Character Day 2016: LA schools celebrate good character and join worldwide events

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Schools throughout the LA Unified school district joined more than 90,000 groups worldwide on Thursday to celebrate Character Day and talk about how to develop character strengths.


Although it’s impossible to tell exactly how many classrooms dealt with Character Day activities, Susan Ward Roncalli of the district’s Social Emotional Learning division said she was busy traveling to schools and helping with assemblies, rallies, photo boards and a balloon stomp.

“I visited three Orchard schools in Bell and Marina Del Rey Middle School, and all activities were great,” said Roncalli.

Marina Del Rey teacher Andrea Burke led students in joining the global conversation of characteristics such as empathy, kindness, honesty, leadership, resilience and justice. “We love Marina’s participation in this global event,” Burke said.

The Character Day education has involved 65 school districts, 24 universities and 70 nonprofit groups. In August, school board member Ref Rodriguez got a resolution passed that encourages district schools to celebrate the day.

Character education has been prevalent since the 1890s, is central to citizenship education and is focused on preparing individuals to make ethical judgments to improve conditions of civil society, Rodriguez wrote in his resolution.

Rodriguez tweeted photos at Magnolia Science Academy charter school and was represented there by Erica Gonzales.

“This is the district’s way to ensure a safe, caring and nurturing environment for all our youth,” Rodriguez said.

When teens resort to crime so they can eat: New studies on food insecurity and school lunch programs

eatingburgerIn Los Angeles, a young man talked about selling drugs for cash because his family needed the money.

In Portland, where stealing from local grocery stores is normal behavior for some school-age locals, a young woman explained the benefits of failing school — you repeat a grade — or being locked up in jail.

Across the country, teens talked about why some girls they know would sell their bodies to older men.

“I ain’t talking about robbing nobody,” one Chicago student said. “I’m just talking, like, going [to the store] and get what you need, just hurry up and walk out, which I do. If you need to do that, that’s what you got to do.”

For a small subset of young Americans, several of whom spoke with researchers for two recent reports on teen hunger, crime can appear to be the most feasible way to get food.

About 15 million children in the U.S. in 2014 suffered from food insecurity, with 7 million of them between the ages of 10 and 17. Despite extensive efforts to prevent child hunger, such as the National School Lunch Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, teens still aren’t getting the food they need, according to studies released last week by the Urban Institute and Feeding America.

Constrained by limited employment opportunities and the stigma of asking for help or appearing hungry, and often unaware of the food programs available to them, some teens had shoplifted, sold drugs and traded sex for food, researchers found. While the reports acknowledge that food-insecure teens aren’t engaging in risky behaviors en masse to eat, they provided anecdotes highlighting the challenges some of America’s most vulnerable children face every day.

Urban Institute Senior Fellow Elaine Waxman said the findings were unexpected and shocking, in part because little research has focused on how teenagers cope with food insecurity.

Study investigators created 20 focus groups in 10 low-income communities across the country for 193 teens to discuss their perceptions of available food and their experiences with programs that address food insecurity, from federal offerings to summer meal options.

“The theme that really comes through is that a lot of our traditional approaches for addressing food insecurity, whether that be charitable feeding or federal programs, are not necessarily teen-friendly in the eyes of teens,” she said, adding that focus group participants “really do talk pretty frankly about, ‘Well, by the end of the month, money is running out and there’s not a lot of other alternatives’” to crime.

According to an analysis released this year by the Food Research Action Center, nearly 21.5 million kids in the U.S. are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals, yet only one in six takes advantage of free meal programs over the summer.

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Morning Read: What happened to the students when City High closed?

When your charter school closes 3 weeks into the year, where do you go? In West LA, you have options

The students were heartbroken, some parents suspected the worst. When the City High School board decided last week to close its independent charter school after 13 months, it left the 120 students scrambling to find a new high school to attend. The school was faced with unsteady enrollment and an electrical fire that ended up being the straw that broke the camel’s back. By Kyle Stokes, KPCC

4 things to know about LAUSD’s pension costs and other benefits obligations for its teachers and other staff

This graphic from the district's Independent Financial Review Panel's November 2015 report shows the contributions the district must make to CalPERS and CalSTRS under new pension reforms.

This graphic from the district’s Independent Financial Review Panel’s November 2015 report shows the contributions the district must make to CalPERS and CalSTRS under new pension reforms.


