LACES (No. 112) ranks as top LA Unified school in US News survey

US News Ranking Best SchoolsDespite being the nation’s largest state, with the second-largest school district in the country, California placed only one school in The U.S. News and World latest rankings of public high schools, Oxford Academy near Anaheim, made it to the No. 10 spot.

The highest ranked school in LA Unified, the nation’s No. 2 district to New York’s, was the Los Angeles Center For Enriched Studies, which placed 19th in the state and 112th nationally.

Overall, the district had 11 of California’s top 100 schools. Five are charters, four are magnets and two are traditional schools.

Here’s the list of schools, which span all regions of the district, from Wilmington to Reseda:

Five takeaways from Supreme Court affirmative-action ruling

imgres-5Via Politico | By Josh Gerstein

The Supreme Court’s decision upholding Michigan’s affirmative-action ban was far from a shock, but it generated considerable strife on the high court, producing five different opinions in which the justices traded charges and countercharges on the polarizing issues at stake.

Tuesday’s splintered, 6-2, ruling continued what appears to be a steady march toward the demise of the use of race in higher education and offered new insight into just how eager some justices are to accelerate — or resist — what appears to be an inexorable trend.

In the panoply of opinions, the justices assumed various roles. Some acted as rhetorical bomb throwers, either for left or right. Others sought to mediate and moderate — or perhaps just gave the appearance of doing so in order to calm others’ fears. And one liberal justice defected from his ideological cohorts, to their chagrin.

Read the full story here.

Morning Read: Brown’s K-12 online learning plan rejected

Lawmakers reject Brown’s online learning proposal
A key budget panel on Tuesday rejected Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest plan to revamp the K-12 independent study program and create more opportunities for students to use modern technology as part of their academic day. The Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance also held off on endorsing Brown’s proposed funding levels for energy-saving school facility projects until tighter revenue estimates come in next month. S&I Cabinet Report


Gubernatorial GOP candidate Kashkari releases education policy overview
Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari on Tuesday proposed scrapping California’s complex education code, sending state money directly to individual schools rather than their districts, and offering state-funded scholarships to certain college students in exchange for a share of their future earnings. He also said he wants to equalize the quality of instruction throughout the state to ensure that poor and minority students receive the best education possible. CBS Los Angeles


Microsoft expands ad-free Bing search for schools
Microsoft is expanding a program that gives schools the ability to prevent ads from appearing in search results when they use its Bing search engine. The program, launched in a pilot program earlier this year, is now available to all U.S. schools, public or private, from kindergarten through the 12th grade. The program is meant to create a safer online environment for children, but also promote use of Bing, which trails market leader Google. Miami Herald


LA school board OKs $25M lawsuit settlement
The Los Angeles Unified School District has agreed to settle a lawsuit over teacher layoffs by spending $25 million to hire more staff for dozens of struggling schools.City News Service says the school board on Tuesday approved the proposal. However, it still needs court approval.The ACLU of Southern California and the Public Counsel Law Center sued the district four years ago, arguing seniority policies meant teacher layoffs hit low-income and inner-city schools hardest because they had the newest teachers. Modesto Bee


CHAMPS in jeopardy over staffer’s $27,000 credit-card misuse
Charter High School of the Arts officials have 10 days to convince Los Angeles Unified they’ve fixed mismanagement that let a former staffer rack up $27,000 in personal expenses on her school charge card and quit without repaying it. LAUSD’s board Tuesday unanimously voted to send Van Nuys-based Charter High School of Arts Multimedia and Performing (CHAMPS) a notice of violation — the legal step could lead to the school’s shutdown. LA Daily News

LAUSD board approves multi-year contracts for senior staffers

imgres-4In another sign of improving financial fortunes for LA Unified, the school board today approved multi-year contracts for many of the district’s most senior staff.

In a break from previous years, when high level administration staffers worked on one-year contracts, several of Superintendent John Deasy’s most senior aides were given contracts of two and, in some cases, three years.

Deasy declined to comment on the board’s action but insisted that none of the 52 contracts approved by the board included a raise, but specific salaries were not announced.

