Parent Revolution announces Seth Litt as new CEO

Seth Litt

Seth Litt

Parent Revolution has announced that Seth Litt is taking over as its CEO. The news comes a full nine months after the organization’s former executive director and founder, Ben Austin, stepped down.

Parent Revolution was formed in 2009 by Austin and played a role in creating California’s “parent trigger” law. It also offers guidance and help to parent groups wanting to implement the law at their school.

Litt brings a long career in education to Parent Revolution: he was a teacher in middle school in the south Bronx, a Teach for America corps member, a union chapter leader and charter high school principal.

“I am excited to join Parent Revolution and lead the organization through its next chapter of impact for students and families,” Litt said in a statement. “Families in every community deserve more than hope or a roll of the dice – they deserve information, access to the system, and real power to make changes for their kids and their communities. For too long parents in communities like the south Bronx, south Los Angeles, and elsewhere have been on their own. They deserve the power to take action and effect change in their children’s education and lives.”

Alison Laslett, Parent Revolution’s Chief Operating Officer, has been serving as interim executive director while the board searched for a permanent replacement, a role now changed to the title of CEO.

Parent Revolution and the parent trigger law have proven to be a controversial and polarizing presence in California. Under the parent trigger law, which was passed in 2010, parents at a chronically underperforming school that meets certain criteria can call for reform if a majority of them sign a petition requesting a specific change. The changes could include converting the school into a charter school or changing the administration.

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AALA calls for more APs, NBA All-Star returns to his LAUSD school

school report buzzLA Unified added 70 assistant principals to its ranks this year along with officially combining the roles of assistant principal and “instructional specialist” into one. Still with 1,564 APs now on the payroll, leaders of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA) say many more are needed.

AALA, the union which represents district administrators, posted an article in its weekly newsletter pointing out what it says is a low level of assistant principals working in the district.

“It is important to note that there are some elementary and middle schools in the District that are operating with a sole administrator and there are numerous secondary sites with less than the standard five-member administrative team. There was a time when it was unthinkable to run a school with fewer than five administrators,” AALA said.

 

The article also points out that principals have similar workload issues regardless if they have an AP or not. District leaders have been receptive to adding more APs over the last few years, but no official timetable has ever been set, AALA said, adding that “we continue to press for a systemic approach to examining administrative norms and a reasonable implementation timeline.”

Russell Westbrook returns 

NBA All-Star and former UCLA Bruin Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma Thunder returned last week to his former school, 75th Street Elementary Community School, dedicating a new wing of the school’s library and donating 1,400 books to help fill it up.

russell westbrookRussell’s Reading Room” also features murals of his playing days at UCLA, and Westbrook dedicated the room while reading to 25 students.

“This will be a place for students to fall in love with books, strengthen their reading skills and build their vocabulary,” Miguel Campa, the school’s principal, said in a statement. “Putting books in children’s hands opens the world to them, provides opportunities to ensure equity and empowers with the four essential 21st Century skills: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication. We believe that with a book in your hands, your imagination can take off.”

Cortines praises Legislature for SB 725

LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines came out in full support of Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Legislature for passing Senate Bill 725, which allows close to 5,000 high school seniors across the state to graduate without passing a now-cancelled high school exit exam. Nearly 500 of them were LA Unified seniors.

“I am pleased that the governor and the Legislature acted quickly to resolve what has been a significant problem for almost 500 of our students,” Cortines said in a statement. “These are students who have met all graduation requirements with the exception of the California High School Exit Exam, and they have been in limbo through no fault of their own.

“Without Senate Bill 725, these students and thousands more around the state would have been prevented from starting college, pursuing jobs and apprenticeships, and joining the military. These students now can move forward as successful L.A. Unified graduates.”

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CA voters OK with taxes to support public schools, new poll says

proposition 30A new poll shows that California voters would support reauthorization of Proposition 30, a 2012 measure that raised taxes to support public education.

