Official status of disabled student athletes says, ‘We are all the same’

disabled student athletesA few hours on a Saturday afternoon at a Special Olympics event over 30 years ago changed the course of Teri Hayden’s life, and now it looks as if those few hours have changed the lives of hundreds of disabled student athletes at LA Unified.

After several years of pitches and proposals from Hayden — an adaptive physical education teacher and coordinator with the district — the organization that oversees scholastic athletics for LA Unified made the district the first in California to have an official division for students with disabilities.

While students with disabilities have competed in sports throughout the district and state for decades, it has always been in a semi-official capacity. Starting next spring, those students will earn official medals and win official city championships sanctioned by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), which organizes athletic leagues and post-seasons for high schools in the state. The athletes will also be able to earn letters and lettermen jackets.

For Hayden, who has worked for the district for 32 years, it’s the culmination of a life’s work.

“I’m still on cloud nine, and I think that will last for a while,” she told LA School Report in a phone interview.

As a result of the ruling, track and field will become the first official inclusive sport and more sports may be added in any category in which general education athletes compete. Twenty-eight schools currently have a track and field team for disabled students. The ruling also throws open the door for other CIF sections in the state to develop their own teams and programs.

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State teacher unions file appeal in Vergara case, calling it ‘baseless’

Student plaintiff Elizabeth Vergara at a press conference

Student plaintiff Elizabeth Vergara at a press conference


The states two teachers unions — the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers — filed their appeal today in the landmark education case they lost last year, Vergara v. California.

The lower court ruling declared unconstitutional state laws that govern teacher seniority, dismissal and layoffs.

The unions called the lawsuit “baseless,” saying it does little to help academic achievement of the most vulnerable students — those from minority and low-income families.

“This suit was never about helping students,” CTA President Dean E. Vogel, said in a statement. “As educators we believe every student has the right to a caring, qualified and committed teacher and that is why we are appealing the judge’s misguided decision.”

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District 5 candidate asks Kayser to retract claim of endorsement

Andrew Thomas

Andrew Thomas

Andrew Thomas, who finished third behind Ref Rodriguez and Bennett Kayser in the District 5 school board primary election, has complained to Kayser that an invitation to a Kayser fundraiser this afternoon incorrectly says Thomas is supporting him in the May 19 runoff.

An email from Kayser’s campaign circulated yesterday describes Kayser as “The choice of students and community leader Andrew Thomas for LAUSD School Board, District 5.”

Wrong, said Thomas, calling the assertion “a breach of good will.”

“Unfortunately, your choice to send this announcement, which uses my name without my permission and suggests that I endorse you, puts me in a difficult position,” he wrote to Kayser and his board chief of staff, Sarah Bradshaw. “I now need to re-assure my supporters and Ref Rodriguez that I, in fact, am not supporting you. Of course, I’ll do that right away.”

Thomas stated his neutrality in the runoff shortly after the primary, in which he won 26 percent of the vote to 38 percent for Rodriguez and 35 percent for Kayser.

In his email, he said, “I continue to argue that the interests of the students and parents need to have direct representation on the school board. I have also said I wouldn’t do anything to oppose your efforts to win re-election and, by the same token, I extended the same courtesy to your opponent.”

As his chief of staff, Bradshaw has nothing to do with campaign efforts. Kayser’s campaign manager, Susan Burnside, said in an email to LA School Report today, “It is clearly a fundraising invitation and no way implies endorsement.  Bennett has spoken to Andrew many times and he and the campaign are clear that Andrew is staying neutral in the race.”

Thomas asked that a subsequent invitation be circulated to the same people who received the first, indicating that he “is not endorsing, supporting, or choosing Bennett Kayser.”

Report: 91% of teachers spend own money on school supplies

the journal

By Leila Meyer | The Journal

This year 91 percent of teachers used some of their own money to pay for school supplies, and 38 percent used only their own money, according to a new report from The NPD Group.

The report, “Today’s Teachers: School Supply Purchasing Dynamics and Behaviors,” surveyed almost 1,000 K-12 public and private school teachers in the United States about their purchasing behaviors. The online survey was conducted in February 2015.