LA Unified is facing a budget deficit that will increase to nearly half a billion dollars within the next three years primarily due to declining enrollment and increased pension and healthcare costs.

Last weekend, the Los Angeles Times, CALmatters and Capital Public Radio published the first of a series of stories examining the effects of the expansion of retirement benefits for the state’s public employees. Here are some things to know about LA Unified’s pension obligations:

  • LA Unified’s total unfunded liability for other post-employment benefits (OPEB) is $13.6 billion (or more than 1.5 times its 2016-17 operating budget of $7.6 billion). 


  • LA Unified is the only school district on a list of top 10 government entities across the country that can’t afford their OPEB obligations — the top spot going to the city of Detroit.
  • In 2013-14, the district paid $2,621 from its state funding of $9,788 for average daily attendance per student (or 27 percent) for all employee benefits, including health and welfare, other post-employment benefits and pension benefits (19.4 percent higher than the statewide average).
  • According to the superintendent’s 2016-17 budget, the district will pay $566.8 million this year to the California State Teachers Retirement System and $139.4 million to the California Public Employees Retirement System.

*UPDATED: This story has been updated to clarify the costs include other post-employment benefits.

El Camino Charter updates spending rules amid credit card controversy

LosAngelesDailyNewsLOGOBy Brenda Gazzar

The governing board of El Camino Real Charter High School revised its fiscal policies Wednesday night in its latest effort to placate Los Angeles Unified School District concerns about liberal credit-card spending by school administrators and inadequate board oversight.

The meeting of the El Camino Real Alliance board, which took place in a mostly full auditorium at the Woodland Hills school, was held two days before El Camino’s deadline to respond to LAUSD’s “notice of violations” that was unanimously approved by the district’s Board of Education last month.

The notice, which alleged “fiscal mismanagement” and open-meetings violations, is the first of three steps to potentially revoking the school’s charter. El Camino officials have denied any wrongdoing.

Wednesday’s vote marks the third time the El Camino board has updated its fiscal policies and procedures since L.A. Unified issued a warning to the school, which converted to an independent charter in 2011, last October. The board was also slated to discuss possible employee “discipline/dismissal/release” in closed session Wednesday night, a continuation of a discussion started at an urgent meeting held Friday, said Jonathan Wasser, the board’s president.

To read the full article, click here

Morning Read: State releases foster youth test scores for first time, and they’re not good

For the first time, California releases test scores for foster youth

California education officials have separated out the standardized test scores of the state’s foster youth — and advocates now have sobering proof of what they long suspected: These students are learning far less than their peers. In 2014-15, the first year scores of the new, harder state tests were reported, 18.8% of students in the foster care system met or exceeded standards in English/language arts, compared with 44.2% of their non-foster peers statewide. In math, 11.8% of these students reached or beat the benchmarks, compared with 33.8% of non-foster students. By Joy Resmovits, Los Angeles Times  

Why California’s Teacher of the Year thinks moving the school calendar is a bad idea

Daniel Jocz

Daniel Jocz doesn’t want to move the calendar start date.

The school board just made Daniel Jocz’s job a lot harder.

Jocz, who is a National Teacher of the Year finalist and the 2016 California State Teacher of the Year, already has to record lectures and give homework to cover five chapters of American history over the summer. He does that so his students can learn everything they need to by the time they take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests in April and the Advanced Placement tests in May.

But as LA Unified moves its start date closer to Labor Day, it will ultimately cut into his teaching time before the tests.

“It is going to make my job substantially more difficult,” said the celebrated teacher who has worked at Downtown Magnets High School for 11 years. “We can’t do this as effectively with less instructional time.”

After surveying parents and teachers for months, discussing it for a year and getting input from labor representatives, the LA Unified School board on Tuesday decided to start school a week later, on Aug. 22, next year, and then another week later the following year, on Aug. 28, just before Labor Day.

• Read more: School will start later next year, and Thanksgiving and winter breaks will be shorter

“Late start calendar = LAUSD School Board just cut 3 weeks of instruction for my Advanced Placement students,” tweeted Jocz, who said Wednesday that his fellow teachers are not happy.

“A lot of us in the AP community are taking this very personally and we have our courses planned out,” Jocz said. “Had I known this was pending in this way I would have been more vocal.”