The survey by PACE/USC Rossier School of Education Poll shows 63 percent of voters favor extending at least one provision of Prop. 30 — the tax increase on high incomes or the sales tax hike or both. Only 28 percent of voters said both fiscal provisions should be allowed to expire, the poll showed.

Prop. 30 temporarily increased the state sales tax by a quarter cent and the personal income tax rate on people earning more than $250,000 a year to fund public education and other government programs. It expires at the end of 2016.

“Since the inception of this poll in 2012, we have identified valuable trends that not only reflect the opinions of the state’s voters but also influence policymakers in Sacramento,” said USC Rossier School Dean Karen Symms Gallagher. “The latest results indicate a growing confidence in our public school system as voters are clearly willing to provide greater financial support to education.”

Six in 10 voters said California should be spending more on schools, as opposed to 26 percent who said the state’s public schools have enough money, the poll showed.

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UTLA cites working conditions, health benefits as major concerns

UTLA97The first big step was getting a pay raise. That happened earlier this year. So what’s next for UTLA?

United Teachers Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl says extensive input from teachers over the summer points to conditions in the classroom and the future of health benefits as among the issues most important to the union membership. He also said UTLA will strive to unionize more charter schools.

“Everyday teaching and learning conditions tend to be something that we hear a lot from our members,” Caputo-Pearl told the LA School Report. “They want to come into their classroom and do what they do and work with young people and not have to deal with ceiling tiles that are falling, or class sizes that are too big, or an administrator that refuses to follow basic contractual guidelines. Basic conditions are a concern.”

The other big concern voiced by teachers is the potential erosion of health benefits that have helped teachers to LA Unified. The benefits package LA Unified offers is among the most robust of any district in the state, including free lifetime benefits for retirees and their dependents.

“There is obviously a very well-funded national movement to attack public sector workers and health benefits that are associated with public sector workers,” Caputo-Pearl said. He talked about billionaire John D. Arnold who he said is “specifically intent to fund efforts to attack pensions, attack health benefits and retirement. It’s a very well-funded effort that our members are concerned about.”

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What happens when parents get paid to do homework?

Bloomberg-News-logo

By Megan McArdle

Poor kids don’t do nearly as well in school as the children of the affluent. There’s a vicious cycle when you talk about this, where education reformers blame the teachers, teachers blame the parents and the economic conditions of the children, and everyone sort of gives each other the side eye while glumly agreeing that something really needs to be done.

Adoption studies seem to indicate that parenting does matter. Unfortunately, it’s not clear what that actually tells policy makers. Reforming schools is harder than it sounds, but persuading principals and teachers to change what they do looks like a trivial exercise compared with getting millions of people to radically alter the hours they spend each day with their children in the privacy of their own homes.

For one thing, we’re paying the teachers and can threaten to cut off the checks if they don’t change. A team of economists decided to see what effect it could have by paying the parents.

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: California zaps 15 years of test scores from website

State removes 15 years of test results before releasing new scores
California Department of Education officials have repeatedly cautioned against comparing students’ scores on past state standardized tests. EdSource


Millikan students studied math with no air conditioning for days
The air conditioning outage in Room 71 was reported on Thursday. Los Angeles Daily News


California Supreme Court won’t hear Fresno Unified leaseback case
LA Unified filed a brief in support of Fresno Unified earlier this month, saying the appellate court’s opinion has created “uncertainty and conflict.” Fresno Bee


Palo Alto: Board increases home loan for superintendent to $1.5M
Even with a six-figure salary, Superintendent Glenn “Max” McGee is having trouble buying a home in the city. San Jose Mercury News


SBE to set attendance mark for federal reporting
The action follows adoption earlier this year of several amendments to the state’s federally-required accountability plan. SI&A Cabinet Report


Chicago hunger strike to save Dyett High School reaches ninth day
The activists demand the Chicago Board of Education turn Dyett into a leadership and green technology academy. International Business Times

Brown signs high school exit test waiver, allowing 5,000 to graduate

Gov Jerry Brown LAUSD

Gov. Jerry Brown

Governor Jerry Brown today signed Senate Bill 725 into law, allowing close to 5,000 high school seniors across the state to graduate without passing a now-cancelled high school exit exam.

