An LASR Poll: Tell us what months kids should be in school

OPINION.POLL_LA Unified is gathering public input on six different academic calendars it is considering for the years ahead. However, there have been technical glitches with its phone survey, and it isn’t clear when or if it will be completed.

The stories here at LA School Report about the calendar options have attracted a high level of interest from readers, perhaps because one option is somewhat radical and would limit summer break to four weeks and increase winter break to seven weeks.

With it being such a hot topic, we thought we would ask our readers directly: What months do you think kids should be in school? Take our poll and tell us.

Below are the options being considered. Each includes a one-week Thanksgiving break and a one-week spring break in April. Check back with us next week and we will announce the results.





The ‘reanimation’ of John Deasy, will the next superintendent be a native?

school report buzzUTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl released a 12-minute video on YouTube today in which he asks members to vote for a dues increase.

According to Caputo-Pearl, the union has not updated its dues structure since its inception 45 years ago, which now “literally threatens the future of UTLA.”

In the video, Caputo-Pearl points out that UTLA’s monthly fees are lower than other large teacher unions in the country and lower than most other teacher unions in the state.

The video also includes a humorous reference to former LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy, who resigned a year ago. Deasy and Caputo-Pearl locked horns frequently, but now Deasy is working at the Broad Center, and its affiliated Broad Foundation is currently developing a plan to expand charter schools in the district to include half of all students.

reanimator_1024x1024Caputo-Pearl claims in the video that UTLA has confirmed that Deasy is, in fact, the architect of the plan, which was outlined in a 48-page draft report. Caputo-Pearl calls this the “reanimation” of Deasy. Reanimation? Is that a reference to the 80s cult classic film, “Re-Animator“?

The film is about a doctor who discovers how to bring corpses back from the dead. Using the film as a metaphor, it certainly shows the ironic position Caputo-Pearl finds himself in. He helped chase Deasy out of the district, which he hailed as a “victory” for UTLA. But now Deasy is arguably in a much more powerful position as he allegedly orchestrates a plan that would wipe out half of the jobs of UTLA members.

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School support union asking LAUSD for same benefit package for all


Max Arias of SEIU Local 99

The union representing school support personnel is pressing LAUSD to provide the same health benefits for all its members, fearing that the district wants to create a second-class level of employees.

Among the 35,000 members of Service Employees International Union Local 99 (SEIU) are about 7,000 who work as teacher aides, community representatives, after-school coaches and out-of-school program workers. These employees do not have access to LA Unified’s health plan because it is either too expensive, or they are not eligible.

“Some of our workers could be eligible for health care if they work one more hour, and others can’t afford the insurance offered with the 50 percent co-pay,” SEIU Local 99 executive director Max Arias told LA School Report. “We want all these people to get access to health care.”

The issue arose in June with an SEIU proposal to cover the workers; SEIU was expecting a counter-proposal. Instead, the district offered possible suggestions for the workers in the job categories in question, known as F and G units, that could include a new high-deductible plan, reduced benefits for new employees, no coverage for dependents and a cut in retirement benefits.

The teachers union, UTLA, has also expressed concerns about possible cuts in health benefits by the district. The district said no decisions have been made.

“We are worried that the options they are coming up with are even more extreme,” Arias said. “Sometimes, the only person who asks a child, ‘Did you do your homework today?’ is a bus driver or TA or one of our workers. We want the district to come up with a counter proposal and come back to the table again.”

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JUST IN: Ed Secretary Arne Duncan stepping down in December

New York Times logoWASHINGTON — Arne Duncan, the secretary of education and a member of President Obama’s original cabinet, will step down in December after a long tenure in which he repeatedly challenged the nation’s schools to break out of their hidebound ways.

A White House official confirmed Mr. Duncan’s decision to step down and said the president has decided to name John B. King Jr., the deputy secretary of education, to replace Mr. Duncan to lead the Department of Education.

Mr. Obama is expected to formally announce the personnel changes and take questions from reporters Friday afternoon.

Read the full story here

Q&A with Tommy Chang, on leading a school system like a startup

The-Boston-GlobeBy Michael Fitzgerald
What the new Boston superintendent has to say about testing, charter schools, and innovation.

Globe Magazine: You’ve been handing out Atul Gawande’s “Cowboys and Pit Crews” [a 2011 commencement address on why the medical profession needs to be more collaborative]. How is it being received? 

Tommy Chang: When I walk schools, I have heard people use the words “we’re going to act more as pit crews,” so it has been generally very positive. And I know there have been faculty meetings where that article has been used — this notion that nobody is an expert on everything, including doctors, and doctors have to work better as teams.