Jocz said the Los Angeles students are a diverse community filled with first-generation Americans and English learners who require more time to become college ready.

“You don’t want students taking tests that they are not ready for, especially if they are the tests that will be used to judge schools and teachers,” Jocz said. He suggested that the nation’s second-largest school district might have the clout to move the testing later in the school year, like to June.

School district officials confirmed that the California Department of Education sets the testing window for SBAC, and AP test dates are set by the College Board, which administers the AP program.

“Scores can go up and down for a variety of reasons and I understand why they want to move the calendar, but it was changed not too long ago and we all adjusted, and graduation and scores increased,” Jocz said, echoing an argument made Tuesday by school board member Monica Garcia.

Dennis Ashendorf, a high school math teacher in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, starts school after Labor Day, as do a handful of Southern California districts. Of 56 school districts surrounding LA Unified, 50 start school in August.

“The end of a semester is not the end of a course in general in public school,” Ashendorf said Wednesday. “For example, Geometry A is followed by Geometry B. Same stuff. An exam in January works well. There is no great reason not to start school after Labor Day if a little federal help was given.”

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Former Superintendent John Deasy previews new initiative to rethink juvenile prisons

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy speaks before listening to public com

(Credit: Getty Images)

See previous interviews by The 74: Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, U.S. Senator and Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, University of Michigan economist Susan Dynarski, Harvard Education School Dean Jim Ryan. Full 74 Interview archive here.

As superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, John Deasy laid out an ambitious vision for improving schools. Today, his supporters say he succeeded in significantly improving student outcomes across the city, while his critics point to poor relationships with many of the district’s stakeholders and his botched plan to integrate iPads into Los Angeles classrooms. Deasy resigned under pressure in late 2014.

Now Deasy is back in the news, planning to launch a new program that he says will fix juvenile prisons in a way that both reduces recidivism and improves the life prospects of incarcerated youth.

I spoke with Deasy in depth last month about his vision for the program, how it might be implemented and whether it amounts to a form of privatized prisons.

The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity:

The 74: Can you start by telling me about your new initiative — what you’re working on, what you’re hoping to accomplish?

John Deasy: In October, I am launching a new organization called New Day, New Year. This organization is going to design, build and launch a set of alternative juvenile prisons in the country: in Los Angeles County and Alameda County in California, and then hopefully in Oklahoma and in New York City. In short, what I want to do for the next 10 years is to be part of the rethinking of juvenile justice in this country — and specifically youth corrections.

Our youth will leave our experience drug- and substance-free; on track for graduation or enrolled in community college, depending on their age; resilient; and also employed.

The theory is, we want to reduce recidivism by 50 percent as compared to the local county recidivism rate. That’s the short answer.

(Stay updated on the latest 74 interviews. Sign up for our newsletter.)

What immediately jumps to mind is that this is a sort of charter school for juvenile prisons. Do you see it along those lines?

We don’t at the moment have successful alternatives where you have dramatically lower recidivism for youth, and we want to create that opportunity. I don’t know if it’s charter-like, because I don’t think there’s such a rule or a vehicle.

What would the governance structure be, then? Is this under the traditional governance of publicly governed prisons? I’m asking because there are a lot of concerns about privately run prisons.

I have enormous concerns around privately run prisons, and abhorrent concerns around for-profit prisons. The governance structure is as it currently is, and we’re aiming to provide the current governance structure an alternative setting. Judges could sentence or re-sentence youth — obviously it’s a willing proposition — to New Day, New Year, and in turn we will abide by the guidelines of the state that we work in and produce dramatically different results. But it’s certainly not for-profit, and it’s not private.

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Morning Read: New agreement will allow LAUSD students to take community college classes at their high schools

LA Unified paves the way for 15,000 students to take community college classes during their high school day

It will be easier for L.A. students to take community college classes for free — while sitting in their high school classrooms. The Los Angeles Unified School District board approved an agreement Tuesday with the Los Angeles Community College District that will let high schools enter partnerships with their local community colleges to offer classes on campus, during the regular school day. The schools hope to serve 15,000 L.A. Unified students a year. By Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times

JUST IN: School starts one week later next year, then inches toward Labor Day, LAUSD decides


Student school board member Karen Calderon spoke against the change, then voted for the compromise.