The governor signed the bill without comment, his office said.

Brown’s signature brings to a close a problem that began in May, when the California Department of Education suspended administration of the California High School Edit Examination (CAHSEE), which was to have taken place in July.

“Students who’ve been accepted into college should not be prevented from starting class this fall because of a test cancellation they could not control,” said Deborah Hoffman, Brown’s press secretary. The Governor signed the bill, she added, “to ensure these students begin their college careers.”

Education officials cancelled the July test in part because state lawmakers were considering whether to continue using the test as a graduate requirement even though it is not aligned with material being taught under new Common Core standards.

The cancellation left thousands of high school seniors in limbo, unable to graduate and move on to college. The number included 492 seniors in LA Unified.

The University of California and California State University had agreed to enroll students who had qualified for admission but had not passed the exam because they couldn’t take it. However many other colleges and universities had not.

The exam assessed students’ grade-level competency in the state content standards for reading, writing and math.

LA teachers planning campaign to oppose charter expansion

Alex Caputo Pearl LAUSD Board meeting-9.9.14 charter

UTLA President Alex Caputo Pearl

* UPDATED

UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl said the teachers union is planning an aggressive campaign to oppose Eli Broad and other wealthy foundation leaders who have announced plans for a major expansion of charter schools in LA Unified.

In a wide-ranging interview that focused on the state of charters in the district, Caputo-Pearl was highly critical of the effort, asserting that charters are undermining the ability of traditional district schools to maintain a quality education for all students.

“We’re going to make every effort that we can to organize against the expansion of what are essentially unregulated non-union schools that don’t play by the rules as everybody else,” Caputo-Pearl told LA School Report. “So we’re going to take that on in the public, take that on in the media, engage the school board on it. We’re going to try to engage Eli Broad. We’re going to try to engage John Deasy because we understand he’s the architect of it. It will be a major effort. It is a major concern.”

The charter expansion plans involve three major foundations that have been active for years in education reform across the country: the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the W.M. Keck Foundation. They said they intend to create enough charter schools in eight years to serve as many as half of LA Unified students.

The California Charter School Association has consistently denied that there are separate rules for charters, pointing to the fact that charters have to demonstrate academic achievement and financial stability to remain operating. Many charters do employ non-union teachers, but UTLA in recent years has succeeded in unionizing a number of them.

Caputo-Pearl’s targeting of Deasy evolves from Deasy’s association with Broad before and after he served as LA Unified’s superintendent. Before he was hired in 2011, Deasy attended the Broad Academy, which prepares senior executives for roles in urban education. He resigned as superintendent last year after problems with the iPad program, leading to a federal investigation of the bid process. Currently, he is a consultant for The Broad Center, a separate non-proft organization that helps train future education leaders.

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LAUSD launches probe into district email use for Ashley Madison

Ashley MadisonLA Unified said today its inspector general is “looking into” the possibility that nearly 100 district employees used district email addresses to contact ashleymadison.com, a website that promotes extra-marital affairs, calling itself “the most famous name in infidelity and married dating.”

The district’s legal office has sent employees a memo yesterday, reminding them that the use of district email addresses for such purposes violates district policy.

“Failure to comply with the policy may result in disciplinary action being taken,” district lawyers told employees.

The actions came in response to a report yesterday by LA School Report that the hacked list of emails from the ashleymadison.com website produced about 100 email addresses that included lausd.net. Many of the addresses were letters and numbers, but it is not uncommon for district employees to use their initials and numbers for their email addresses.

In several instances, subscribers used full names.

The involvement of the district inspector general suggests that an effort would be made to identify people who used district-based email for their Ashley Madison accounts although it remains unclear what sanctions, if any, would be imposed.

The Associated Press has reported that the complete list of Ashley Madison email addresses included nearly 50 government e-mail addresses across California, some of which have announced the start of their own internal investigations.

