Common Core may be set to survive even in opponent states

EdWeekVia Edweek | by Andrew Ujifusa

Opponents of the Common Core State Standards got a boost in recent weeks, as Missouri and North Carolina moved to reassess their involvement, while the governors of Utah and Wisconsin distanced themselves from the standards.

Less clear is what exactly those opponents have won. The early pattern suggests that the common standards could undergo some relatively minor changes but still persist in states where opposition has led to high-profile bills and big headlines.

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Magnolia schools’ opening ends a close business relationship

Accord Institute for Education Research LAUSDAs one of the conditions for allowing Magnolia Science Academy 6 in Palms and Magnolia Science Academy 7 in Van Nuys to remain open, Superior Court Judge Luis A. Lavin ruled last week that the parent company, Magnolia Public Schools (MPS), could no longer do business with Accord Institute for Education Research.

That effectively ended a close business relationship. A very close business relationship.

Magnolia Public Schools, the parent of the two charters, is located at 13950 Milton Ave in Westminster, Suite 200A. Accord is located at 13950 Milton Ave in Westminster, Suite 200B.

Close ties are also evident in two of Accord’s three board members who previously served on the board for MPS and were intimately involved in launching a few of the charter schools.

The Accord website says current board president Ertan Salik was a “key figure in the charter school development team for Magnolia Science Academy, where he served as the board president from 2002 to 2005.”

Another Accord board member, Suat Utku Ay, was on the board of directors for Magnolia Science Academy 1 in Reseda from 2005 to 2007. He was also the lead petitioner for Magnolia Science Academy 2 in Van Nuys.

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Galatzan endorses Johnson, leaving Vladovic as lone neutral

Tamar Galatzan LAUSD School Board Member

Tamar Galatzan LAUSD School Board Member

For those keeping score, it’s now 3-2.

A second member of the LA Unified school board, Tamar Galatzan, is endorsing Alex Johnson for the open District 1 seat.

She joins Monica Garcia as the board backers for Johnson. Three others — Monica Ratliff, Steve Zimmer and Bennett Kayser — have endorsed George McKenna.

That leaves board President Richard Vladovic as the lone neutral in the Aug. 12 runoff election. He does not intend to endorse in the race, said Chris Torres, his chief of staff.

“As a parent with children attending LAUSD schools and as a criminal prosecutor, Tamar Galatzan understands the critical importance of keeping our children safe at school,” Johnson said in a statement. “Tamar knows I will be a voice for change on the school board to ensure that our L.A. schools do a better job of providing a quality education for our children. I look forward to working closely with (her) on important issues, such as early childhood education, school-based health centers and student safety.”

None of the board endorsements is a surprise. Galatzan and Garcia, the board’s most reform-minded members, are backing the candidate most favorable to reform; the other three, known as  more friendly to union interests, are backing the candidate supported by UTLA, the teachers union.

Previous Posts: Zimmer, Kayser back McKenna; Villaraigosa in for Johnson; Ratliff forgoes neutrality, endorsing McKenna in board race; McKenna, Johnson re-launch campaigns for school board seat

Morning Read: CA English learners trial commences today

California in lawsuit alleging neglect of English learners
A lawsuit alleging that California public education officials have failed to provide language instruction to tens of thousands of English-language learners across the state goes to trial today (July 31) in Los Angeles Superior Court. EdWeek

LAUSD’s portable pools make the rounds for water safety
The mobile pool is set up on the playground, part of Los Angeles Unified School District’s Beyond the Bell swim program. Up to a dozen portable pools have traveled from one campus to another every summer since 1963. LA Times

Program helps students chart their future
Rome was one of about 240 students from San Francisco Unified School District high schools who participated in the summer program, a partnership between the district and two community nonprofits – Young Community Developers and 100% College Prep Institute. EdSource

Local business, education, nonprofit leaders gather to talk poverty
On Wednesday, local business, education and nonprofit leaders gathered at the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership’s offices in Irwindale to discuss the economic challenges many Southland residents face. LA Daily News

Youth suicide stats prompt call for awareness training
There are over 11,000 suicide attempts by youth in California each year – nearly 30 every day – and about 172 of those results in death. Experts believe these statistics could be lower if school staff were properly trained on how to recognize and deal with suicidal youth. S&I Cabinet Report

LA Unified reaches agreement with principals, police, teamsters

AALA and LAUSD contract agreement 2014At least the principals won’t be going on strike.

The Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA) overwhelming ratified new labor contracts with LA Unified for two groups of employees, ensuring that school leaders will remain on campus even as district teachers continue negotiations and threaten to walk off the job.

“It’s as decisive as it can be,” AALA president Judy Perez, said of the votes.

“Our members have been eagerly awaiting a raise for seven years. They recognize the district has been in severe financial straits due to the recession, and we’re glad we can move forward,” she told LA School Report.

Nearly 90 percent of active principals and assistant principals voted to approve their new contract, giving them a 2 percent lump sum payment for last year, a 2 percent raise for the school year that’s about to begin and next year, and a 2.5 percent increase for 2016-17. Among district managers, 95 percent agreed to the same deal.

The district announced new contracts with two other labor groups.

Police Officers, Detectives and School Safety Officers who belong to the Los Angeles School Police Association (LASPA), agreed to a three year salary raise deal starting in 2014-15; and Teamsters Local 572, whose members include school administrative assistants, cafeteria managers, area operations supervisors and bus supervisors approved a similar contract with a bonus payment for the last year.

The specific terms of those deals were not announced.

“This is terrific news,” the district’s Chief Labor Negotiator Vivian Ekchian said, referring to all the new agreements. “It means that the membership is in tune with the District’s message of putting students first.”

So far, LAUSD has reached accords with nine bargaining units. That leaves UTLA as the largest of the district’s labor partners without a contract.

In a statement sent out today district officials said, “We look forward to UTLA leadership continuing to join District negotiators at the table to make this a reality.”

Attack mailers for Johnson draw ire of two important backers

Alex Johnson George McKenna Negative Mailer LAUSDRecent campaign material supporting Alex Johnson that questions the record of his opponent in the LA Unified District 1 school board race, George McKenna, are rattling two of Johnson’s high profile supporters, U.S. Congresswoman Janice Hahn and former Congresswoman Diane Watson.

“I do not support the negativity that has come out,” Watson told LA School Report. “I never have done that. Trying to scandalize and demean an opponent running is not the way I work, and that’s not what I agreed to.”

Watson said she has reached out to Johnson’s campaign, insisting that her name and image not be used in any negative materials.

So far, none of the negative material (examples are here and here) from the campaign has included the names of Watson or Hahn. Fred MacFarlane, a spokesman for the campaign said he believed they were responding to pro-Johnson material from an outside group. The campaign is barred by law from contacting outside groups, regarding their campaign activities.

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In a survey, superintendents say teachers support suspensions

Edsource logoVia EdSource | by Jane Meredith Adams

Superintendents say teachers are the group most likely to object to policies that would reduce student suspensions, according to a new national survey on school discipline released Monday by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and the nonprofit advocacy group the Children’s Defense Fund.

At the same time, conflict between teachers or staff and students is the leading reason for out-of-school suspensions, with 40 percent of superintendents surveyed stating that insubordination, defiance, failure to obey and disrespect of teachers and staff are the most common causes of suspension. Another 30 percent of superintendents said fighting is the most common cause.

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Morning Read: LCAP reporting mandate reignites dispute

New dispute opens over LCAP reporting mandate
A festering dispute over how much freedom local officials should have over education spending has reignited, pitting school managers against advocates for low-income families and some key members of the Legislature. S&I Cabinet Report

Bilingual education could make a comeback
After nearly two decades, bilingual education in California could stage a resurgence if the state Senate approves a bill in August that would put the issue on the ballot in November 2016. Edsource

California Attorney General Kamala Harris champions school truancy bills
California’s top law enforcement official, Attorney General Kamala Harris, explained her plans to curb crime by clamping down on school truancy Tuesday in an interview with the editorial board of the Los Angeles News Group, which includes the Daily News. LA Daily News

Lawsuit sets off healthy questions about California kids’ phys ed
Editorial: It may take the courts to decide the merits of a lawsuit claiming that three dozen California school districts have scrimped on physical education. But this much is certain already: The suit is inspiring needed examination of schools’ approaches to this vital part of the curriculum. LA Daily News

Teachers union leaders updating members on strike potential

UTLA Rally Alex Caputo-Pearl speaking LAUSD

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl speaking to union members

No matter the state of contract negotiations between LA Unified and the teachers union, UTLA, instructors are becoming more familiar with the possibility of a strike.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the union president, said in an interview today union officials are busy organizing parents, sending out negotiation updates and preparing school sites for the possibility that the district and the union reach an impasse in bargaining.