Have you seen any specific new ideas that have emerged out of this? 

We did a Shark Tank-type of approach where different teams of central office folks shared their prototypes of how to support schools differently and got feedback from parents, administrators, and teachers. Every prototype was criticized, and it was completely disheartening for these senior administrators. But they took all that feedback and they re-prototyped, and that’s how we came up with the “We Room,” a room where we had different divisions that came together to solve problems. Principals in the morning would come and say, “I have an issue with A; I don’t know how to solve it yet.” A team of people solved the problem and reported back. Over the course of two days, we had 170 different dilemmas that were ultimately solved.

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: Brown approves ‘yes means yes’ for high schools

Governor approves ‘yes means yes’ sexual education for high schools
Jerry Brown approved legislation making California the first state in the nation to bring lessons about sexual consent required at many colleges into high schools. Associated Press, by Lisa Leff

How the Department of Education’s top salaries stack up
New York Department of Education’s top earners are compared to LAUSD and other school districts. NY Chalkbeat, by Geoff Decker

NASA picks STEM partners to get $42M in education cash
The agency selected 27 science organizations, museums and universities to receive a chunk of the $42 million to expand their science program for children of all ages. FedScoop, by Corinne Lestch

Malibu issues command Santa Monica school board attention 
The school board will consider making another tweak to the school district’s agreement with the state Department of Toxic Substances Control. Santa Monica Daily Press, by Jeff Goodman

The story behind the test: Let’s gear up, not give up
Schools simply don’t have adequate resources to make this monumental shift to deeper learning that Common Core demands. Huffington Post, by Ama Nyamekye

LAUSD strives to implement anti-sexting campaign, sex education
Independent charter schools are required only to meet California Department of Education (CDE) standards, which do not require schools to teach sex education. Park LaBrea News, by Jessie Lingenfelter

LA Unified encouraging students — and parents — to walk to school

Get out of that car and take a hike with your kid. Well, only if it’s no more than a mile.

LA Unified plans to join the City of Los Angeles and Department of Transportation in linking up with the national Walk to School Day next Wednesday, Oct. 7, to encourage alternate ways of getting to school. It’s a way to connect with the community, get parents to do things with their children, promote exercise and simply get off your duff and do something different.

Last year, officials said more than 18,000 students from 67 schools joined in the Walk-tober (their word, not ours). Administrators, teachers and parents join in, and even if you weren’t aware of a safe way to walk to your school through your neighborhood, they’ll help you find one. (The video above highlights the 2013 event.)

So far this year, 117 schools in LAUSD are signed up. (Yes, you have to register.) They expect more schools will sign up before the deadline.

Nationally, more than 120,000 people signed up at their website. Just hope it doesn’t rain, although out here, that’s highly unlikely.

Click here to sign up for the LA School Report newsletter, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.




Broad’s support of Clinton raising concerns within teacher unions

Hillary Clinton, Eli Broad

Hillary Clinton and Eli Broad on Jan. 20, 2009 at the inauguration ball of President Barack Obama.

With his massive plan to enroll half of all LA Unified’s students into charter schools, billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad is threatening major disruptions at LA Unified, cementing his role as Public Enemy No. 1 to many district and local union leaders.

But Broad’s enduring support for public charter schools now appears to be contributing to problems for an old friend, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whom he has long supported financially.

Clinton appears poised to receive the endorsement of the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association (NEA), this weekend, but the potential endorsement is causing controversy among many rank-and-file members. Similar outrage emerged when Clinton received the endorsement of the second-largest national teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), in July.

The NEA’s rank-and-file outrage is dominating many national headlines, just as the AFT outrage did, stealing the focus from what should be a public relations victory for Clinton.

Part of the concern is due to her past support of charter schools and connections to Broad, as well as her connections to Bill Gates and the Walton family, who are also major financial backers of charter schools that directly threaten union teacher jobs. An alternate candidate in the field, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a declared socialist with a track record of full-throated support of unions, makes a better candidate, according to some NEA and AFT members.

“[Clinton’s] labor credentials are significantly worse than her main challenger in the Democratic primary, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders,” wrote Huffington Post blogger and former NEA member Ben Spielberg, who also pointed out that Clinton once served on the board of directors of Wal-Mart.

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Search for new LAUSD leader well underway, open meetings planned

Hank Gmitro at 5.59.30 PM

Hank Gmitro, president of HYA

The search team hired to find a new LA Unified superintendent is already receiving applications and is putting together a list of potential candidates, while arranging to canvass school board members and the community for what they want in the new district boss.