Among those who will remain on Team Deasy for three years, through June 30, 2017, are Chief Strategy Officer Matt Hill, Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly, the district’s chief lobbyist, Edgar Zazueta and LA Schools Police Chief, Steven Zipperman.

Deasy’s contract only runs through June 2016.

The contract renewals for staffers come at a sensitive time for the district as it embarks on negotiations with all of its labor partners, including UTLA, the teachers union. In general, LA Unified employees have not had raises over many years.

In the case of UTLA, teachers have been working under the conditions of an expired contract for three years.

School board member Monica Ratliff abstained from voting on all the contracts, which otherwise were approved unanimously.

“My abstention on every one of the senior management contracts is unequivocally not a reflection on the work of the numerous dedicated, extremely hardworking employees whose contracts were up for renewal today,” she told LA School Report.

“My abstention was based on the fact that I cannot, in good conscience, support very public performance metrics for our Superintendent, a publicly available multi-faceted evaluation template for our teachers, and then vote for senior management contracts that do not include publicly available accountability standards or metrics on which to evaluate performance.”

An effort to reach UTLA President Warren Fletcher for comment was unsuccessful.

LA Unified board issues warning to CHAMPS over theft

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 2.43.00 PMDespite hearing assurances that there are no longer fiscal mismanagement problems at Charter High School of Arts – Multimedia and Performing, better known as CHAMPS, the LA Unified school board voted unanimously today to issue a Notice of Violations, usually the first step in revoking a charter.

At issue is how the school responded to an employee misusing a school-issued credit card.

Appearing before the board to clarify the district’s action, Robert Perry, Administrative Coordinator of LA Unified’s Charter Schools Division, told the members that the CHAMPS staff should view the decision as “an opportunity to remedy, with clear documentation.”

If it’s provided by a May 2 deadline, he said, efforts to close the school could stop.

Several people from CHAMPS, including Joanne Saliba, the out-going executive director, tried to convince the board members that the episode was an anomaly and actions have been taken to make sure it would not happen again.

In September 2013, school officials discovered an employee who was hired as a fundraiser used a school-issued credit card to charge $27,000 worth of personal items. When the theft was discovered, the school’s board of directors took no disciplinary action and tried to contain the problem internally.

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A new $33,600 grant is music to LA Unified’s ears

images-1Music is returning to LA Unified, at least in some schools, thanks to a grant from the SoCal Acura Dealers Association and EcoMedia, a company that helps provide financial support for underfunded projects.

The grant, totaling $33,600, will help national nonprofit Little Kids Rock to expand its music education programming to more than 8,400 music students in LAUSD.

As part of the donation, musical instruments will be delivered tomorrow to Pio Pico Middle School’s Modern Band music program, which is part of Little Kids Rock’s free programming.

“With this donation, many more children will have the opportunity to unlock their inner-music makers,” said David Wish, Little Kids Rock founder.

The grant will help Little Kids Rock provide additional training, professional development and add more than 600 music instruments including guitars, drums, bass guitars and keyboards to the program.

Rachel Johnson using experience to boost District 1 chances

Rachel Johnson

Rachel Johnson

Beginning today, LA School Report is taking a longer look at each of the seven candidates running for LA Unified’s vacant District 1 board seat. The series starts today with Rachel Johnson and will continue over the weeks ahead.

After three decades as a LAUSD elementary school teacher and nine years as a member of the Gardena City Council, Rachel Johnson is hoping her extensive teaching and fiscal policy-making background will help her secure a seat on the LA Unified school board.

As one of three teachers among the seven candidates running for the District 1 board seat, left open by the passing of the board’s only African American member, Marguerite LaMotte, Johnson, 54, believes she has the practical and administrative expertise to make a difference.

“Since I put in the time in LAUSD, and I saw how policy that school board members implement and how it directly affects my practice, I said ‘you know, I think I can do better, I think I can contribute, I think I have a voice that would be valuable,’ ” she said in an interview with LA School Report.