“I’m very confident we can organize ourselves to be a force,” he said, a reference to developing unity among union members. “We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to our efforts so far.”

Negotiators for the district and union have met several times to exchange ideas. So far, the union has rejected each of the district’s first two offers, calling the latest one “a non-starter.” The district has offered a 2 percent payment to teachers for last year, a 2 percent salary increase for each of the next two years and a 2.5 percent increase in a third year. The out years are predicated on district revenues.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Aug. 6.

Previous Posts: Teachers union calls district contract offer ‘a non-starter’; LA Unified, teachers meeting today to discuss a contract; JUST IN: LAUSD sweetens contract offer to teachers union

Lawsuit filed in New York takes after Vergara ruling

EdWeekVia Edweek | by Stephen Sawchuck

A second lawsuit challenging New York laws governing teacher tenure, layoffs, and dismissals has been filed on behalf of seven schoolchildren in the state.

The suit, modeled on the successful Vergara v. California lawsuit in California, argues that those protections are depriving pupils of their constitutional right in New York to a “sound basic education” because they make it nearly impossible to fire an ineffective or incompetent teacher.

Filed in the state Supreme Court, in the county of Albany, Wright v. New York names as defendants the state; the Board of Regents, which oversees elementary and secondary education; the chairman of the Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch; and state education Commissioner John King. It is being spearheaded by the Partnership for Educational Justice, a nonprofit set up by Campbell Brown, a former news anchor.

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Zimmer, Kayser back McKenna; Villaraigosa in for Johnson

Steve Zimmer George McKenna

Steve Zimmer, with George McKenna to his right.

Endorsements in the District 1 school board race continued to pile up today as two LA Unified board members jumped on the George McKenna bandwagon, and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa weighed in for Alex Johnson.

Steve Zimmer and Bennett Kayser appeared at a news conference outside City Hall this morning to offer their strong support for McKenna, the former administrator who won the June primary.

Villaraigosa announced his endorsement through a campaign release from Johnson, the education aide to LA Country Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas who finished second.

The candidates are now facing each other in an Aug. 12 runoff election.

Calling McKenna “one of the most esteemed public educators in recent LA history,” Zimmer said he was disturbed at campaign mailers from Johnson that called into question McKenna’s effectiveness as an administrator.

“I couldn’t stand idly by and let it happen,” he told LA School Report at the gathering. “So I’m getting involved.”

Kayser said he, too, was motivated by the fliers, saying, “I was going to stay out of the campaign. Then I saw the fliers sent out. attacking him. I felt I can’t stand back.”

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Morning Read: LAUSD, teachers at odds over contract talks

Teachers union, LAUSD at odds over bargaining tactics
With just two weeks before school starts, union leaders representing 35,000 teachers have declined Los Angeles Unified’s offer to conduct contract talks on a daily basis. The two sides are divided by about $280 million per year in pay increases and other issues. LA Daily News

Report says new teachers face ‘bumpy path’
A new report concludes that California’s mentoring program for novice teachers, once a national model, has deteriorated due to lack of funding and district commitment, and provides little help for the many new teachers who enter the profession as permanent substitutes or temporary hires. EdSource

California joins states urging student-led voter drives
Seventeen-year-old Jonah Pelter says registering to vote is not something he thinks about a lot, and he’s never been exposed to any kind of on-campus voter registration event in his three years of high school. S&I Cabinet Report

Summer camp disparities widen achievement gap
The stark contrast between the summer activities of the Bay Area’s have and have-not children not only highlights ethnic and class differences but also distinguishes who is likely to succeed — and who may struggle in school and later in life. San Jose Mercury News

Teaching Teaching
Commentary: I’m starting to wonder if we’ve entered some kind of golden age of books about education. First came Paul Tough’s book, “How Children Succeed,” about the importance of developing noncognitive skills in students. It was published in September 2012. NY Times

Foster youth gain support from UCLA summer program

Edsource logoVia Edsource | by Susan Frey

Instability — multiple homes and multiple schools — is one of the biggest obstacles to academic success for foster children. But about two dozen high school students in foster care in Southern California are benefiting from one constant in their lives: a program each summer at UCLA aimed at keeping them on track academically and preparing them for college.

