Commentary: Why white parents might want to listen to black parents before opting out

1462229232_1428This is graduation season, when an anticipated 3.3 million high school seniors will cross a stage and receive an elegant sheet of paper that announces their completion of an important phase of formal education. For the last few years, public school districts have proudly announced their increasing graduation rates: In the 2013-14 academic year, the nation achieved its highest-ever rate of 82 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

But for a significant number of those young adults, the diploma may not mean very much. They still won’t have the competence in mathematics and reading to master highly-skilled jobs at high-tech factories or to negotiate college classes without remediation. They are also not ready to win the competition of a globalized labor force.

The proof of these educational deficiencies lies in the scores from college entrance exams, the surging demand for college remedial courses and tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The most recent NAEP scores, released last week, revealed that the average performance of high school seniors in math had fallen between 2013 and 2015. This suggests the gains in graduation rates have been purchased with lower academic standards.

That’s why the opt-out movement — largely fueled by teachers’ unions — is so counterproductive. There’s no doubt that some school systems have administered far too many tests, turning the classroom experience into a rote learn-by-numbers exercise. But unless students take a few strategic standardized exams, it’s nearly impossible to judge their actual academic achievement.

That’s especially true of children from less-affluent homes and children of color. They are often stuck in schools with insufficient resources, poorly trained teachers and overwhelmed principals. The As and Bs that many of those students will receive on report card after report card are hardly a reliable barometer.

Given that, the nation’s leading civil rights organizations are wary of the opt-out movement and its dismissal of tests and transparency. The data measure a key indicator: the achievement gap between children of color — historically consigned to inferior schools — and their wealthier white peers.

Continue reading

Morning Read: End of an era for New Orleans’ all-charter district?

All eyes on today’s Louisiana vote: A new era for New Orleans’ schools?
Barring a last-minute twist, Louisiana lawmakers Thursday are expected to vote to dissolve a state-controlled school district that for the last 10 years has overseen the nation’s most radical foray into education reform. As for what would come next – a unique hybrid system that relies on both a publicly elected board to handle system functions like enrollment and independent schools whose autonomy is enshrined in state law – and what that means for growing New Orleans’ successful charter sector, educators across the country are now watching closely to see what happens to the grand NOLA experiment. The 74

UTLA-led rally at Castelar Elementary puts charters in crosshairs


Parents, students and teachers rallied Wednesday at Castelar Street Elementary School in Chinatown.

About 200 parents, students and teachers rallied Wednesday morning outside Castelar Street Elementary School in Chinatown as part of a “walk-in” calling for lower class sizes at LA Unified, increased staffing and more accountability for Prop. 39, the law that gives charter schools the right to use empty class space at district schools through a process called “co-location.”

Several TV news crews were on hand for the demonstration, which saw parents, teachers and students march around the block hoisting banners and chanting before walking into the school. There were no speeches or news conference.

The choice of Castelar as a focus for media attention was no coincidence, as parent leaders at the school recently stopped a planned co-location of a charter school there.

“With the threat, the defunding of public education and then also the co-location effort, with Metro Charter School wanting to take over so-called extra space, this community was in an uproar, the parents were in an uproar. And it doesn’t make any sense to them,” Arlene Inouye, who is treasurer for UTLA, told LA School Report. “So they rallied together and have been front and center in protesting the ability of the charter schools to do that.”

The walk-in was part of a national effort organized by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, with protests and rallies going on in cities around the country. UTLA took part in a similar national walk-in day on Feb. 17. The Alliance said rallies were planned in 80 cities Wednesday as part of the Reclaim Our Schools protest.

According to Inouye, there were rallies planned at 150 LA Unified schools Wednesday, although it is unclear how many schools were the site of rallies. Because a focus was on co-locations, more than 500 charter parents signed a letter addressed to UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl asking him to stop the event out of concern for protests happening in front of students. “We will be shouted at, maligned and disrespected, our children will ask us what they’ve done wrong, and their teachers will, as always, be expected to rise above it all,” the letter said.