Johnson, who teaches kindergarten at Purche Avenue Elementary school, wants to empower educators by raising awareness on several issues impacting District 1, such as why there are so many charter schools in the district.

Johnson believes low-performing traditional schools would greatly benefit if they were allowed to invest in a similar teaching model used by charter schools, giving administrators the flexibility to craft an innovative curriculum that she says would invigorate learning and motivate students to achieve.

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LA County Fed decides not to endorse in the school board race

afl-cio_logoDelegates of the LA County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, which represents 600,000 workers in the Los Angeles area, decided last night not to endorse any of the seven candidates for LA Unified school board after a motion to endorse candidate Alex Johnson failed to carry a required two-thirds majority vote.

The decision mirrors that of SEIU Local 99, the LA Unified support staff union, which also voted not to endorse anyone in the special election for the South LA seat, left vacant by the death of longtime school board member Marguerite LaMotte.

The vote was a reversal of sorts. Last week, the County Fed’s political action committee, COPE had voted to recommend “no endorsement” in the race, a decision made after interviewing four candidates: Alex Johnson, and the three teacher union-backed candidates, Sherlett Hendy-Newbill, Rachel Johnson and Hattie McFrazier. But a day later, that recommendation was trumped by the Federation executive board, which recommended Alex Johnson’s name be put before the delegates for a vote.

Johnson, an aide to County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and a product of the LAUSD school system and American University Law School, is the top fundraiser in the election but has little name recognition.

The other three candidates, including George McKenna, considered by insiders to be a front-runner, were not involved in any round of the process because they failed to obtain a required letter of recommendation from any one of the 300 labor affiliates in the federation.

McKenna, a retired administrator, was the subject of a made-for-TV movie and has the backing of the prinicipal’s union, AALA.

LIVESTREAM coverage of today’s LAUSD school board meeting

school board meetingThis morning, the Los Angeles Unified School Board meets at 9 a.m. with an agenda that includes a discussion about the future of CHAMPS, a charter high school which has recently been under investigation on allegations an employee misused school funds.

Other items include a resolution by school board members Bennett Kayser and Monica Ratliff to proclaim April as “Parkinson’s Disease Awareness” month; a resolution by school board members Monica Garcia and Richard Vladovic to request a report on autism from the Superintendent each April for “Autism Awareness Month”; a resolution from Garcia, Ratliff and Vladovic declaring “Teacher Appreciation Week” for a week in May; a resolution by Garcia to recognize and celebrate “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.”

CLICK HERE FOR LIVESTREAM COVERAGE

Click here for board materials

Committee as a Whole starts at 3:00 p.m.

Morning Read: No criminal charges warranted for iPads

D.A. reviews report on iPad contract; no charges to come
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has reviewed an internal L.A. school district report on its iPad contract and concluded that criminal charges are not warranted. The report, which has not been released publicly, raises issues about the handling of the bidding process, according to L.A. Unified School District officials who spoke anonymously because they are not authorized to discuss the review. LA Times


New education funds in LA Unified must target highest-needs schools
More than 300 students, parents and community members from the Eastside of Los Angeles and South Los Angeles demonstrated during the first week of April in front of the Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters to demand that Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) dollars be directed to schools based on a comprehensive set of needs that includes academic outcomes and neighborhood conditions. EdSource


Teacher questioned after putting up religious message
An elementary school in Northridge is at the center of controversy after a religious message was erected on its marquee over Easter weekend. “READ, REST, GO TO CHURCH HE IS RISEN!” were the words apparently put up by a teacher in charge of the marquee at Darby Elementary. CBS Los Angeles


A speedier way to fire (some) teachers
Faced with the threat of a ballot initiative on teacher firings that could have placed it in the awkward position of publicly defending child molesters, the California Teachers Assn. agreed to a compromise: legislation to streamline the appeals process for teachers who are accused of such egregious misconduct. LA Times

CHAMPS in jeopardy of losing charter over credit card theft

imgres-2The Charter High School of Arts – Multimedia and Performing, better known as CHAMPS, is at risk of losing its charter after school administrators failed to act aggressively last year when learning that an employee used a school credit card for her personal use.