The First Star Academy is a pilot program for foster youth run by First Star, a national nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on helping abused and neglected children. For the past four years, the First Star Academy has brought the foster students to the UCLA campus each summer and meets with the students one Saturday each month during the school year.

Read the full story here



LAUSD charter school growth faster pace than in state, nation


Click table to view larger image

At the start of the new school year in two weeks, LA Unified will have almost 200 more charter schools than it did a decade ago. 

The growth reflects a more swift expansion than national and statewide trends in school choice options. 

Since 2004, charter schools in LA Unified have increased nearly four times, to 265 from 68, while the number of charter schools in California has risen by half, and across the country the number has doubled, to 6,000 from 3,000.  

“When you look at the numbers you can clearly see that LAUSD is extremely hospitable to charter school operators,” board member Steve Zimmer told LA School Report. “This is not a district that makes it hard for parents to find an alternative to their local public schools.”

The latest numbers, provided by the district’s Charter School Division, show that the overwhelming majority of charter schools that will operate this year — 212 — are “independent,” which means they are run by an entity separate and independent of LAUSD in almost all respects, including finances. Such schools are not covered by the district’s labor contracts. 

“Affiliated” schools, of which there will be 53 throughout the district, function under the auspices of the LAUSD Board of Education and are usually public school conversions. The district typically administers all funding programs for for these schools and employees are covered by union contracts. 

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Johnson holding money lead over McKenna; Vladovic has donors

Money race Alex Johnson George McKenna LAUSDNotes along the campaign trail:

In the money race for the open District 1 board seat, Alex Johnson continues to hold an overall lead over George McKenna, according to the City’s Ethics Commission

Through last week, Johnson had raised $47,646 to $6,450 for McKenna, an 8-to-1 ratio that hasn’t budged in weeks. In PAC money spent on the campaign’s behalf, Johnson supporters have written checks for $370,058, to $65,119 for McKenna.

The runoff election is now 16 days away, on Aug. 12, the same day school opens.

It’s entirely clear by now where all the support is coming from. Johnson has won the favor of reform groups, including the PAC affiliated with the California Charter Schools Association, which has spent $77,378, and a new PAC called Great Public Schools, which has spent $38,002 and includes lots of reformed-minded donors who support Superintendent John Deasy.

While that kind of support would appear to make Johnson sympathetic to board measures favorable to charter groups, he might be equally sympathetic to positions favored by his boss, Mark Ridley-Thomas. The largest amount spent on Johnson’s behalf, $245,754, comes from a voter registration and education group that Thomas founded 12 years ago, called the African American Voter Registration, Education & Participation Project (AAVREP).

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Morning Read: Lawsuit looms over California PE classes

California schools face lawsuit over physical education classes
Thousands of elementary school teachers have been asked this summer to hold on to their lesson plans as 37 school districts throughout the state seek to show that they are providing students with required exercise. LA Times

The LAUSD board election matters; voters should turn out
Commentary: The bottom line? The next board member for the district will represent roughly 1 million people on questions essential to the future of this region, and yet probably will have garnered the support of only about 20,000 people. LA Times

America’s Classist Education System
Commentary: America’s education system is unequal and unfair. Students who live in wealthy communities have huge advantages that rig the system in their favor. They have more experienced teachers and a much lower student-teacher ratio. Huffington Post

Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

When Akihiko Takahashi was a junior in college in 1978, he was like most of the other students at his university in suburban Tokyo. He had a vague sense of wanting to accomplish something but no clue what that something should be. NY Times

Breaking News: Judge allows Magnolia charters to remain open

Ruling Magnolia LAUSD* UPDATED

A California Superior Court judge today ruled that two Magnolia Public Schools (MPS) charters can remain open, blocking LA Unified’s effort to shut them down over financial concerns.

The decision by Judge Luis A. Lavin enables Magnolia Science Academy 6 in Palms and Magnolia Science Academy 7 in Van Nuys to welcome students back next month as scheduled. And they can continue to operate as if their charters had been renewed by the district.

Lavin’s ruling hinged on the language of the conditional approval as it was articulated at a March district school board meeting, when the members voted to renew the charters, pending a review of the schools’ finances.