According to the report, teachers expect to spend a total of about $500 on school supplies by the end of this school year, 47 percent of which will come from their own pockets. About one third of teachers expect to spend more on school supplies this year than last.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: Supporters want LAUSD to reconsider pre-school cuts

Popular LA pre-school language program is targeted once again
A popular and well-regarded preschool program in Los Angeles would be shut down over the next two years under a district proposal to cut costs. Ed Source

AB 47 passes with bipartisan support out of Assembly education committee
Assembly Education Committee members, advocates, superintendents, and faith leaders were overwhelmingly supportive of the bill. Early Edge California

Judge reduces 3 sentences in Atlanta school testing scandal
Judge Baxter presided over a six-month criminal trial here that plumbed one of the largest standardized test cheating scandals in American history. New York Times

Plan unveiled to overhaul school sysem in Detroit
Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan unveiled a proposal on Thursday to overhaul the failing Detroit public school system by creating two districts. New York Times

Mom says she was ‘lunch shamed’ by school for packing Oreos for daughter
A mother was stunned when her 4-year-old came home with a sternly worded note from the school. ABC


LA Unified says Smarter Balanced testing back on schedule

Smarter BalancedAfter a year of disastrous technical issues and internet connectivity problems, LA Unified students are on track to complete the new computerized state mandated tests called Smarter Balanced, according to district officials.

Cynthia Lim, executive director of the office of Data and Accountability, told LA School Report today that more than 50 percent of students have begun at least one section of the four-part exam.

“As of today, we are right on schedule,” Lim said, explaining that students are seven weeks into a 13 week testing window.

“We are not behind,” she insisted.

A report issued Monday to school board members by Lim said 632 schools had begun testing and 40 percent of students had completed one test section.

“But the numbers have gone up since then,” she said.

The Smarter Balanced exams are being administered to students in grades 3 through 8 and 11, until June 4. They replace California’s statewide exams after the adoption of the Common Core State Standards. Results will eventually be used to measure a school’s academic improvement over time, although the state is currently appealing a federal directive to implement scores this year.

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Is mega-church having mega-influence over SoCal school board?


By Amy Julia Harris | Reveal

Bible verses, calls to accept Jesus and the promise of eternal life can be heard in two disparate places in a southeastern suburb of Los Angeles: the Calvary Chapel Chino Hills megachurch and the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education.

Three of the five school board members worship at the evangelical church on Sundays; two of them continue praying and preaching during the board meetings on Thursdays.

“Our lives begin in the hospital and end in the church,” then-board President James Na said during a meeting in January 2014, according to a video of the meeting. He urged onlookers to surrender themselves to God and, to “everyone who does not know Jesus Christ, go find him.”

Some parents in the district say such proselytizing belongs at church, not at the school board. Parents first raised concerns about the prayers in September 2013 – a few months before Na encouraged people to find Jesus – contacting the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin nonprofit atheist group that opposes entanglements of church and state. The group sent board members a letter notifying them that they were violating federal laws.

That didn’t stop the public praying.

Click here to read the full story.

More tepid support for Vladovic; Student art at downtown library

school report buzzMake it not one, but two extraordinarily unenthusiastic endorsements from a major Los Angeles newspaper for LA Unified board President Richard Vladovic.

Following the Los Angeles Times tepid endorsement of Vladovic over his challenger, Lydia Gutierrez, the Los Angeles Daily News today also picked Vladovic over Gutierrez with an equally unenthusiastic thumbs up.

Vladovic has a “bad reputation” with colleagues and “makes too little effort to engage the press and public,” the Daily News’ editorial board wrote, before saying that it “recommend(s) a vote for Vladovic, without enthusiasm.”

This comes after the Times said that Gutierrez is a “weak candidate who lacks the necessary grasp of the district’s major issues. So Vladovic it is.”

Vladovic, who according to some polling data was trailing Gutierrez recently, must be asking himself, ‘With friends like these who needs enemies?’ And some readers might be wondering, ‘With such unenthusiastic support, why offer an endorsement at all?’

Milken Institute Global Conference takes on education

The Milken Institute Global Conference — a gathering of 3,500 leaders from around the world in the areas of politics, science, technology and business — took place this week in Los Angeles, and the event featured several panels discussing topics that are frequent issues at LA Unified.

Earlier this week we posted about a discussion of the future of digital technology in the classroom, but there are a few other videos worth taking a look at. One examines  the issue of school reform, and the other about how to increase graduation rates for low-income students. Check out a link to the graduation discussion below.

Student artwork at Central Library 

Artwork by LA Unified students will be displayed in the  Los Angeles Central Library’s atrium, beginning tomorrow and remaining through May 22. 