As a result, the LA Unified School Board has put the Van Nuys school on notice that if could lose its charter if school administrators have not properly remedied the violations.

According to a Notice of Violations by LA Unified’s Charter Schools Division that will be presented at the school board tomorrow, CHAMPS’ Director of Fund Development allegedly made $27,000 of unauthorized credit card charges on a school credit card, and the school’s board of directors sat on the information for four months before reporting the theft to police or taking any disciplinary action against the employee.

Meanwhile the director continued to work at the school until resigning in January. It was only then that the school reported her to police, launching an investigation.

A police report outlined in the document found that the director had previously been arrested for grand theft.

The “Notice of Violations” calls into question the school’s fiscal mismanagement and “material violation” of the terms of the school’s charter.

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Analysis: Just what does Caputo-Pearl’s first-round victory mean?

Caputo-Pearl at the podium; Fletcher, on the right

Caputo-Pearl at the podium; Fletcher, on the right

The first round of the UTLA elections produced two stunning results.

One: For the first time in recent memory, a political faction within the union — Union Power – has gained near total control of the union. In a field of 10 candidates for president, Alex Caputo-Pearl out-polled his nearest competitor, incumbent Warren Fletcher, by a 2-to-1 margin — a runoff is now underway — and Union Power candidates won outright nearly every other union leadership position.

Two: Not that many people cared. In a turning-point election, barely a quarter of UTLA’s 31,000 members bothered to vote.

The combination is a real head scratcher because it makes entirely ambiguous just what members were saying if they were saying anything at all. Even Fletcher bowed to the inevitable, announcing he would no longer actively campaign for another term.

On the one hand, the true believers lined up behind a change agent and his deep bench of compatriots with a lengthy platform that included a focus on raises and the end of teacher jails.

On the other, a silent majority declared they have enough on their hands, with crowded classrooms, curriculum changes and the challenge of providing the best for kids with the least.

It’s as if most teachers, feeling beaten down and demoralized over so many years, considered the options — more of the same under Fletcher or new activism under Union Power — and decided, “Yeah, whatever.”

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Morning Read: Counties going easy on districts’ spending plans

County offices to cut districts some slack for now on their LCAPs
State and county education officials are seeking to reassure school districts that might be worried that county superintendents will reject the new accountability plans they’ll submit by July 1 for the 2014-15 year. Tighter scrutiny will come, just not for the initial plan. EdSource


Mentoring group gives L.A. Unified students an extra way to connect
City Year has partnered with L.A. Unified for seven years, dispatching corps members — easily identifiable in their bright yellow jackets — to 22 elementary, middle and high schools. Corps members assist students in three main areas referred to as the ABC’s: attendance, behavior and course performance. LA Times


LAUSD to allow retired teachers to coach
Effective July 1, LAUSD schools will be allowed to hire and pay retired teachers as coaches. The move comes after the district’s human resources division changed its rule interpretation and came up with a plan following requests and a presentation by several retired coaches, according to the LAUSD athletics office. LA Times


Republicans See Political Wedge in Common Core
The health care law may be Republicans’ favorite weapon against Democrats this year, but there is another issue roiling their party and shaping the establishment-versus-grass-roots divide ahead of the 2016 presidential primaries: the Common Core. New York Times


Survey shows big jump on online learning enrollment
The number of K-12 districts and charter schools offering online learning opportunities is growing, and more students are taking advantage of those courses than ever before, new survey results released today show. While the number of local educational agencies who say they offer some form of virtual or blended online learning increased in 2013 by 7 percent, more noticeable is the 39 percent jump in the number of students enrolled in those programs this school year. S&I Cabinet Report


The Battle to Educate Our Children
The words “battle” and “education” seemingly should not go together and yet, for most of African American history in the U.S., seeking an education that would develop the whole person as well as prepare one for future responsibilities has been exactly that. The battle continues today with efforts to secure representation on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. LA Sentinel


Teacher tenure vs. kids
Commentary: Nine California students are in court challenging that state’s teacher tenure laws as subjecting low-income and minority kids to subpar educations. Root for the kids — and hope the lesson applies here. Under California law, teachers are eligible for bulletproof job protection after 18 months on the job. Dismissing a terrible tenured teacher is an endless and all-but-impossible mission. If budget pressures demand layoffs, the most recently hired are first out the door, regardless of quality. NY Daily News

Tutoring center busted for scamming millions in fed dollars

imgres-1A tutoring company billing itself as “The trusted name for specialized tutoring” may not be so trustworthy after all. Unless, that specialty is in defrauding the federal government.