Records from the meeting indicate that the school board intended to review a staff investigation into the schools’ financial status, he wrote. But the decision to deny the renewals was based on staff findings of financial malfeasance, not the Board’s vote to renew or deny the schools’ charters, based on the staff report.

The judge effectively ruled that the district did not act properly in acting on a staff recommendation, rather than a Board review.

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Data now available on teacher pay, but not for LA Unified

Teacher pay transperant californiaIt just became easier to find out how much your teacher is paid — unless, that is, the teachers works in LA Unified.

A California non-profit, the California Policy Center, made available this week pay and pension data of individual employees from 653 school districts around the state in a searchable database. That adds to the information it had already compiled for other public employees around the state.

But state’s largest district, LAUSD, has stalled in providing information. According to Robert Fellner, research fellow with the Center, LA Unified is “the only agency in the state of California that we encountered in this process to issue a flat out denial. ”

More recently, the district told the center that the information would be available at a cost, Fellner says, and a lawsuit is possible. “Right now,” he said, “we are considering our legal options.”

The organization filed pubic record requests with the state and local agencies earlier this year, and Fellner said most agencies have been responsive. Another 500 school districts are in various stages of complying.

According to a story in the LA Times, the California Teachers Association supports the release of salary information, but does not support linking salaries to individual teachers.

That data for LAUSD had been released once before in 2008, linking salary to employees names, and made available by the LA Daily News.

LAUSD is getting back to us with a response.

A bigger team for teachers union but no agreement in sight

Alex Caputo-Pearl UTLA contract negotiations LAUSDThe latest LA Unified-UTLA bargaining session featured a change in tactics by the union but nothing close to an agreement.

The union brought all seven officers into negotiations yesterday, signaling a shift to what it calls “big bargaining.” And it’s likely to get bigger: The union said in a statement future bargaining sessions would include rank-and-file members as part of the bargaining team and parents and academics as observers.

Teacher unions in other cities, like Chicago and St. Paul, have used the tactic, ostensibly to demonstrate strength, unity and determination, in UTLA’s case, perhaps as prelude to a strike. For UTLA, the statement said, the idea is to put a focus on “smaller class sizes, full staffing, salary restoration and raises for educators, who have gone seven years without a raise, took furlough days and made other sacrifices during the recession years.”

“We know more money is coming into the district every year and there is no reason to maintain large class sizes,” the statement said. “The district wants us to be quiet on the class size issue. We will not. Nor will we drop our demand for fully staffed schools that provide social-emotional support for students and offer the arts and other electives that our students deserve.”

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy declined to comment on the change.

What it might achieve is unclear. The union is clearly unsatisfied with the district’s latest contract offer — a 2 percent bonus for last year, 2 percent salary increases for the coming year and the next and a 2 1/2 percent raise for the year after that, with the second two years conditional of the district’s financial situation.

The union has called that offer a “non-starter” and yesterday asked district negotiators “to explain their numbers in formulating the most recent offer.” The union is demanding a 17.6 percent salary increase over an undetermined number of years.

“In many ways, their offer represents a throwback to bad ideas the district had in past years that did not work,” Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in the statement.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for August 6th; a larger table may be necessary.

Previous Posts: LA Unified, teachers meeting today to discuss a contract; Teachers union calls district contract offer ‘a non-starter’; JUST IN: LAUSD sweetens contract offer to teachers union

Morning Read: English learner lawsuit gains support from Feds

Feds back English learner lawsuit against state
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has found an ally in the U.S. Department of Justice for its lawsuit charging that the state abdicated its obligation to ensure all students classified as English learners get extra instructional services to become fluent in English. EdSource

New tool for navigating federal privacy laws
Hoping to help districts prevent such alarming developments and apply best practices in educational technology, the Washington, D.C. based Consortium for School Networking has released two new resources to help school systems avoid violations of student privacy and vulnerabilities to their data systems. S&I Cabinet Report

Can a 4-year-old learn from online preschool?
Two new companies for online preschool are ABC Mouse and CHALK preschool online. Neither company was willing to share exact metrics on home-use of its online products, but both said their numbers are in the tens of thousands – and growing daily. KPCC

Judge tentatively allows 2 charter schools to keep operating
Two charter schools ordered shut down by L.A. Unified amid questions over their financial management will be allowed to continue operating for now, according to a tentative ruling made public Thursday. LA Times