified has done.

But the shifts tell Loveless that as Common Core gains ground, fewer students are being pushed into algebra.

Last year, California's legislature passed a law requiring school districts to put their high school math placement policy in writing, a recognition that math, particularly algebra, is one of the classes that's most difficult for students to pass, accounting for many dropouts.

But recording these policies in high school might be too late, said UCLA education professor Tyrone Howard.

In the 2011-2012 school year, black students were equally represented in Algebra I in middle school, while Latino students were underrepresented. White and Asian students were overrepresented.

By the time students are learning Algebra II, black students become underrepresented along with Latinos, while white and Asian students still maintain their overrepresentation in these classes.

This is important for California students because they need to complete Algebra II or its equivalent to qualify for University of California or Cal State University admission, the cheapest and highest-quality four-year college options for state residents.

In 2014, a few years after some of those students took -- or missed -- Algebra II, white and Asian students were more likely than their Latino, African American and Native American counterparts to meet UC and CSU entrance requirements.

Beyond math, school districts such as Long Beach Unified and Los Angeles Unified have taken a stand against the practice of tracking by opening AP classes to all students.

In L.A. Unified, the share of Latino students in AP classes has increased in the last eight years, though Latino and black students are still underrepresented.


By Christine Armario | Associated Press /from the Washington Post | http://wapo.st/1RJ6EC6

March 29 at 11:34 AM  ::  LOS ANGELES — Miles from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the red carpet, Steve Shin belts out tunes on a piano scarred with nicks and love notes written in scratches, teaching children how to sing.

In scores of other middle schools, his students might have already learned how to read the notes on a scale. But years of cuts have stripped arts classes from much of the Los Angeles district, leaving many children in the world’s entertainment capital with no instruction in music, visual arts, dance or theater.

When Shin arrived for the first day of class, he quickly realized many of his students were starting from zero. “A lot of them didn’t even know they were going to be in a music class,” he said.

Now the nation’s second-largest school district is trying to enlist Hollywood studios to “adopt” schools and provide students with equipment, mentorships and training as a way to reverse the layoffs that have decimated the curriculum.

The financial picture is slowly changing. The arts budget has grown to $26.5 million, about 40 percent higher than five years ago, but still a fraction of the $76.8 million sum that was once available for the arts. For the next school year, it will increase to $32.3 million.

In 2014, the district hired former TV writer and producer Rory Pullens as its executive director for arts education. He has since hired an arts teacher at every school.

Pullens is convinced his work in a district that has 90 percent minority students will one day help diversify Hollywood — a widely discussed goal after the criticism of this year’s all-white list of Academy Award acting nominees. He has already met with Paramount, Universal and dozens of other industry leaders to solicit help.

“It is well within all of our powers, if we work together, to remedy that by really addressing the deep-rooted symptoms and not just trying to put in a couple remedies on the surface,” Pullens said.

The renewed push for arts education in LA comes as new federal education policies stir hope that schools will begin shifting more time and money toward classes such as dance and drama. In recent years, districts have focused on areas emphasized by the No Child Left Behind law, the 2001 law that required schools to meet annual targets for math and reading proficiency or face intervention.

“We do see the pendulum swinging away from the stark focus on discipline and standardized testing toward a more well-rounded definition of what education should be,” said Scott Jones, senior associate for research and policy at the Arts Education Partnership.

Forty-four states require high schools to offer arts classes. Forty-five states make the same requirement for elementary and middle schools. But at many schools, policy doesn’t necessarily match up with course offerings.

The new federal law instructs schools to offer a balanced education that includes music and other arts. In Los Angeles, school leaders are hoping a revised funding formula and industry engagement will rectify longstanding inequities in arts education.

When Pullens arrived, one of his first initiatives was to survey every school to find out what arts programs they had.

In a presentation last spring at a Hollywood middle school with an aging auditorium, Pullens outlined the bleak findings: About 45 schools had no arts teachers and most had no alignment between elementary, middle and high school course offerings. He called on Hollywood executives to pitch in and hired Alyson Reed, a dancer and actress whose credits include playing Ms. Darbus in “High School Musical,” to begin reaching out to industry contacts and coordinating donations.

Film and music studios have chipped in to help Los Angeles schools before, but their contributions tended to focus on the schools directly in their backyard: Warner Bros. has provided funding to improve auditoriums at Burbank schools. Sony Entertainment Pictures has run career workshops at Culver City schools.

But the schools with the biggest needs are in less affluent neighborhoods.

Some studio leaders said getting involved with Los Angeles schools was difficult and bureaucratic. Others were simply unaware of the depth of the district’s problems, Reed said.

Kelly Koskella, president of Hollywood Rentals, which will be donating studio equipment ranging from lights to fog machines, said he was stunned to learn many Los Angeles Unified schools lack even the kind of gear used in public schools in the mid-1970s.

“It seemed very strange hearing that our schools here didn’t have the type of equipment that we were using 20 and 30 years ago,” Koskella said.