Hank Gmitro, president of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates based in Rosemont, Ill., told LA School Report today that he expects to have candidates for board members to interview by late November or early December. That comports with the schedule of the current Superintendent Ramon Cortines who has expressed a desire to leave by the end of the year.

“We have begin to think about potential candidates, but the first piece is to develop the criteria through the board interviews and the community forums,” Gmitro said.

The firm is continuing its interviews with the seven school board members through next week. Public meetings have been scheduled for the weeks of Oct. 19 and Oct. 26 at all six of the Local Districts, to be followed by additional public meetings at LA Unified’s downtown headquarters. The forums are designed to allow for input by the general public and will include community members and groups that the board members have suggested.

Some of the interviews will be done privately, to include leaders like Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Gmitro said.

“Some people have begun to express some interest,” Gmitro said. “We have begun to have had some initial conversations, a couple of people have contacted us, some people have applied since we posted the vacancy last week.”

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Judge in Compton Unified case rules trauma can disable students


By Joy Resmovits

Students who have experienced trauma could be eligible for some of the same protections as students with disabilities based on the effects of that trauma, according to a ruling by a federal judge Tuesday.

But the degrees, types and effects of trauma that would trigger such protections have yet to be determined.

The procedural rulings from Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald came in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of five students and three teachers in the Compton Unified School District that aimed to establish “complex trauma” as a type of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: Case limiting use of teacher union dues is tossed

Suit to limit use of teacher union dues for political purposes is tossed
The teachers involved were fighting for the right to belong to their union without their dues being used against their will for political causes. LA Times, by Howard Blume

Comprehensive sex ed bill among those facing Brown
The bill would make instruction in sex ed mandatory, expand the topics covered and update curriculum on HIV prevention. Cabinet Report, by Kimberly Beltran

District officials want to avoid overreacting to new test results
District leaders said the Smarter Balanced scores set an important baseline to assess future academic growth. EdSource, by Theresa Harrington

California vaccine referendum falls short in internal count
A referendum measure to overturn California’s new vaccine mandate will not go before voters. Sacramento Bee, by Jeremy B. White

Judge orders lawyer to jail for contempt of court in L.A. Unified case
Attorney Luis Carrillo, who has frequently clashed with LA Unified, was found to have willfully disobeyed a court order. LA Times, by Stephen Ceasar

How LA school districts are turning disused land into low-cost housing
LA schools are partnering with developers to build low-cost housing for substitute teachers, bus drivers and maintenance workers. The Guardian, by Nate Berg

Charters with Broad support show only a mixed return on investment

Broad Foundation statsIn building a case for creating 260 charter schools within in LA Unified eight years at a cost of $490 million, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has cited “significant” gains by three charter organizations that have received $75 million from the foundation.

But when all factors are considered, there is little conclusive evidence in the report outlining the expansion plans that shows big investments in charters always — or evenly routinely — achieve consistent academic improvements, raising an important question: Just what can Broad and other foundations promise for an investment of nearly half a billion dollars in an expansion effort that would dramatically change the nation’s second-largest school district?

The Broad plan points to three of LA Unified’s largest charter operators that have received Broad largess — Green Dot Public Schools, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools and KIPP Public Charter Schools — and says, “These organizations have turned our investments into significant academic gains for students.”

In some cases, the gains are clear, but in others they are not. One category shows a regression in test scores, and others that demonstrate only marginal gains.

The analysis looks at five years of “proficiency rates” for the organizations’ schools, spanning 2008-09 through 2012-13. Although the document does not explicitly say, it appears the data refers to scores on the old Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) exams, which were discontinued after 2012-13.

It’s also unclear what exactly “proficiency rates” refers to. For purposes of comparison with the new Smarted Balanced tests, the district and the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) combined the top two categories, “met” and” exceeded” standards. In the previous tests, the state broke down results into four levels of achievement, with one called “Proficiency” and a superior level called “Advanced.” But it’s not clear if the Broad report used one category or combined the higher two.

Swati Pandey, the Broad Foundation communications manager, did not respond to an email, seeking an explanation.

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CA teachers view critical thinking most important for college readiness

700 new teachers in LAUSD 2014-2015 school yearIn a new survey of 1,000 California teachers, a plurality of instructors thinks that it’s most important to develop critical thinking skills as preparation for college and career. The least number ranked scoring well on the state’s new Smarter Balanced tests.

EdSource and the California Teachers Association conducted the online survey and released the results today.