What’s in a name? It depends on the LA Unified school

joynerThere’s an LA Unified school named after someone who led protests against the district (Sal Castro). There’s a school named after a baseball great (Jackie Robinson), a boxer (Oscar de la Hoya ), an explorer (Richard E. Byrd), a victim of terrorism (Daniel Pearl), a jazz legend (Duke Ellington), a children’s book author (Leo Politi).

Just yesterday, the former Alliance College Ready Middle School #9 was renamed for Kory Hunter, a tireless volunteer and fundraiser for educational programs who died of brain cancer in 2013.

For dozens of well-known people, there’s an LA Unified school named in their honor, even in one case, where the honoree has a controversial past, David Wark Griffith Middle School: There’s a movement to change the name because of the director’s insensitive film “Birth of a Nation,” which canonized the Ku Klux Klan.

So what’s in a (school) name? LA School Report decided to take a closer look at the district’s 1,274 schools.

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80% of teachers say kids learn better with paper assignments

ischoolguide

By Hanna Sanchez

The Paper and Packaging Board has released a new survey that explored the use of paper by US-based educators, students, and parents, and its role in learning.

Results revealed that despite the increasing popularity of digital technology in education, majority of Americans still prefer paper-based learning.

The survey, “2015 The Annual Back-to-School Report,” revealed that 91 percent of Americans still use paper on a daily basis, and most often in the form of books. In addition, 68 percent of students – aged 13 to 17 – carry books often. Majority of college students (82 percent) also rely on paper most of the time, particularly when preparing for an exam.

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: California Latinos still trail whites in ACT scores

Latinos struggle to close gap with whites in California ACT scores
“I find it really disturbing,” said Mark Schneider, a vice president at American Institutes for Research. Los Angeles Times


Bill protecting contractors in district leaseback deals dies in committee
A bill aimed at protecting school construction contractors from financial losses if their “lease-leaseback” deals are voided by the courts appears to have died. Fresno Bee


Report: Educators seek more clarity on implementing Common Core
The lack of clear guidance about how to implement the Common Core has created “initiative fatigue” among many educators, a report found. EdSource


Ashley Madison data breach spurs investigations statewide
Ashley Madison’s parent company is offering a $378,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the hackers involved in the crimes. Contra Costa Times


Audit calls for overhaul of school Medi-Cal claims
A complex program used to reimburse schools for medical services to low-income students should be streamlined, the state auditor says. SI&A Cabinet Report


Wondering at what age you can safely let a child play with a tablet?
What effect does exposure to digital screens have on children’s health? Hechinger Report

JUST IN: Nearly 100 LAUSD email accounts tied to Ashley Madison hack

Ashley Madison

Close to 100 LA Unified email addresses were used to set up accounts at AshleyMadison.com, a website for people seeking extramarital sexual affairs, according to information that was posted online recently by hackers.

Dozens of the email accounts appear to be connected to active employees, both men and women, including principals, teachers, athletic directors, athletic coaches, administrators, cafeteria workers and at least one school police officer. Ten of the email accounts are either no longer active or fake, and 18 are connected to student email accounts.

According to media reports, Ashley Madison did not confirm users’ email accounts, making it possible to sign up using someone’s account without their knowledge. LA School Report sent an email to each active account asking why an LAUSD email address was used to sign up for Ashley Madison, and only two responded. Both denied that they had set up the account themselves, and one, an assistant principal, claimed she has been the repeated victim of identify theft over the last few years.

So far, the district has little to say about the subject, with Communications Director Shannon Haber issuing a “no comment at this time” when asked if an employee using a district email account to access the site could result in disciplinary actions.

When asked if using lausd.net emails for personal use violated district policy, LA Unified General Counsel David Holmquist said, “It depends…we have an Acceptable Use Policy that governs.”

According to the policy, which was just updated this month, and the district’s guidelines for using social media and its Code of Conduct, using district email accounts and the servers that support them to access a site like Ashley Madison appears to be in violation of several district policies. Continue reading

In LAUSD, AUP turns to RUP to comply with CIPA . . .Understand?

computer labThe AUP is becoming the RUP. “That’s to prevent unauthorized access and … to comply with CIPA, COPPA and FERPA. Furthermore, the RUP clarifies the educational purpose of District technology.”