The Academic Advantage, whose website is endorsed by The Governator himself — Arnold Schwarzenegger – and former LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines, was busted scamming millions from federal supplemental-education services funds intended for needy students in under-performing public schools, according to a report in the New York Post.

The tutoring center, which has offices in Pasadena and Manhattan, forged student signatures on attendance sheets in New York for years, receiving $14 million from the government between 2010 to 2012, the report said.

The feds found out, sued the company and nine of its staffers, and now the they’ve agreed to pay back $2 million.

Schwarzenegger’s endorsement is pretty generic on the web site, but Cortines gets specific:

“I have yet to come across an after-school educational program that is more effective at equipping children with the tools they need to succeed in their schooling and beyond,” he says. “It’s no wonder The Academic Advantage has risen to become one of the nation’s leading tutoring programs.”

Oops.

A telephone message left for Academic Advantage in Pasadena was not returned.

LA Unified district 1 candidate forum scheduled for 6 tomorrow

imgresCandidates for LA Unified’s open District 1 board seat are gathering again tomorrow for a community forum at the West Adams Church of Christ, 4959 W. Adams Blvd.

So far,  said one of the organizers, Rashad Trapp-Rucker six of the candidates have committed to participate — all but Alex Johnson — with a moderator kicking things off at 6 p.m. with a series of questions about Common Core, Local Control Funding and other issues that will affect the district.

The session continues at 7, with questions from the audience.

The seven candidates are competing in a June 3 special election to fill the seat vacated by the late Marguerite LaMotte, who represented District 1 for 10 years through her death in December.

 

Morning Read: Insurance costs boosted superintendent pay

Insurance premium subsidy boosted superintendent’s pay to $772,457
An embattled South Bay school district leader, under investigation for his high compensation, now has a new issue to deal with: insurance premiums that should have been counted as taxable income, but were not. The Centinela Valley Union High School District is being investigated by federal and state authorities for paying Supt. Jose Fernandez $674,559 last year — a figure derived from Fernandez’s own calculations. Now, it turns out that he mistakenly understated his taxable earnings. LA Times


California fails to adequately educate youth inmates, report says
California and other states are largely failing to adequately educate most of the 70,000 youth locked up at any given time in juvenile detention facilities, according to a national report released Thursday. Most youth fail to earn any course credits or complete their high school diploma or equivalency degree while in custody, the report by the Southern Education Foundation found. Yet these young inmates are highly troubled – usually struggling with drug abuse, anger and lagging academic achievement. LA Times


Wanted: early adopters of new science standards
The California Science Teachers Association and the nonprofit education research and development agency WestEd are seeking a half-dozen school districts to take the lead in implementing the Next Generation Science Standards. In exchange for committing to making science a core subject and participating in a new K-8 California Next Generation Science Standards Early Implementation Initiative, the districts would receive funding to train teams of teachers and administrators in the new standards over the next four years. EdSoure


A Win for Los Angeles kids
More than 770 poor Latino kids caught a break this week when the Los Angeles County Board of Education unanimously voted to overturn the L.A. Unified school board’s decision to close their charter schools. Alas, charter-school opponents are if nothing else persistent and will likely pursue other means to deny students better educational opportunities. Wall Street Journal


After complaints, LA school leaders abandon plan to cut orchestra
The Los Angeles Unified School District is reversing course on an unpopular proposal to reduce its elementary school orchestra program from a full year to just one semester. A district spokesperson confirmed that schools receiving orchestra instruction next year will get it the entire school year – though the district is considering changing how schools are chosen. KPCC