The LA Unified school board decided Tuesday night to start school one week later next year, moving the start date to Aug. 22, then to Aug. 28 the following year.

After passionate debate on both sides, five school board members voted for the change, and two voted against it.

The number of days of instruction remains at 180. But the Thanksgiving break will be reduced next year to three days, instead of the whole week off, as students have had the past four years. Winter break will also be cut, from three weeks to two weeks. Unassigned days, such as for Jewish holidays, will not change.

Overall, it falls short of the initial proposal spearheaded by board member Richard Vladovic to move the start of the school year to after Labor Day, which he has tried four separate times but was out-voted. He seemed satisfied with a compromise of inching toward Labor Day over the next two school years.

But Superintendent Michelle King made it clear that school cannot start after Labor Day because a full semester could not be completed before winter break.


Parents in a previous survey said they wanted a post-Labor Day start.

“The next school year will be August 22 and the subsequent year school will start August 28, which is the week before Labor Day, and the first semester will conclude before winter break,” King said.

Student board member Karen Calderon won some applause from the audience when she explained how her peers didn’t want the calendar to change because it affects their college exams.

“The three-week difference may not seem so large, but to do that before the AP exam will have a negative effect for so many students,” Calderon said. “By changing the start date you are limiting our future and limiting our success, and I am against starting after Labor Day.”

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LIVESTREAM of today’s LA Unified school board meeting

LAUSD livestreamThe LA Unified school board is scheduled to hold an open session meeting today starting at 2 p.m.

Key items on the agenda include a consideration of starting school later in the year and an exploration of building workforce housing near Sun Valley High School.

The board is also scheduled to hold a second meeting at 6 p.m. specifically for charter school applications and renewals, which is part of a new effort to decrease the amount of time charter supporters have to wait to speak before the board.

Click here to watch the livestream of the meeting.

Commentary: Reversing teacher burnout in Los Angeles: Giving teachers room to invest

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-16-32-amBy Jane Mayer and Jesse Soza, Ed.D.

Teacher turnover in the United States is a silent epidemic — one that is eroding the core of our schools. Every year, over 1 million teachers enter and exit our classrooms, and in Los Angeles alone, 40-50% will leave the profession entirely within five years. This creates unstable school environments — ones that are more difficult for administrators to manage and in which students are less likely to thrive, emotionally and academically (Teoh & Coggins, 2013*).

Regularly each spring, students, especially in our underserved urban communities, start asking their bright and passionate teachers, “Miss, are you coming back?” Every teacher who has left the classroom dreads that question — and the real heartbreak is that most teachers leave not because they hate teaching, but because they are so frustrated by systemic challenges that they feel they have no other choice.

Kara Reeves, a teacher in Memphis, details the reasons one of the reasons she left the classroom—norms on campus that are not created or desired by the teachers (and most likely event schools themselves): “As a test administrator, I was now responsible for reporting my teachers if they did not follow those guidelines. The stress and worry of that prospect was just too much for me. I had become an enforcer of a practice I didn’t even believe in. I couldn’t do this to my teachers, so I left the position after two years and went back to the classroom.” She eventually burned out, exhausted by trying to work within a system in which she had no agency.

Giving teachers agency (power) to create norms (i.e. guidelines, governing principles, structures, etc.) is a strong influencing factor for teacher retention. A norm is any condition of a school site that governs the expected behavior of either teachers or students. For example, a norm might be that when a student cusses, the teacher is required to carry out a specific response (e.g. a red form for suspension). Another example would be that a teacher is required to turn in three grades per week regardless of the topic or pace of the current unit.

If the school norms support how a teacher is attempting to carry out his or her job, that norm is meaningful and contributes to both teacher satisfaction and student engagement. However, when there are too many norms on a school campus that prevent the teacher from carrying out his or her job (because of ineffectiveness or uselessness), the teacher begins to perceive a sense of normlessness which prevents him or her from doing the work he/she so passionately wants to do (Senge, 1993).

A 13-year veteran teacher from an underperforming public school in Oakland, where The Teaching Well is attempting to reverse the local 70% turnover rate highlights a standard teacher response to norms: “… [Leadership is] just pushing too much at once… I can’t get anything done because [they’re] pushing for this thing to start and this thing to start and this thing to start. I haven’t even trained my little third-graders to take out what folder at what time of the day because we’re rushing through everything so fast… I feel like the people who are planning these timelines have never even been in the class; they don’t get it.”