According the district, the artwork will feature “prints of original paintings, sculptures, drawings, graphic designs, and media arts. It’s part of the continuing ‘Let’s Celebrate!’ series sponsored by L.A. Unified’s Arts Education Branch.”

An opening reception also will be held from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m tomorrow, featuring some of the student artists.

Audit of school connected to board candidate stirs political waters

Ref Rodriguez

Ref Rodriguez

The release of an audit of a charter school co-founded by school board candidate Ref Rodriguez is heating up the waters of the already boiling LA Unified District 5 school board race.

One day after reports emerged that a school board member, Monica Garcia, tried to delay the release of the audit, conducted by the district’s Office of the Inspector General, the district made it public yesterday: It found that Lakeview Charter Academy has problems with finances, proper oversight, record-keeping and in some instances, training.

Rodriguez co-founded PUC Schools, which now has 14 charter schools operating in LA Unified, including Lakeview, and another in New York. He stepped down from running the organization in 2009 and now serves on the board of directors.

The Los Angeles Times, which was the first to release the audit, reported that the problems are not on the level that would result in the school shutting down, but that hasn’t stopped Rodriguez’s political foes, led by the teachers union, UTLA, from attempting to capitalize on the news.

“Ref Rodriguez has shown that he isn’t capable of managing 16 schools. How can we trust him to manage over 1,000 public schools with transparency and accountability?” the LA teachers union, UTLA, said in a statement. UTLA is supporting Rodriguez’s opponent in the May 19 runoff election, the incumbent, Bennett Kayser.

UTLA also said, “The audit shows that the situation at PUC Lakeview Charter Academy was so serious that it calls into question whether the school can even continue to exist.” Nothing in the audit said Lakeview was at risk of being closed.

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Morning Read: Bill giving millions for anti-truancy has momentum

$25-50m in anti-truancy funding likely
The legislation sailed through its first hearing Wednesday and now goes to the Appropriations Committee for passage to the Senate floor. SI&A Cabinet Report

Judge to give new sentences in Atlanta cheating trial
Three of the highest-ranking educators convicted in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial will get new sentences Thursday. Atlanta Journal Constitution

NYC set to begin paying millions for charter-school rent under new law
The city is getting ready to cut its first checks to charter schools that are paying for their own space. Chalkbeat New York

California celebrates School Bus Driver Appreciation Day
The fourth Tuesday of April each year is set aside to recognize school bus drivers. School Transportation News

Shockingly few students are proficient in U.S. history
Students posted relatively low scores on national exams in civics, history and geography in 2014. Huffington Post

LA Unified sports coaches seeking their first raise since 1999

Crenshaw FootballWhile teachers have been celebrating a new contract deal that will lead to a 10.4 percent salary increase over two years, most LA Unified athletic coaches are still waiting for their first raise since 1999.

District officials at a Curriculum and Instruction Committee meeting yesterday estimated that 58 percent of school team coaches — the ones running football drills, perfecting swim strokes and tweaking backhands — are “at will employees” with no union representation. That has left them excluded from bargaining negotiations without any prospects of getting a bump in their $2,175 per season stipend.

“When you break it down to a regular season, not counting any of the extra work that coaches have to do, they’re making $8.63 per hour,” Trenton Cornelius, a district Interscholastic Athletic coordinator, told the committee, chaired by board member Mónica Ratliff.

The average coach, according to district data, works at least 18 hours per week for approximately 14 weeks, not including playoffs.

Ironically, the most successful coaches earn even less. When a team makes it to a state finals competition, the season is extended by another six weeks or about 108 additional hours, but a coach’s pay remains unchanged. The average hourly wage in this case is reduced to $6.04. Meanwhile, the district plans to pay raise the minimum wage for members of the services workers union, SEIU 99, to $15 an hour by 2016-17.

Eighty three schools across the district offer organized sports programs for 30,000 students. In all, they can participate in 14 sports, including baseball, cross country, soccer and one girls wrestling team.

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UTLA cries foul over hundreds of adult ed teachers on layoff list

UTLA Colleen Schwab

UTLA’s Secondary VP Colleen Schwab speaks outside the East LA Skills Center


Among the 609 LA Unified employees who received layoff notices last month were hundreds of adult eduction teachers.

But the LA teachers union, UTLA, still has a thing to two to say about it. Just two days after protesting the cuts, UTLA leaders today held a press conference this morning outside of the East LA Skills Center to draw attention to adult education.