Nonprofits get nearly $1 mil to train parents as advocates
Two Los Angeles area non-profit groups received grants of about $900,000 from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to train families of young children in the Los Angeles Unified School District to advocate for their children in the hopes of improving educational outcomes. The UCLA Labor Center and the Advancement Project, were among 30 winners nationwide to share $13.7 million to implement “family engagement” projects over three years. KPCC

Vision to Learn helping students with eye exams and glasses

Vision to Learn Eye TestHow can students excel in the classroom — much less learn — if they can’t see what their teachers are writing on the whiteboard? It’s a problem that afflicts approximately 15 percent of elementary school students in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

But one organization is working toward a solution.

Today, Vision to Learn, a local nonprofit created by the Beutner Family Foundation, is partnering with nursing services for the District’s Education Service Center – East to provide 70 elementary school students and seven early education students with eye exams, and if necessary, eyewear.

“Our vans visit 250 schools across the school district throughout the year,” Yolanda Lasmarias, field coordinator for the District’s Education Service Center – East, told LA School Report. “At the schools, the certified school nurses administer an eye screening to see if the students need eyewear, and if they do, they send them out to one of our vans to see our optometrist who give the an eye exam.”

Since its inception in 2012, Vision to Learn has equipped over 14,000 students with eyewear and other forms of ocular assistance. Since last January, the group has been helping pre-K students to acquire the eyewear they need.

“If our optometrists see that a child has special eye-related needs, like for glaucoma, we will connect them with our hospital partners and arrange for the child to have surgery,” said Lasmarias.

Part of the logic behind offering on-site care is that in many cases, parents and/or guardians aren’t able to take leave from work to obtain the glasses for their children. Vision to Learn, however, can administer the screenings and exams, and set up the children with eyewear so long that parents and/or guardians give consent.

All of these services come at no cost to the parents.

 

Effort underway to eliminate CA schools’ English-only law

Senator Ricardo Lara

Senator Ricardo Lara

Since the late 1990s the debate over bilingual education in California has been, ¿como se dice . . . controversial?  And it seems it’s an issue voters will be taking up again soon.

State Senator Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens, has proposed new legislation to overturn Proposition 227, a 1998 initiative that banned bilingual education in public schools.

“English will always remain the official language of California, but we cannot ignore the growing need to have a multilingual workforce,” Lara said in announcing his measure.

Lara’s bill, SB1174, would put the question to voters once again, as an initiative on the November 2016 ballot. It would effectively repeal Prop. 227, giving parents the option of enrolling their children in bilingual education or dual immersion programs.

“In an increasingly interconnected global economy, we have to prepare our students for a future in which their success depends not only on an ability to understand diverse perspectives and cultures, but also on an ability to communicate in different languages,” said Lara.

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Charters win $1.5 million in grants to improve kids’ health

imgres-2Via KPCC | By Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

Sixteen California charter schools have been awarded more than $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education to improve the health of school-age kids.

The biggest local winner, 4,000-student ICEF charter school group, said it’ll use its $845,000 grant to give students more nutrition education during the school day and integrate academics with physical education.

“It feels great to be recognized,” ICEF CEO Parker Hudnut said, “but also to have the funding now to do what we have wanted to do to really try to improve the physical fitness of students and connecting that with nutrition.”

Read the full story here.

Report: Brown decision at 60, what have we learned?

images-5Via Economic Policy Institute | By Richard Rothstein

May 17 is the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision that prohibited Southern states from segregating schools by race.

The Brown decision annihilated the “separate but equal” rule, previously sanctioned by the Supreme Court in 1896, that permitted states and school districts to designate some schools “whites-only” and others “Negroes-only.” More important, by focusing the nation’s attention on subjugation of blacks, it helped fuel a wave of freedom rides, sit-ins, voter registration efforts, and other actions leading ultimately to civil rights legislation in the late 1950s and 1960s.

But Brown was unsuccessful in its purported mission—to undo the school segregation that persists as a central feature of American public education today. This issue brief highlights key elements of the American education system that have evolved in the wake of Brown.

Read the full report here.