Got it?

That’s an excerpt from a new document that parents and students were given last week for any plan of going online or using computers at LAUSD schools. While the abbreviations are spelled out elsewhere in the message, it shows the complex use of LA Unified’s obsessive and sometimes confusing use of acronyms.

In this case, it was a memo from Shahryar Khazei, the Chief Information Officer Information Technology Division for the district, issued as a new Responsible Use Policy (RUP) that will replace the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) that was required since 2002. The agreement confirms with a federal law affecting the educational use of digital media called the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

Didn’t get the memo?

Basically, it explains that LAUSD uses technology to block or filter access to “visual and written depictions that are obscene, pornographic, or harmful to minors over the network.” The district also reserves the right to “monitor users’ online activities and access, review, copy, and store or delete any communications or files and share them with adults as necessary. Users should have no expectation of privacy regarding their use of District equipment, network, and/or Internet access or files, including email.”

Students and parents are asked to initial and sign two pages, checking off boxes that they agree to not share passwords, use appropriate language, avoid harassing and discriminatory communications, avoid vandalism, follow copyright laws and “practice positive digital citizenship,” among other things.

Teachers are asked to follow a more extensive contract that includes security issues and gives links to copyright guidelines.

According to the memo, “Site administrators must annually distribute, collect, and keep on file the completed attached forms prior to authorizing access to the Internet or the District’s network.”

LASR is HTH, ICYWW. SRLSY, JSYK.

Translation: LA School Report is here to help, in case you were wondering. Seriously, just so you know.

TTYL (Talk to you later).

CA Senate passes test waiver bill, now goes to Gov. Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown

The California state Senate voted 37 to 0 yesterday to approve SB-725, which exempts 2015 seniors from passing the California High School Exit Exam, allowing them to receive their diplomas immediately.

The state Assembly passed the bill last week, 77 to 1.

The bill now goes to Governor Jerry Brown to sign into law. Because it carries an urgency measure, it would take effect immediately should the governor sign it.

The law corrects a problem created in May when the California Department of Education suspended the exam to save money, because the test itself was being phased out.

However, that left more than 5,000 seniors statewide who had planned to take the test in July unable to graduate. Of those, 492 were in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The exam was introduced in 2006 to assess whether students had grade-level competency in the state content standards for reading, writing and math. Students first took the exam in their sophomore year of high school. To graduate, they were required to pass the test by the end of their senior year.

In 2013, 95.5 percent of California passed the test by the end of their senior year.

Neighbors angry over Westwood middle school’s new grass

By CBS Los Angeles

Neighbors of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Middle School in Westwood are outraged that the school has recently installed lush, green grass – in the midst of a historic drought.

“I find this outrageous considering the Mayor of Los Angles has requested residents to remove their lawns or water as little as possible,” a KCAL9 viewer wrote in an email after the sod was laid down last week.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has defended the grass, saying the state requires the school to use real grass since it is a historic structure.

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: Teacher misconduct investigations speeding up

Marking a big turnaround managing teacher misconduct
Three years after an audit found the average misconduct case could take 22 months, state officials reported that timeline has been cut almost in half. SI&A Cabinet Report


Why some in education believe truancy deserves much more attention
It’s difficult to pinpoint the size of the challenge because every state has a different definition of truancy and chronic absenteeism. Washington Post


Oakland school district considers bid for teacher housing
The school district cited a precedent at LA Unified, which is currently building the second of three housing complexes for employees. San Francisco Business Times


Centinela Valley district bills piling up for Jose Fernandez investigation
In the latest financial hit, the district’s refusal to release public documents related to its investigation into Fernandez will cost nearly $80,000. Los Angeles Daily News


Square root of kids’ math anxiety: Their parents’ help
A common impairment with lifelong consequences turns out to be highly contagious between parent and child, a new study shows. New York Times


Two polls span two poles on testing
Standardized national tests — and the many other tests that states and districts add on top of them — have drawn controversy. NPR

LAUSD’s whooping cough vaccines at 93 percent compliance

immunizationThe anticipated thousands of 7th graders being sent home for not having their vaccinations didn’t quite happen last week, the first week of school.