Like the teacher above, when educators begin to feel like this, they may isolate, burn-out or act in direct violation of school culture in an attempt to maintain a perceived best environment for them and their students. As a result, they either isolate completely from their school community and work in a silo in their rooms, which cuts them off from collaboration and social support (Templin, 1988). Acting in defiance of norms which with they disagree, they run the risk of reprimand for not following rules. Both of these actions lead them closer and closer to burn out.

The following are several concrete ways to reverse feelings of normlessness on campus and prevent teacher turnover:

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Morning Read: LAUSD board to consider later start for school year

Heat is on L.A. school board over later start for classes
On Tuesday, school board members will work through what, if anything, to do about the Los Angeles Unified School District calendar when they debate whether to change when school is in session, moving the academic year away from the intense heat of August to the somewhat cooler clime of June. By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Superior Court judge denies lawsuit that claimed teacher evaluations must include student test scores

Press conference after Vergara decision LAUSD

Students Matter founder David F. Welch.

A judge in Northern California on Monday denied the claims in a lawsuit that challenged school districts that don’t use student test scores as part of teacher evaluations.

Students Matter, the nonprofit organization that filed Vergara v. California, sued 13 California school districts last year, saying those districts were not in compliance with the Stull Act and their collective bargaining agreements explicitly prohibited the use of student standardized test scores in assessing teacher performance. LA Unified is not a party to the lawsuit.

In the case, Doe v. Antioch, attorneys for Students Matter argued that the Stull Act requires student progress to be included as part of evaluations of teacher job performance.

In a 40-page ruling, Contra County Superior Court Judge Barry P. Goode attempted to evaluate lawmakers’ intent when it amended the portion of the Stull Act in question in 1999.

“The statutory language is not crystalline,” Goode wrote.

The disputed language of the statute is: school districts shall evaluate a teacher’s performance “as it reasonably relates to (1) the progress of pupils toward … if applicable, the state adopted academic content standards as measured by (standardized tests).”

“The phrase ‘reasonably relates’ gives the school districts discretion to determine what is reasonable in this complex situation,” Goode concluded.

It is the second legal setback for Students Matter in recent weeks. Last month, the state Supreme Court refused to take up Vergara v. California, a landmark case that challenged teacher tenure and declared some school employment laws unconstitutional.

In this most recent ruling, Goode said there is not much legislative history to evaluate lawmakers’ intent when crafting the legislation. But he pointed to a number of related points, including the fact that the California Teachers Association supported the legislation. Students Matter pointed out that teachers unions generally oppose including student test scores as part of teacher evaluations, Goode said.

“Indeed, the legislative history of the 1999 amendments is silent on the issue here,” Goode wrote. “If those amendments made the major change in teacher evaluations urged by Petitioners, one would expect the legislative history to have discussed that. Instead, the statute passed with the support of one major teachers union and the opposition of none. That, too, is relevant.”

Goode also pointed to language the state adopted when it enacted standardized tests.

“The Legislature endorses many uses of (standardized) tests, including evaluating pupils, entire schools and local education agencies. But it does not say the results should be used to evaluate individual teachers. That omission is relevant,” Goode wrote.

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‘I’m very skeptical of online recovery programs’: Q & A with board President Steve Zimmer


LA Unified school board President Steve Zimmer recently sat down with LA School Report at his field office tucked away in an east Hollywood strip mall, where there is a unique partnership with the Youth Policy Institute and the school district that hosts after-school programs, adult classes and classes for homeless youth.

During the hour-long interview, Zimmer spoke about his passion to eradicate the school readiness gap (the achievement gap between students of color from disadvantaged backgrounds as they enter the school system compared to their white and wealthier peers), the relationship between the school board and Superintendent Michelle King, who is entering her ninth month as the leader of the nation’s second-largest school district, and his experience working as a counselor at Marshall High School helping students cross the graduation stage.

Here are Zimmer’s comments on the district’s online credit recovery program, administered by companies including Edgenuity, which has been scrutinized for its rigor amid the district’s recent announcement that its graduation has reached a record 75 percent even as the bar has been raised with the requirement that students pass the A through G, the course criteria established by UC faculty. (Lightly edited for clarity and length.)