To date, the Los Angeles district has confirmed partnerships with Nickelodeon, Sunset Bronson Studios and Sunset Gower Studios. Reed said she and Pullens have also had encouraging meetings with many others, including Disney, Sony and CBS and hopes more will be announced soon.

Most of the donations have not reached students yet. Reed said the district is still assessing how the equipment will be dispersed.

In Shin’s class, students get by with the bare minimum: an overhead projector displaying lyrics across the screen, two microphones and two standing lights placed in front of the class to make a stage-like performance space.

In a deep voice, Shin calls on students as if they’re performing in a real concert in front of their peers. On a recent afternoon, they sang everything from Mexican ballads known as corridos to angst-ridden songs by Adele.

Terry Quintero, 12, had never been in a music class before and now dreams of becoming a professional singer like one of her idols, Adele. When she’s singing, Terry said, she leaves everything that’s troubling her behind.

“What matters right now,” she said, “is this class.”



By John Fensterwald | Ed Source Today | http://bit.ly/22Ml93G

March 28, 2016  ::  In the first step toward a potential lawsuit, a public interest law firm on Monday filed a complaint with the state alleging that the West Contra Costa Unified School District violated the disclosure requirements of the state’s Local Control Funding Formula when it approved a pay raise for district staff. It charged that the district failed to explain to the public how the pay raise might affect spending commitments, including money targeted for English learners, low-income students and foster youths.

The 11-page complaint by San Francisco-based Public Advocates doesn’t claim that the district categorically cannot grant the pay increase – totaling $25.8 million over three years – it approved last month. But the law firm says that West Contra Costa Unified never told the public last summer that it might use $4.3 million that it is required to spend this year to improve programs and services for high-needs students to help pay for the across-the-board raises for staff.

The complaint says the district put that money in a reserve without adequately informing the public and failed to include it in the Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, a three-year planning document, updated annually, that the school board passed last June.

Last month, on the same night that the board ratified the staff contract, which includes a 12 percent increase over 12 months, the board voted not to use the $4.3 million to fund the raises after all. It shifted the money back into the general fund, directing the district to spend the money on high-needs students.

But Public Advocates’ complaint says the school board should amend the LCAP after a public hearing to spell out how all this new money will benefit high-needs students. Otherwise, the public cannot track the money and make sure the district spends it as it says it will and not as a back-door plan to fund pay increases now or in the future.

John Affeldt, managing attorney of Public Advocates, said that he suspects that West Contra Costa Unified is not alone in skirting the law. “We are seeing a lot of districts giving pay increases,” he said Monday. “We want to see teachers fairly paid, but this must be done in a way that honors the community conversation. An involved community is sacrosanct under the Local Control Funding Formula.”

In a one-paragraph statement, the school district denied that it did anything improper.

“We believe the District has followed the procedures outlined by the Local Control Funding Formula,” spokesman Marcus Walton wrote in an email. “Our district’s Local Control Accountability Plan Parent Committee appropriately made recommendations, many of which the Board incorporated into the approved LCAP plan. The original plan for the 2015-16 school year included a $4.3 million reserve, which was approved after the proper notifications and hearings. When the reserve was no longer needed, those funds were allocated in accordance with the priorities of the LCAP, following a public hearing on the matter.”

Public Advocates filed a complaint with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson – a step that precedes going to court. Claiming “irreparable and immediate” harm from further delays, the complaint gives state officials 10 days to order the district to suspend spending on the raises. The district must consult with the community on revising the LCAP to include $3.3 million for the raises this year and to measure the impact of the full $25.8 million raise over three years, the complaint says. The state should also require the board to explain how it is using the $4.3 million for high-needs students, the complaint says.
If the department doesn’t step in, Public Advocates said it will seek a temporary injunction in Superior Court. The law firm filed the complaint on behalf of three parents: Isabel Cruz and two unnamed parents, all of whom serve on an LCAP district advisory committee, the complaint said.

The state distributes about 90 percent of K-12 funding through the Local Control Funding Formula. Most of the money is provided through a uniform base grant for all districts. In addition, districts receive “supplemental” dollars for each enrolled English learner, foster and homeless child and low-income student, plus additional “concentration” dollars for districts with large percentages of those students. With high-needs students making up 74 percent of West Contra Costa Unified’s enrollment, the district received $200 million in base funding plus $36.3 million in supplemental and concentration dollars in 2015-16.

West Contra County Unified’s 67-page LCAP for 2015-16 lays out in great detail how it plans to spend money for the high-needs students on five primary goals, including improving school climate, parent involvement, the use of technology in schools and raising achievement. But the district noted in an early LCAP draft that $4.3 million – 12 percent of its supplemental and concentration funding – would be put in a reserve account, then deleted any reference in the final LCAP about moving it after Public Advocates publicly questioned the expenditure, the law firm said. Public Advocates said that the district has ignored repeated inquiries about its failure to specify what it intended to do with the money. The complaint says the law firm also raised the issue in a letter to the Contra Costa County Office of Education, which approved the district’s LCAP without commenting about the $4.3 million.