Caputo-Pearl was not present at the Castelar event. A UTLA notice did not specifically say that rallies were planned at co-locations, and according to the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), only one unidentified charter school was the site of a demonstration.

Continue reading

Letter from principal about Spanish spoken in fewer homes

MARA BOMMARITO Ochoa Learning Center principal

Mara Bommarito, principal of Ellen Ochoa Learning Center, at the LAUSD board room.

Principal Mara Bommarito of Ellen Ochoa Learning Center said at Tuesday’s LA Unified school board committee meeting that she responded to a Los Angeles Times article about Spanish spoken in fewer homes in a letter to the editor, but when she mentioned it hadn’t been published, a school board member responded.

“It wasn’t published, there has been a lot of news happening lately,” the principal told the committee, which consisted of three school board members.

Board member George McKenna said, “Well, I am very interested in what you have to say, please send it along to me.”

Below is the letter from the principal about her school and her experience with Spanish-speaking families:




I read with keen interest your article of Friday, April 22, 2016 “Spanish spoken in fewer homes.” Your article confirms what I know based on my experience of 25 years as a school administrator in the cities of Maywood, Bell and Cudahy.

English has always been the language of choice regardless of the students’ home language. During this time, I have seen generations of students from Spanish-speaking homes lose their first language and when in high school enroll in Spanish 1.

For the last 11 years, I have been the principal of Ellen Ochoa Learning Center in Cudahy, a K-8 school of 1,500 students. We have a thriving dual language program! Dual language is a program for any child: those who speak English only, those who are learning English, and those who come to school already bilingual.

Our program begins in kindergarten and upon completion in eighth grade students should be able to enter advanced Spanish in high school. I always tell our students that they also need to begin studying another language as well.

Every child deserves the opportunity to be bilingual, trilingual or multilingual, no matter what race, ethnicity or socio-economic level. The United States does not have to be a graveyard of languages.

All are welcome to visit Ellen Ochoa Learning Center!



‘There is no more honorable a profession.’ Outstanding teachers appreciated at LAUSD meeting

Ana Sanchez teacher Ochoa Learning

Ana Sanchez, Title III coordinator at the Ellen Ochoa Learning Center.

Teachers were praised at a committee meeting Tuesday by LA Unified’s Chief Academic Officer Frances Gipson, honoring this week of celebrating educators, national Teacher Appreciation Week.

“We want to celebrate our teachers, as this is Teacher Appreciation Day, and I want to mark that some of us in this room do not have credentials, but we are all teachers, everybody is. They are all watching us, they are learning from us and we are leading the way. And there may be those of you who may come forward to help us with the future teacher shortage,” Gipson said.

While the meeting was being held downtown, across the country an LA Unified teacher, Daniel Jocz, stood at the White House with President Obama where he was recognized as one of the Teachers of the Year.

Other notable LAUSD educators:
• Anthony Yom: How this math teacher helps kids get perfect scores
• Jan Price: At 71, teacher who feared computers is now an LAUSD tech champion
• Bobby Carr: Chinese educators check out what Alliance charter school does best
• Nancy Se and Jackie Paredes: LA Unified high school puts a focus on computer science and gaming

Gipson introduced several teachers who helped show the Curriculum, Instruction and Educational Equity Committee how they are succeeding in their instruction.

Ana Sanchez was introduced as the Title III coach who trains teachers and helps students with English Learner programs at the Ellen Ochoa Learning Center located in Cudahy.

“She is an immigrant herself and attended seven different schools in LAUSD,” Principal Mara Bommarito said. The school has 1,500 students, about 98 percent Latino, and teachers like Sanchez keep demand for the school high, Bommarito said.

“We do preventive measures and intervening measures,” said Sanchez, who meets with every teacher in the school, often on their conference periods, and goes over the school plan for EL students with the teachers and parents along with the students. Together they focus on development of literacy skills so the students can go on to high school and college.