• Read more on credit recovery: Are the courses ‘very rigorous’?Credit recovery starts early this year, Zimmer expresses frustration over credit recovery, LAUSD summer school had better teaching 

Q: We’d like to talk to you about the district’s online credit recovery program. On Tuesday (Aug. 23), you made it clear that you have concerns about it.

A: It’s a great concern to me.

Q: What are your concerns? What do you want to see done this year? What did you learn from last year? 

A: So, there’s so many places to start on where I’m concerned. But I think the most important place to start about where I’m concerned is I’m simultaneously concerned about the right now and the long view. The long view is not about how many assignments were in Edgenuity. Not that I’m not concerned about that — actually I am.

But I am much more concerned that we believe having an individual education plan for every middle and high school student is a key lever for moving the needle on this, that we have to be looking very, very carefully at career and training pathways and I don’t think we are. And as a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure we’re not.

And so, both in the immediate short-term when you’re looking at academic counseling loads and ratios, the medium-term in terms of if we do try and bring those down, do we actually have the folks who are credentialed and who intentionally want to work with our students in this way and the long-view is we know we’re going to be in a teacher shortage. I know we’re going to be in counselor shortage. What are we doing in terms of our partnerships to build the right kind of pipelines to make sure the right people are in those counseling seats with the right set of  skills, with the right asset-based mindset about our students and the right balance of a caseload where they can actually do this?

Having an individual graduation plan, as important as it might be, needs to be more important than just having a piece of paper. I mean having a piece of paper actually for urban school districts, where the belief system was not what it was in affluent school districts, is a step and an important step. Because having an individualized graduation plan, by definition, means we expect you to graduate and we expect you to graduate fully completing the A through G’s. So this is not triage or salvage work. This is intentional and very purposeful and is of high rigor and high quality all the way through. When you have a plan, there’s an infinitely better chance that the plan will be executed, as opposed to not having any plan.

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King asks LAUSD managers to tell her how they would slash 30 percent from their budgets

KPCC logoBy Kyle Stokes

Superintendent Michelle King has asked managers in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s central offices to submit plans outlining how they would slash their departments’ budgets by 30 percent in the coming fiscal year, according to a memo obtained by KPCC.

For now, it’s just a planning exercise. But top district officials say the aggressive cost-cutting target — the reductions would total more than $112 million if fully implemented — falls in line with King’s vision for a slimmed-down headquarters and a district in which school sites are given greater control over their own budgets.

“It’s not just another 5 percent drill,” said L.A. Unified Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly. (Some central office departments took a 5 percent cut this year, saving a total of $11 million.)

For managers to hit their cost-saving targets of 30 percent, they couldn’t simply close open positions or pick off other similar low-hanging fruit in their budgets. The idea behind the exercise, Reilly said, is to prompt central office managers to completely rethink how they operate as declining enrollment in L.A. Unified kinks the district’s revenue stream.

“You can’t get to 30 percent without really reinventing yourself or basically talking about consolidation in other types of functions,” Reilly said.

“I call it an exercise,” Reilly added later, “but this is, in reality, something we will be going through … to look at how do we work effectively with a smaller, leaner kind of headquarters.”

L.A. Unified’s own projections show an operating shortfall of up to $663 million in the 2017-18 budget year. If that holds true, the long-term fiscal stabilization plan approved in June calls for $60 million in cuts to central office departments next year.

That grim projection, however, does not factor in new revenues the district could see from Proposition 55, a measure on the statewide ballot in November that would extend an income tax increase on the rich to benefit healthcare programs and schools.

The measure, which one poll showed as leading by a wide margin, could net L.A. Unified as much as $120 million in new revenues starting in 2018-19, district projections show.

To read the full article from KPCC, click here

VIDEO: Thousands take the charter cause to the streets at Rally in the Valley

Thousands of people marched through the streets of San Fernando and Pacoima on Saturday, calling on their leaders at LA Unified and Sacramento to support the charter school movement. The “Rally in the Valley” began at Vaughn Next Century Learning Center in San Fernando, which was the first charter school to be started at LA Unified and the first conversion charter school in the nation.

California Charter School Association Families, which hosted the event, estimated the crowd to be at 3,000. After the march the crowd heard speeches from a number of elected leaders, including LA Unified board member Monica Ratliff and Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, and charter leaders, including Yvonne Chan, who founded Vaughn Next Century Learning Center.