LA Unified students were at 93 percent compliance, according to Ellen T. Morgan of the district communications office. That percentage “increases every day,” she said. There are about 36,000 7th graders at LA Unified.

Getting the word out to families early was key in educating the parents, although there were some glitches. Parents led a protest at the Thomas Starr King Middle School last week when their children were pulled out of class for not having their Tdap vaccine, which helps prevent whooping cough (also known as pertussis). Phone calls, letters and social media have been used to alert famlies during the summer in preparation for school.

Pertussis, a respiratory illness, is a contagious bacterial disease that can last for months but fade over time.

Starting next year, families will no longer get exemptions from immunizations due to personal beliefs, according to a bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown. Personal belief exemptions remain in effect until then.

 

 

 

Federal grant helping LA Unified spread the word about drought

TomasOGradySchoolGarden

Tomas O’Grady of Enrich LA at a school garden

LA Unified students are learning about water conservation methods needed locally because of the drought, and the effort got a big boost last week from a $50,000 federal grant.

An award from the Environmental Protection Agency is intended to support a pilot program to teach students how to conserve water. It’s part of the “One Water LA” Educational Initiative created in April 2014 through a resolution from school board president Steve Zimmer. It’s a collaborative effort that includes the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Metropolitan Water District and Los Angeles Sanitation department.

“Los Angeles is currently experiencing extreme drought conditions and it is the responsibility of educators to ensure the next generation is equipped with the necessary tools to develop solutions, not only for climate change but for other problems, or else the Earth as we know it today will cease to exist in the future,” Zimmer said.

Already, there are programs at many schools across the district. Vivian Ekchian, the area superintendent for the Northwest, said she is making it a priority to show how the school gardens can be grown in a drought-stricken climate. Students of Enadia Way Elementary School in West Hills, for example, are learning what flowers, vegetables and fruit trees they can grow in a 10,000-square-foot garden without using too much water.

Local businessman Tomas O’Grady has a nonprofit group called Enrich LA that has helped student gardens throughout LAUSD, including the transformation of a patch of unused mud in the center of Valley View Elementary School in Hollywood into a raised garden using a drip system. Teachers plant native flowers mentioned in poetry they are studying or draw from other Common Core teaching material.

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LAUSD grad, from expulsion to ‘Youth Warrior Against Poverty’

Eduardo Pacheco

Eduardo Pacheco

For most kids, getting expelled in the seventh grade for bringing a weapon to school is the beginning of a sad story, the first step into the school-to-prison pipeline.

But for Eduardo Pacheco, a recent graduate of LA Unified’s Woodrow Wilson High School, it ended up being a low point from which he slowly rose to become an inspiring student leader and recent recipient of the Marguerite Casey Foundation’s 2015 Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty award.

The $5,000 scholarship award honors 12 high students around the country for their vision, passion and dedication to improving the lives of families in their communities. Pacheco was recognized for work he did volunteering with Inner City Struggle and Brothers, Sons, Selves.

“When I heard I had won the Shriver award, I was astonished by it,” said Pacheco, who is now a freshman at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Pacheco said the money has gone toward rent and books.

Pacheco is the son of two Mexican immigrants, and his life growing up around east LA was often filled with economic struggles. In middle school he said he fell in with the wrong crowd, which is what led to his expulsion. But not long after, something happened that made him see his life and its potential in a different light: his older brother was accepted to UCLA.

“I knew I had to change my ways, it was a bad thing for me, and no good was going to be coming to my future,” he told LA School Report. ” But I saw my bother graduate and go to UCLA, one of the best schools in California and the country. I felt like he was unique because not everyone gets accepted there. It motivated me to thinking that I can maybe be unique too.”

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