Continue reading

Morning Read: State leaders debate ‘breakfast-after-the-bell’ plan

‘Breakfast-after-the-bell’ plan set aside for review
A key legislative panel sidelined Tuesday a proposal that would require a large number of school districts to offer some type of “breakfast after the bell” program so the state can help feed scores of students missing their first meal of the day. By Kimberly Beltran, Cabinet Report

Long-term English learners decrease by 6 percent in three years at LAUSD

LongTermEnglishLearnerChartSince the introduction of Long-Term English Learner courses in LA Unified in 2013, the number of those students designated as needing help with English has decreased by 6.4 percent, according to officials.

The district has 36,322 students, or about 5.5 percent of the school population, designated as English learners, said Hilda Maldonado, executive director of LA Unified’s Multilingual and Multicultural Education Department. About 3,300 of those are also designated as special education students.

In a comprehensive report given to the Curriculum, Instruction and Educational Equity Committee on Tuesday, Maldonado said the district is making progress in lowering the number of students who require six or more years of special English instruction — those designated Long-Term English Language learners.

The district is working toward reclassifying those students so they can join the general population. Dual immersion schools and new courses have lowered the numbers and helped the students with their English, administrators said.

“We have made a lot of gains in long-term and standard English learners, but we still have much work to do,” said Maldonado, who also unveiled a new dashboard for charting EL students’ progress online that will launch in August.

The percentage of students reclassified out of the EL program entirely because of their better understanding of English has increased as well. In the 2011-2012 school year, 11 percent of the EL students were reclassified. In 2014-2015, 24 percent were reclassified, according to the multilingual department.

As examples of how the program is working, the administrators brought in principals from Ellen Ochoa Learning Center and 74th Street Elementary.

Mara Bommarito is principal of Ochoa, a dual language school that is 98 percent Latino and has 42 percent designated as EL. One-third of the EL students are in special education. She said 71 percent of the kindergarten students come in requesting to be part of the dual language program.

Continue reading

Civil rights groups call out Gov. Brown on his comments over equity in education

LaRae Cantley, 33, of Los Angeles, wants the State Board of Education to include school climate measures in the state's new accountability system. (Photo credit:Steve Yeater for CALMatters)

LaRae Cantley, of Los Angeles, wants the State Board of Education to include school climate measures in the state’s new accountability system. (Photo credit: Steve Yeater for CALmatters)

By Judy Lin

More than 50 civil rights and education reform groups are using Jerry Brown to remind Jerry Brown of his pledge to help black and Latino students following an interview with CALmatters in which he suggested that disparities will persist despite government intervention.

In a letter dated May 3, dozens of advocacy groups asked Brown to recommit to closing the academic achievement gap for high-need students as he considers an opening on the State Board of Education and a new plan for measuring school performance later this year.

“California’s continued prosperity hinges on how well we educate our students,” the letter reads. “As you’ve clearly stated, the risks of not doing so are far too great.”

During his interview, Brown had said he hopes his signature education policy, the Local Control Funding Formula, will help some students improve by sending more money to schools with students who don’t speak English or come from low-income families. But he said, “the gap has been pretty persistent. So I don’t want to set up what hasn’t been done ever as the test of whether LCFF is a success or failure.”

That left many worried that the governor and the people he appointed to the state school board aren’t prioritizing low-income and English-learner students because some are destined to be waiters and window washers.

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: U.S. champion Academic Decathlon team from Granada Hills gets hero’s welcome

Bagpipes, pom-poms greet Academic Decathlon champs at Granada Hills Charter High
The national champion Academic Decathlon team got a hero’s welcome Monday at Granada Hills Charter High School. The team returned this weekend — from Alaska — after winning the competition for the fifth time in six years. By Gregory J. Wilcox, Los Angeles Daily News

UTLA to protest at schools this week; hundreds of charter parents object


The charter parents’ letter set up in UTLA’s lobby. (Credit: CCSA)

UTLA is helping parents organize protests on May 4 at schools throughout the district, and in a letter more than 500 charter school parents are asking to stop it.

The Reclaim Our Schools protest is part of a nationally scheduled demonstration for Wednesday, and UTLA says 80 cities and counties have signed up to rally against a proliferation of charter schools.