Watch the video for highlights of the event.

Morning Read: Gov. Brown faces decision over charter school accountability bill

Charter school bill calls for accountability
A coalition of state leaders and community groups in California is pushing Gov. Jerry Brown to sign legislation that would step up charter school accountability and financial transparency. Assembly Bill 709, sponsored by Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, would require charter schools to more closely report how they spend taxpayer funds. By Maureen Magee, San Diego Union-Tribune

LAUSD summer school had better teaching, higher grades and 758 graduates in August


Summer school students working in groups. (Courtesy: LAUSD)

Innovative summer school practices are credited with helping 758 students graduate through a credit recovery program, and grades were significantly higher as LA Unified went out of its way to increase the quality of the teachers giving the summer school instruction.

“We are emphatically keeping high standards for summer school like we do during the school year,” said Beyond the Bell administrator Betsy Castillo, giving the summer school report to the Curriculum, Instruction and Educational Equity Committee this week. In the past, any teacher with any credential could teach summer school, but for this year, Castillo said, “We were emphatic about the quality and caliber of instruction and that summer school should not have lower standards for anyone involved.”

• Read more on credit recovery: Are the courses ‘very rigorous’?Credit recovery starts early this year, Zimmer expresses frustration over credit recovery

Principals were asked to hire appropriate teachers for the courses with “a deep knowledge which is as necessary for summer as it is for fall,” she added.summerschoolfinalgrades2016

This summer 71 high schools offered 2,749 classes and 174 online classes for 119 different types of courses. Of the 31,729 students taking summer school, 758 were for credit recovery in order to graduate in August and be part of the estimated record 75 percent graduation rate for the district. But 15 percent taking the summer classes still got D’s or F’s, and the school board members on the committee expressed concern for them.

There were 45,454 grades issued and 1,650 teachers employed over the summer, according to Castillo.

Because most of the students were in for credit recovery, the courses with the highest enrollment were algebra and English classes. Castillo said most of the students are in summer school to re-take classes to get a better grade, but some of them are also adding to their credits by taking extra classes, or taking fun courses such as art or drama.

School board President Steve Zimmer noted that the grades were far better than during the rest of the year and suggested it was because the students only took two classes rather than six at a time.

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Summer melt: Why are hundreds of thousands of freshmen dropping out of college before day one?

Problems buying online with credit cardIt’s not uncommon to hear high school teachers compare the college admissions process to a race: There are hurdles, baton passes, the final stretch. But being accepted does not mean a student has crossed the finish line. In fact, the most challenging part of the process can actually come long after the cheers and oversize acceptance packets, and it’s where many students get tripped up.

For the four months or so between confirming college acceptance and arriving on campus for the first semester, these teenagers are confronted with an increasingly complicated set of tasks that they must complete in order to enroll as college freshmen. There is complex paperwork to fill out. There are numbers to crunch. Many students find themselves realizing, for the first time, just how much getting their degree is going to cost.

And since most of this happens during summer vacation, the teachers and guidance counselors who coached them all through the college admissions process are no longer available to help. Their entire lives are about to change, and they find themselves without the support network that backed them up all through high school.

It’s enough to break 10 percent to 40 percent of students, according to a study from Harvard University. Rather than fighting through it, they give up. They melt away.

Educators call this phenomenon “summer melt,” when students who have committed to attending a college suddenly change their minds. It is most prevalent among students who planned to attend community college, and the majority are from low-income families, according to the Harvard study.

It’s not that these students lack ambition for higher education. It’s that the preparation is simply overwhelming.

The paperwork is monumental, especially for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It requires tax and financial information that many students have never dealt with before, and those who are the first in their families to be accepted to college don’t have their parents’ experience to fall back on. Some students come from families who are undocumented and don’t have tax forms. Some don’t realize the differences between loans, grants, and scholarships until they’re presented with a bill over the summer. Some work full-time jobs and don’t have time for setting up email accounts, dorm assignments, food plans and class registrations.

“It speaks to this gap in institutional support transferring from high school to college,” said Joel Snyder, a social studies teacher at Green Dot Ánimo Pat Brown Charter High School in South LA. “You could have a guidance counselor in high school, but even the most amazing ones can’t track all those students as they go on to college.”

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