The district is facing a $160 million deficit next fiscal year and says the layoffs are needed to balance books. But UTLA is challenging the cuts as unnecessary.

Certificated employees were notified last month that they could be laid off or reassigned, the district had 60 days to notify them.

Besides adult ed teachers, elementary school teachers, counselors and psychiatric social workers also received a high number of notifications.

“What we are facing here today is a cut in programs because the District is attempting to eliminate educators from this vital program (Adult Ed)…UTLA calls upon the District to rescind these layoffs and keep these vital programs in place,” said
UTLA Secondary Vice President Colleen Schwab at the press conference. “Standing right behind me are future nurses for our country and these programs, along with the educators behind them, will enhance our community because people will get jobs.”

Not long after the potential layoffs were announced, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl appeared at an LA Unified school board meeting and reminded the members that no other major districts in the state are implementing layoffs. He suggested the layoffs were a punitive action aimed at UTLA for its recent threats of a strike during contract negotiations.

“There are no layoffs occurring in San Diego. There are no layoffs occurring in Long Beach. There are no layoffs occurring in Oakland. There are no layoffs occurring in San Jose. There are no layoffs occurring in San Francisco. There are no layoffs occurring in Stockton. And I could go on,” Caputo-Pearl told the board.

UTLA and the district have since come to a tentative agreement on a contract.


*Updated to inlaced quote from Colleen Schwab

LAUSD delays release of school audit connected to Ref Rodriguez


By Howard Blume | Los Angeles Times

An audit of a charter school co-founded by a Board of Education candidate has been withheld from public release at the request of a school board member, L.A. Unified district officials have confirmed.

Two well-placed district sources said that the release of the audit was delayed at the request of school board member Monica Garcia, a political ally of candidate Ref Rodriguez. Rodriguez works for the charter organization.

L.A. Unified School District general counsel David Holmquist confirmed that a board member requested the delay, but would not specify which one.

Garcia did not respond to attempts to reach her through her staff and email.

Click here to read the full story.


Morning Read: Man sentenced for stealing 7,000 books from LAUSD

Man sentenced to prison for theft of thousands of textbooks
Corey Frederick was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison and ordered to repay $793,306 to the Los Angeles Unified School District. Santa Cruz Sentinel

School boards and administrators oppose teacher evaluation bills
A fundamental disagreement over granting teachers the power to negotiate all aspects of evaluations, including whether to use student test scores as a factor, could doom prospects for passage. Ed Source

Charter schools’ latest innovation: Keeping teachers happy
As the charter school movement comes of age, school leaders are realizing that stability and consistency matter. Slate

Delay coming to science frameworks
The recession interrupted California’s prior schedule for systematically updating education standards. SI&A Cabinet Report

Research: Short online interventions can improve student achievement
The researchers found that students’ grade point averages increased after only two 45-minute sessions. The Journal

LA Unified graduation rates rise for a fourth straight year

graduation ratesLA Unified graduation rates are up for the fourth straight year according to new data released today by the California Department of Education, but they still fall far short of statewide rates.

The percentage of local students in the Class of 2014, who earned a diploma in four years reached 70.4 percent, up two percent over the 2012-13 cohort. By contrast, nearly 81 percent of students across the state made it across the graduation finish line. And overall district numbers also lag behind state figures in nearly every other respect, including the dropout rate and graduation rates for Latino students.

But, Daryl Strickland, a spokesperson for the district, says the numbers improve and outpace state gains when they are broken down by school type. For instance, excluding option schools, continuation schools and other specialized campuses, the graduation rate for students attending traditional four-year high schools is 82 percent, a full percentage point higher than the state rate.

“I congratulate our students for this improvement, as well as our administrators, parents, and teachers who encouraged and supported them,” Superintendent Ramon Cortines said in a statement. “I also want to commend the work of support services staff, including counselors as well as health and human services personnel.”

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Milken Institute panel takes on digital tech in classroom

More than 3,000 government, business, science, tech and and philanthropy leaders have been gathering in Los Angeles over the past few days for the annual Milken Institute Global Conference.

The conference mission is to find answers to some of the world’s biggest problems, and one of the major topics under discussion this year is education.

In a panel Monday called, “The ‘New’ Trades: Rethinking Education for a Digital World,” pop superstar, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education James Sheldon and other leaders took on the topic of how to better infuse digital technology into the classroom.