The national group, Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, issued a statement explaining: “As public schools are increasingly threatened by a view of education that supports privatization, zero-tolerance discipline policies, less funding, and high-stakes standardized tests, AROS is fighting back with a broad vision of American public education that prioritizes racial justice, equity and well-resourced, world-class, public community schools.”

The national organization has schools from Pulaski County, Ark., to Tomahawk, Wis., ready to protest before school on Wednesday and then have the students and teachers walk in to the school to begin classes as scheduled. The organizers said they are objecting to “a national movement to Reclaim Our Schools from privatization efforts that will bankrupt public education, we will stand with Los Angeles parents, educators, students, administrators, and community members for fully funded public schools and call on corporate charter schools to pay their fair share to the district.”

Meanwhile, in front of the UTLA offices, an enlarged letter from charter school parents asked that the teachers union stop the protest. The letter was signed by 527 charter school parents and was put out for display at various entrances of the offices on Wilshire Boulevard.

“We are asking you to stop,” said the letter directed at UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl. “You plan to stage demonstrations at charter schools sharing campuses with district schools. If these actions are anything like the ones we’ve endured in the past, they will be threatening, disruptive and full of lies. We will be shouted at, maligned and disrespected, our children will ask us what they’ve done wrong, and their teachers will, as always, be expected to rise above it all.”

Continue reading

Report: Charters excel at getting disadvantaged students into college over traditional schools

California Charter Schools AssociationA recent report issued by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) found that charter schools in the state are excelling at getting historically disadvantaged students into college over traditional schools.

According to the report, “African-American and Latino charter students almost twice as likely (19 percent) to apply to [the University of California system] as their traditional public school peers (11 percent).”

The report also concluded that charter schools serving majorities of low-income students have a college acceptance rate of 21 percent, compared to a traditional school rate of 11 percent.

“This new report demonstrates that charters are excelling at providing the critical educational acumen and strong preparation support needed for all of our students to attend college,” CCSA CEO Jed Wallace said in a statement. “Moreover, it shows that the college-going culture and mission that guides many charter schools translates into results.”

The report also found that “charter schools are helping students achieve entry into higher levels of college education (16 percent) than they would have had they attended traditional public high schools (14 percent). More charter students who would have otherwise enrolled in CSUs are gaining entry into UCs. Similarly, more students who would have otherwise enrolled in community college are gaining entry into CSUs.”

The report also said, “Charter high schools are providing a greater proportion of their students with college access (37 percent) through higher A-G subject requirement completion rates than their traditional school peers (24 percent).”

According to CCSA, the report’s findings support three of its policy recommendations:

  • Reinforce the need for access to A-G completion for all historically disadvantaged students as one of the starting points to ensure educational equity in college-going outcomes.
  • Improve data collection and availability of post-secondary data to facilitate additional research into what is working for charter schools and how to replicate their students’ college and career readiness.
  • Open more high-quality, autonomous charters as a promising way to give our students a step up into higher levels of post-secondary education which will influence the trajectory of their lives.

The CCSA report, called Step Up: How Charter Schools Provide Higher Levels of California Public University Access, will likely by cited by charter school supporters in Los Angeles as they look to drum up support for Great Public Schools Now, a nonprofit that wants to expand charter access in LA Unified. The plan has been denounced by some members of the school board and the LA teachers union, UTLA, as one that could bankrupt the district and union due to the potential enrollment loss.

Continue reading

2 teens drown in LA River, district provides counselors at school

Gustavo Ramirez and Carlos Daniel Jovel drowning victims Sotomayor

Carlos Daniel Jovel and Gustavo Ramirez (from Instagram)

Two teenage boys were found dead this weekend after drowning in the Los Angeles River near Cypress Park.

For the second time in five weeks, Superintendent Michelle King issued a statement of condolences over the drowning of an LA Unified student.

“On behalf of the district, I express my deepest condolences to the boys’ families and friends and to the Sotomayor Learning Academies community,” King said in the statement. “Their deaths are a loss for the entire LA Unified School District.”

King noted that crisis counselors and school counselors are available at the campus to provide support to students and staff.

The Los Angeles County Coroners office is looking into the cause of death for Gustavo Ramirez, 15, and Carlos Daniel Jovel, 16, whose bodies were found near the river Sunday night. The boys went missing on Friday.