The state Department of Education has given ambiguous advice about using supplemental and concentration dollars for general raises, as West Contra Costa Unified had considered doing.

In May 2015, Jeffrey Breshears, an administrator at the department, advised districts would face a heavy burden in using the money for this purpose. Quoting the LCFF law, he wrote that a district would have to show that a general raise would be an “effective” strategy for raising achievement for high-needs students, and that teachers and other staff are underpaid relative to the surrounding districts, putting the district at a competitive disadvantage. The district would have to cite a goal for student improvement that the pay increase would help achieve and rescind the pay increase if it weren’t met, Breshears wrote.

Two weeks later, after employee unions complained, Torlakson issued a clarification that backed off of some of Breshears’ requirements, while confirming its basic point: Districts could use money for a general pay raise if they documented in the LCAP that students’ academic progress was affected by the difficulty in recruiting, hiring and retaining teachers.

The district said that the new pay package will enable it to better compete for teachers. “It’s no secret that our teachers have been underpaid relative to their peers in neighboring school districts,” Walton told the Contra Costa Times. “Correcting that has been a priority identified by the Local Control Accountability Plan, the administration and the Board of Education in order to help with the recruitment and retention of our teachers.”

The Local Control Funding Formula says a school district must seek the advice and recommendations of parents, students, teachers and other community members before adopting an LCAP. The law – Education Code 52060 (c) – further says that the district “may adopt revisions to” an LCAP during the year, but only if it follows the same process of involving the public and adopts the revisions at a public meeting.

Affeldt said that approving a $25.8 million pay increase in effect changed the LCAP, creating new expenditures that will force the elimination of other priorities.

But it did so without a public process. Instead, the complaint said, West Contra Costa Unified acted “without the transparency, engagement, public hearing, and county approval process required to ensure equity and accountability for LCFF funds.”

Peter Birdsall, executive director of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, which represents county offices of education, said county offices and districts have assumed that pay contracts passed after LCAP approval don’t require mid-year revisions. Changes can be accounted for in the yearly LCAP update in June, he said.

But Affeldt said that would be too late for parents and the public to have any impact on major changes in the LCAP and spending commitments made without their knowledge.


 LAUSD delivered a major pay raise after its 15-16 LCAP was submitted+approved.  Not a lot of resistance was presented as those contract negotiations took place over John Deasy's dead body ...and labor+management+parents+staff  were all too busy singing "Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead" to question the LCAP legal niceties.  

Eyebrows were raised, even at LACOE, but that was extent of it.

I seriously doubt if the line “Our district’s Local Control Accountability Plan Parent Committee appropriately made recommendations, many of which the Board incorporated into the approved LCAP plan" could be delivered with a straight face under any circumstances in LAUSD, prior-to-or-after the LCAP was approved.



 From Politico Morning Ed, via email

March 29, 2016  :: Sean Combs, the hip hop mogul (currently known as his stage name Puff Daddy or Puffy, and formerly known as his stage name Diddy and P. Diddy) , plans to open a charter school in New York City's Harlem this fall. The school, Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School, will follow the model of Hartford, Conn.-based charter school Capital Preparatory Magnet, and it will be overseen by that school's founder, Steve Perry. 

●●  (Dr. Steve Perry Founder & Head of Schools for Capital Prep, hosted TVONE's Save My Son - MSNBC & CNN Education Contributor – which makes him a Cable T.V. Education Pundit – not to be confused with Steve Perry, lead singer of “Journey”)  

Combs, who was born in Harlem, said the school is a "dream come true." More: http://lat.ms/1PCOv7E

·         Teachers of the school's sixth and seventh graders will be called illuminators, new Principal Danita Jones said. "Illuminators literally ... coparent," Jones said. It entails calling parents every two weeks and setting aside time each day to check in on students' social-emotional needs.

  • ·         Diddy joins a long list of celebrities setting their sights on education: Fellow entertainer Pitbull opened a charter school in Miami in 2013 and has broken ground on another in Las Vegas, to open this fall. Tennis sensation Andre Agassi opened a charter school, also in his hometown of Las Vegas in 2009, and former NBA player Jalen Rose helped open a charter high school in his hometown of Detroit in 2011. NBA legend Magic Johnson and crooner Tony Bennett have also founded schools.

s●●  smf: Politico seems to have forgotten former NBA star Kevin Johnson, current mayor of Sacramento (and  Mr. Michelle Rhee)  - who founded St. Hope Public Schools. If you're wondering What could go wrong? - Google it!

  • ·         A big name doesn't guarantee success however. NFL star Deion Sanders' Texas charter school, Prime Prep Academy, closed last year, weighed down by debt and lawsuits. Will and Jada Pinkett Smith opened a private elementary school that closed in 2013 amid concerns the school may have been affiliated with Scientology.