Fewer than a third of the teachers said their districts have clear definitions of college and career readiness, according to the survey results. The survey is the first of its kind to ask for teacher attitudes and preparedness about college and career readiness for their students, which is part of the goals of the new Common Core State Standards.

“The survey demonstrates that from the teachers’ perspective, test scores are far less important than students developing the critical thinking skills they will need to succeed in college and the workplace,” said EdSource executive director Louis Freedberg. “But it is worrisome that less than a third of teachers say their districts have clear definitions of college and career readiness, and half say that college and career readiness is not fully integrated into the preparation they are receiving to implement the Common Core.”

CTA president Eric Heins added, “The survey shows that teachers support high standards for all students and clearly see a need for additional support around career readiness and creating more opportunities for students who don’t go onto college so they have the skills for 21st Century jobs.”

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LA Unified makes a second call, to apologize for phone survey glitch

CortinesAngryIn a district striving to infuse computer technology in public education, LA Unified is struggling to complete a phone survey asking five questions.

About 550,000 phone calls went out from Sept. 25 through yesterday to ask families about their priorities for the school calendar for the next three years. By late yesterday, another phone call had apologized for a glitch that kept some people from answering the survey.

Superintendent Ramon Cortines kicked off the effort in a call telling families a survey was on the way. Later, a post-survey call came, conveying his apology: “While more than 58,000 people have responded to the survey, some parents and guardians have indicated that the call was cut off before they could answer any questions on the survey.”

“Again, I deeply apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused,” the message said. “We look forward to fixing these issues, and appreciate your time and thoughtful feedback. If you have responded to the survey, please disregard this message.”

The phone survey won’t be completely redone, but calls will go out over the next few days to those who did not answer the survey, or were unable to complete it. The questions focused on various options about the school year, including the length of winter break, whether school should start before or after Labor Day and if secondary and elementary schedules should be the same.

Two parents who were cut off during the phone survey over the weekend said they tried to answer over their cell phones. The district said the system is very sensitive, so if it detected background noise, the survey was cut off.

The follow-up call did not explain when another call would come, nor how parents could request a new call or register their complaints.

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Duncan wants to reduce prison population and increase teacher pay

Washington Post logo

By Emma Brown

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Wednesday plans to appeal to the nation’s states and cities to dramatically reduce incarceration for nonviolent crimes, and he is proposing to use the estimated $15 billion in savings to substantially raise teacher pay in high-poverty schools.

Duncan argues that such a move would help persuade strong teachers to work with the students who most need them and would signal that the country cares about educating disadvantaged children.

“I’ve long said great teachers deserve to be paid far more. With a move like this, we’d not just make a bet on education over incarceration, we’d signal the beginning of a long-range effort to pay our nation’s teachers what they are worth,” Duncan plans to say Wednesday afternoon at the National Press Club in Washington, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “That sort of investment wouldn’t just make teachers and struggling communities feel more valued. It would have ripple effects on our economy and our civic life.”

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: Villaraigosa likes charter expansion plan

Former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorses charter expansion effort
“I would support any effort to expand high-quality education,” Villaraigosa said. “So I could certainly support that.” Los Angeles Times, by Howard Blume

California denied renewal of federal funding for charter schools
This will be the first time California, the state with the largest number of charters, has been shut out of federal funding in two decades. EdSource, by John Fensterwald

Judge may allow lawsuit over alleged 1999 Highland Park molestation
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin said he wanted to take the case under submission before making a final ruling. City News Service

This high school makes every student take AP classes
Los Angeles Unified has joined a number of districts nationwide that are pushing to open access to AP classes. Los Angeles Times, by Sonali Kohli

Lawsuit says California budget violates school funding guarantee
California school boards want a judge to force changes to the June state budget that would provide more money for schools. Sacramento Bee, by Jim Miller

Clinton endorsement divides teachers union
State officials and rank-and-file members plan to protest upcoming vote to endorse Hillary Clinton. Politico, by Annie Karni

24 LAUSD students sharing aviation mechanics scholarships

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 12.11.08 PMTwo dozen LAUSD adult students will share $10,200 in scholarship money for  aircraft mechanics classes operated by the district’s Disvision of Adult and Career Education.

Clay Lacy Aviation is offering the scholarship money based on the students’ higher education goals, academic achievements and community involvement at the Aviation Center (AV-Center) at Van Nuys Airport, which is part of the North Valley Occupational Center.