A little more than a month ago, on March 26, 17-year-old Thuy Tran, a student at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School, was swept into the ocean at Santa Monica Beach and drowned.

At the Sotomayor school, students took to social media to remember the boys. Gustavo played as a midfielder on the school’s junior varsity team and the team wore their jerseys to school in his honor. He was nicknamed Smiley because he always smiled, according to friends.

Commentary: Everyone loves pre-K, but no one’s asking the key question: How do we train early educators?

early childhoodAs I’ve recently written, most of the hottest K–12 topics are already settled for the 2016 election cycle. But that doesn’t mean that education is going to be entirely relegated to the sidelines. Keep an eye on early education policy, where various candidates have strong interest in and credentials for making their mark with new, interesting (or, erm, “interesting”) proposals. If you’ve been a combatant in — or just an observer of — the last decade of K–12 battles, it’s time to get ready for a crash course in a whole new realm of edu-politics. So: here’s a guide to sorting serious early education programs (especially pre-K) from the campaign trail posturing.

The usual case for early education is already well established in American public discourse. Research shows that low-income children fall behind their wealthier peers’ language development almost from birth. By age three, the children from the poorest American families have heard an average of 30 million fewer words than children from the wealthiest families. These gaps only grow in the years before elementary school.

Fortunately, early education programs can help. The dollars we spend on pre-K and quality care for infants and toddlers can save us lots of money and energy down the line. If we get kids on track by kindergarten, we spend less on later gap-closing efforts — and those kids are more likely to grow up healthy, wealthy, and wise. Research suggests that they’ll generate more tax revenue through their increased incomes, cost less in public assistance dollars, and generally be better citizens. (The Upjohn Institute’s Tim Bartik is among the best resources for the research behind these programs’ returns on public investment.)

Done right, early education programs work just about as intuitively as they sound. But building a broader system that can deliver on those promises is no simple thing: pre-K’s not like some sort of cream you apply to achievement gaps and, whoosh, they’re gone in two days!

Here’s why: those early word gaps can’t just be closed by rattling off a number of words. Quality matters. Rich, robust language use builds vocabulary and literacy. But pre-K programs’ capacity to deliver that sort of language varies considerably. This should be relatively intuitive: these programs work by exposing children with low linguistic development to the speech of highly-literate adults. So a program’s effectiveness fluctuates along with the literacy levels of its teachers.

Continue reading

Morning Read: Granada Hills Charter wins U.S. Academic Decathlon again

Granada Hills Charter High School wins U.S. Academic Decathlon
Granada Hills Charter High School won its fifth U.S. Academic Decathlon national championship on Saturday, defending its prestigious title in Anchorage, Alaska. By Dana Bartholomew, Los Angeles Daily News

Some races, English learners struggling with A-G standards but have come a long way

Graphic from LAUSD report on A through G completion rates

LAUSD report on A through G completion rates.

There is a wide gulf of disparity when it comes to the performance of races and subgroups in LA Unified’s A through G completion and graduation rates, but these groups have come a long way and are doing better than ever before.

Recent district reports breaking down the graduation rate as it heads into the final six weeks of the school year show 68 percent of seniors are currently on track to complete their A-G courses with all D’s or better. A-G completion is a key component required for graduation and is being implemented for the first time this year. The courses are required for acceptance into California’s public universities, although C’s are needed to qualify.

Due to a $15 million credit recovery program that has signed up thousands of students to retake courses after school, on weekends and over holiday breaks, the district has predicted the graduation rate could rise as high as a record 80 percent. But peeling back the layers of the 68 percent mark reveals other numbers that are troubling yet familiar, as African-Americans, Latinos, English learners, foster students and students with disabilities are far behind their peers on A-G completion.

“The racial disparities in achievement and discipline have been consistently on the front burner. It means we need more support, it means we need to have more personalization and it means that you can’t just do more of the same,” said board member Monica Garcia, who is a strong advocate for the A-G standards. “I think it is about a system learning how to succeed with all populations, and LA Unified has more to do.”