In its description of the panel, the Milken Institute made the assumption that “traditional education, built around books and classroom activities, no longer prepares students for today’s digital world or the job market that it has created.”

The topic of how to properly introduce digital technology into education is a topic that anyone who follows LA Unified closely knows about, considering the debacle its cancelled $1.3 billion iPad program has become.

Check out the panel discussion in the attached video.


Harris Newmark High named Model Continuation High School

Model schoolHarris Newmark High School near downtown LA is celebrating today after being named a Model Continuation High School by the California Department of Education.

The event scheduled for 11:30 included a keynote address from LA Unified school board member Monica Garcia.

A total of 29 schools received the honor from the state this year, and Harris Newmark was the only school from LA Unified selected. Continuation high schools are small campuses with low student-to-teacher ratios for students that are deemed at risk of not completing their education.

“Our school is a great story for at risk students who need a second chance to re-build their futures,” Harris Newmark’s principal, Justin Lauer, said in an email.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson congratulated Lauer and the school in a letter.

“The innovative programs at your school demonstrate an enduring commitment to provide young people with the educational options and support services they need to successfully complete high school,” Torlakson wrote.

The schools honored this year will retain the title of a Model Continuation High School for three years, and information about their programs and approach will be disseminated to other continuation schools throughout the state.


Asian students over-represented in LAUSD gifted programs

KPCC logo

By Annie Gilbertson | KPCC

One in three Asian students is labeled as gifted by his or her school, according to data released by the Los Angeles Unified School District for a school board committee meeting scheduled today.

The latest numbers again raise questions about the over- and under-representation of ethnic groups in the district’s Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs, which can set a student on a path into the most sought-after schools and colleges.

In breakdowns of the overall GATE enrollment, the racial division is stark:

  • Asian students are 150 percent overrepresented based on enrollment estimates of all Asian students in L.A. Unified.
  • White students are 60 percent overrepresented compared to their estimated numbers.
  • Latino students are 15 percent underrepresented based on their estimated enrollment.
  • Black students are 30 percent underrepresented compared to their estimated enrollment.

White and Asian students aren’t innately smarter than their black and brown peers, experts say.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: Texas educator is National Teacher of the Year

Texas English teacher named national teacher of the year
Shanna Peeples works with students facing poverty and traumas related to their immigration to the United States. Huffington Post

Data science class offers L.A. Unified students a new handle on math
Asking questions of data is the aim of a class being offered at 10 Los Angeles Unified School District high schools this year. Los Angeles Times

How L.A. Works: School Lunches
The National School Lunch Act was passed in 1946 after an alarming number of World War II draftees turned up too malnourished to serve. Los Angeles Magazine

LAUSD officials unhappy with teen idol Justin Bieber crashing prom
“His entourage pushed past the school’s security to gain access to the dance floor,” said a spokesman for LA Unified. International Business Times

Leaders for teachers union try to stop LAUSD from laying off educators
The teachers union Monday rallied in support of 609 educators whose jobs would be eliminated. Los Angeles Daily News

Attendance rates set to become federal benchmark
Attendance rates would become one of three measures used by federal officials to gauge school performance in California. SI&A Cabinet Report

Teachers protest LA Unified 609 layoff notices to offset deficit


One week after a landmark deal that will bring LA Unified teachers a double digit salary increase, more than a hundred members of the teachers union, UTLA, protested potential district layoffs this morning before the start of hearings to challenge the cuts.

The school board last month authorized 609 layoff notices that were issued to teachers, counselors and social workers, explaining that “reductions in force” are necessary to balance the 2015-16 budget.

At the time, district officials projected a $160 million deficit for next year. That was before the tentative three-year agreement giving teachers a 10.4 percent raise over two years was made. Once implemented, the new deal will cost an additional $171 million annually.

But union leaders argue there is enough money to keep their members on staff and issue raises. UTLA is banking on a massive infusion of cash from the state after Governor Jerry Brown’s budget revisions in May to offset any potential budget deficits.

“The district has to prove they do not have the money to justify a layoff,” Suzanne Spurgeon, UTLA’s communications director, told LA School Report. “UTLA does not believe the layoffs are necessary. These cuts will negatively impact students.”

Permanent, certificated employees affected by the layoffs have a right to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge.


*Corrects quote attributed to Suzanne Spurgeon.