LAUSD has daytime aviation mechanics classes, and they just reinstated the once-thriving night classes at the AV-Center that had been eliminated three years ago due to budget cuts. The night classes opened this fall and are still available for enrollment.

“We are excited to help develop the next generation of aircraft mechanics and attract more high-skilled, high-paying jobs to Los Angeles,” said Clay Lacy Aviation president and CEO Brian Kirkdoffer. “Aircraft maintenance is one of the most important jobs in the aviation industry. This program is ranked among the top in the nation and enables graduates to land great jobs working on private, commercial and military aircraft.”

The scholarship money goes to tuition, books, tools and certification exams. Clay Lacy Aviation, which has a six-acre development at the airport, has a long history of hiring graduates from the AV-Center. Last year, the aviation company donated a Learjet and Gulfstream to the school for instructional purposes.

“Clay Lacy Aviation’s annual scholarship fund is another example of its generous contributions to aviation education spanning over four decades,” Elizabeth Penuela, assistant principal of Operations at North Valley Service Area of Adult Schools, said in a statement. “Clay Lacy Aviation has greatly benefited our program and students throughout the years.  This is an exciting time in adult education.”

The AV-Center open in 1973 to adults and high school seniors over age 16. It offers a combination of classroom lecture and shop-oriented projects. Students can work on propeller aircrafts, jets and helicopters. The AV-Center is the only public aviation mechanics school of its kind in California, and one of the few that is open to high school students and located at an airport.


Kipp Raíces Academy named National Blue Ribbon School

KIPP U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recognized 335 schools today as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2015, and included on the list is one from LA Unified, the independent charter Kipp Raíces Academy School.

Kipp is one of 33 schools from California to receive the honor, which recognizes both public and private elementary, middle, and high schools in which “students either achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap.” It is also the only charter among the California schools honored.

The KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) network operates 13 LA Unified independent charter schools in South and East Los Angeles. The Raíces Academy is an elementary school that was founded in 2008, with a student population that is 96 percent Latino and 90 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch, according to its website.

“This honor recognizes your students’ accomplishments and the hard work and dedication that went into their success,” Duncan said in a video message to the awardees. “Your journey has taught you collaboration, intentional instruction, and strong relationships in school and with your community. You represent excellence—in vision, in implementation, and in results—and we want to learn as much as we can from you.”

One the recent Smarter Balanced standardized test, KIPP Raíces had 74 percent of its students meet or exceed the standards in English language arts and 79 percent meet or exceed the math standards, far outpacing the state and district averages.

LA Unified principal shares secrets of technology school’s success


Leonel Angulo, principal of Griffin Elementary


Most of his teachers never checked their school emails. Many of them were “seasoned teachers” who never before touched an iPad. The school’s computer lab was rarely used.

Yet, in the past year, Griffin Avenue Elementary School principal Leonel Angulo managed to inspire teachers and students to use computers in their classrooms, and the school became an Instructional Technology Initiative School, eight of which are serving as technology models for other district schools.

At a recent ITI Task Force meeting, Angulo shared some of his secrets with other principals and teachers on how to overcome fears of technology in teaching. Most of the advice included involving students in the education process, and some of it involved encouraging his teaching staff into using online media.

“A lot of times we don’t always take the time to share a success story, so I wanted this to be shared,” said ITI Task Force chairperson Frances Gipson.

Griffin Elementary is a relatively small school of about 550 students Transitional Kindergarten through fifth grade in Lincoln Heights. Angulo is a second-year principal who grew up in a Title I-eligible Latino family with a single parent, and he was designated “gifted.” He was happy to take over as principal in an 80 percent Latino school with 90 percent Title I-eligible families. A lot was going on at the school, with a new principal coming in, as well as an iPad for every student.

“They were all overwhelmed, and I made it clear not to be afraid of these devices,” Angulo said, holding up his iPad. “I made sure I was seen with it all the time.”

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Urban struggles, suburban success is the norm on graduation rates


By Sarah Butrymowicz

You can see it all over our map of graduation rates by district: a pocket of low graduation rates surrounded by higher ones, indicating a city and its surrounding suburbs.

It should come as no surprise that urban districts tend to have lower graduation rates than suburban ones. They often have more disadvantaged students and fewer resources.

An analysis of 2009 graduation rates found that 60.9 percent of high-schoolers in cities graduated across the country, compared with 75.3 percent in suburbs. (Towns and rural districts were in the middle, graduating 71.7 percent and 75 percent of students, respectively.)

This week, I thought we’d take a closer look at some of the nation’s largest metro areas to see how similar –– and different –– they are.

Click here for the full story.