Despite the disparities, the district has made big strides over the years when it comes to race and subgroup performance. According to a UCLA report from 2013, 21 percent of African-American high school students were on track with A-G courses in 2008, compared to 59 percent today. Latino students had a 24 percent on track rate then, compared to 67 percent today. English learners had an overall 9 percent on track status, compared to 29 percent for long-term learners and 24 percent for short-term learners today.

Asian students and white students, who are outpacing their peers today, have also made significant strides. Asians have gone from 58 percent on track in 2008 to 83 percent today, and white students have gone from 45 percent to 74 percent. Overall the district had made progress in all students who are getting C’s or better in all A-G classes, from 18 percent in 2005 to 48 percent as of March 7.

Continue reading

It’s graduation time — for parents. Garcetti, board member Garcia to join hundreds at weekend ceremony

Parents graduates of The Partnership's Parent College last year in Boyle Heights. (Credit: The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools)

Parent College graduates at last year’s ceremony in Boyle Heights. (Credit: The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools)

April is graduation month, at least for parents in LA, and tomorrow more than 400 parents will be honored in their own graduation ceremony with a keynote address by Mayor Eric Garcetti and welcome from LA Unified board member Monica Garcia.

Saturday morning’s event at Roosevelt High School is the last of three graduations taking place this month across the city held by Parent College, a seven-month empowerment and advocacy workshop series open to all LA-area parents.

The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools launched Parent College seven years ago to empower and engage parents with knowledge of their rights, roles and responsibilities in their children’s education. The program has been key in getting parents more involved at the Partnership schools, which has led to a shift in culture at the school sites, particularly in accelerating college-going rates. Participation has grown more than 10 times to reach 7,000 families, and 80 percent of the parents say they feel more confident in supporting their child’s education, while 94 percent of principals report that parent involvement has positively impacted their school’s culture, according to the Partnership.

“We always wanted our sons to go to college, but the application process was complicated and we weren’t sure if we’d qualify for financial aid. But Parent College opened our eyes to all the opportunities available to our kids,” said Maria Ruiz, parent of a junior at Roosevelt High and a seventh-grader at Hollenbeck Middle School Magnet. “Our first son is now a sophomore at UC Riverside and we’re now more prepared to help our other two sons when it’s their turn to go to college. Through the training we received, my husband and I have become leaders at our school and in the community. The Partnership schools not only welcome our involvement, they encourage it, and I really believe that’s why so many kids who would never have even graduated high school are now considering which college to attend.”

Parent College participants visit Cal State LA on University Day last year. (Credit: The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools)

Parent College participants at Cal State LA on their University Day visit last year. (Credit: The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools)

More than 2,000 Partnership parents participate in Parent College annually. Parents have to attend at least four of the seven Saturday workshops offered at the schools each school year in order to be eligible to receive a graduation certificate.

Saturday’s Parent College graduates all have enrolled students at one of six Boyle Heights campuses managed by the Partnership schools: Sunrise Elementary School, Stevenson Middle School, Hollenbeck Middle School, Mendez High School, Roosevelt High School and Math, Science, Technology Magnet Academy at Roosevelt High School.

Continue reading

Morning Read: LA community advocates push early childhood education to ensure success

Los Angeles service providers push for early childhood education
At a recent symposium, community advocates declared that early childhood education can spell the difference between future failure and success in school and life. They also stressed the importance of parental engagement at home and the community in shaping a child’s future. By Hiyasmin Quijano,

16,000 seniors failing with 6 weeks to go: The double-edged sword of LAUSD’s raised bar for graduation

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 5.24.35 PM

LA Unified graphic from a report on A through G completion

The LA Unified school board faced a difficult decision in June.

It had previously voted to raise the bar on its graduation requirements starting in 2016 in an effort to get more students into college, but it was clear not enough students were ready for the challenge and graduation rates would plummet if aggressive action was not taken.

The board ultimately chose to stick with the raised bar, and the district is now entering the final stages of that difficult decision.

More than 6,000 seniors are currently failing at least one of their required “A though G” courses, meaning if they can’t raise their grade to a D by the end of the semester in six weeks, they will not graduate on time. Yet these students are considered “on track” by the district because to be labeled on track, a student need only be enrolled in the required A-G courses.

And 10,000 more are considered “off track,” meaning they are missing one or more A-G class.

“While I am encouraged by the recent efforts and commitment (to A-G), it also shows us the gap of the work that we have today,” board member Monica Garcia told LA School Report. 

Garcia has been one of the board’s strongest supporters of the A-G standards, and at the June board debate said, “This has been a hard road. Not because we are not committed to a hundred percent for everyone,” but because the district struggles to “improve practice that meets the needs of all kids.”

A recent district report showed that 68 percent of seniors are currently “on track” to meet their A-G course requirements — a number that has been predicted to significantly rise before the semester is over — but 30 percent, or 6,400, of those on-track students were failing a course at the 10-week mark. While district leaders have expressed optimism that many students are getting the help they need, it is clear that a significant number of students who last year would have otherwise graduated with the same final transcript will not do so this year.

Thousands of other students will also graduate having earned D’s in the A-G courses, which means they will not be eligible for California’s public universities because C’s are required. And still thousands more will graduate only due to a massive $15 million credit recovery program that allows them to earn a C if they can demonstrate proficiency in an online course, a practice that has been called into question by some education experts who characterize it as an essentially cheap and faulty way of getting a student to graduate.

Continue reading

Renowned educator warns that LA Unified’s future is ‘dire’


Pedro Noguera presents his recommendations to LA Unified board members and superintendent.

Internationally renowned education expert Pedro Noguera warned members of the LA Unified school board and superintendent that unless more serious measures are taken, the nation’s second-largest school district is destined to lose more students.

“The future is dire,” Noguera told the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday afternoon. He pointed to entire neighborhoods in Philadelphia with abandoned schools. “It’s not there aren’t enough kids, they lost the commitment to education. I hope that doesn’t happen in this city.”

The challenges LA Unified is facing, he said, include declining enrollment because of the growth of charters and demographic shifts, chronically under-performing schools, structural budget deficits and the need to increase public support for schools.

Noguera has written 11 books and more than 200 articles about education and focuses his research on how economic conditions impact schools. He served as a school board member at Berkeley Unified and is now a Distinguished Professor of Education in the Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences at UCLA.

Committee chairman George McKenna invited the professor to make a presentation to offer advice and give examples of what other schools do.

“I appreciate you coming to tell us the truth, even though we may not want to hear it,” McKenna said. “We have to take this situation seriously, really seriously.”

School board president Steve Zimmer attended the committee meeting although he was on his way to Washington, D.C., for the rest of the week to help lobby for the district. He told Noguera, “There is no more important city in this world for you to be in, and I’m glad that you’re here and work with us.”

Zimmer noted that Noguera discussed the district’s concerns about competition for students between traditional and charter schools. “As you spoke,” Zimmer said, “it was actually quite emotional because I think we have been through a time where we have misunderstood the role of competition and in that misunderstanding have caused some injury and caused it to be potentially more difficult to build the foundation of trust.”

Nearly 16 percent of LA Unified’s students are enrolled in 211 charter schools, and that number would grow significantly under a plan to increase charter enrollment in the district, which the school board unanimously opposed in January.

Noguera said, “Like it or not, schools are competing for kids, and public schools don’t even realize it. Like it or not, that’s the set-up.”

He pointed out his granddaughter goes to a traditional LA Unified school where the parents are only allowed to drop children off between 7:45 and 8:15 a.m., while the charter school around the corner allows drop-offs as early as 7 a.m.

“For a busy working parent, like her mom is, and in a city like this where transportation is a big issue, that is not a small factor,” Noguera said. That alone could be a reason for a family to choose a charter school over a traditional school.

Continue reading

Morning Read: LAUSD school cop charged with attempted sex trafficking of a minor

LAUSD police officer charged with attempted sex trafficking of a child
A Los Angeles Unified School District police officer surrendered to federal agents Wednesday morning after he was accused of attempting to have sex with a minor, officials said. Los Angeles Times