UTLA making clear to LAUSD board what it wants in next superintendent

UTLAAn open and transparent search, background as an educator and under no circumstances someone from the Broad Academy. Those are the three major criteria that UTLA wants in the next LAUSD school superintendent.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the president of the United Teachers Los Angeles union, told the LA School Report that he has made it known to the school board the kind of superintendent teachers want in a successor to Ramon Cortines.

“So far we have been advocating these three issues,” he said. “We want the process to be transparent and open and understandable. It can’t be a move from the corner office to the front office like John Deasy was last time around and without a process. That didn’t work out well.”

The search process is now underway, with the board set to pick an executive search firm on Sunday. There’s a deadline to the extent that Cortines says he want to step down by December. At the outside, the board wants a successor in place before the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

Once the finalists are chosen, Caputo-Pearl is advocating public meetings where educators, parents and the community can ask the candidates questions and voice concerns. “We need to see how they get to engage with folks,” he said.

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Activists hope to repeal Charter Schools Act through ballot initiative

anti-charter petitionWhether charter schools in California have been a godsend or a destroyer of worlds depends upon whom you ask and where you are standing when you ask it.

But now a group of activists hope to end the debate altogether by getting an initiative on the 2016 ballot to repeal the Charter School Act of 1992, the law that authorized charters to open in California.

As a beginning of the effort, the group, which calls itself “Voices Against Privatising Public Education,” has started an online petition and Facebook group, but they are going to need to gather a lot more momentum to accomplish the Herculean task. Through early today, the online petition has 808 signatures — well short of the 357,000 on-paper signatures needed to get the issue before voters.

The online petition says it is an effort to “build support, get contact information because once we file the proposed initiative, a clock starts ticking, and we only have 150 days to gather actual signatures. All the signatures must qualify 131 days prior to a statewide election.”

Leaders behind the petition are Nina Deerfield, publisher of the progressive San Diego-based newspaper Alianza North County; attorney Kathleen Carroll and Steve Zeltzer, an activist and founder of the Labor Video Project. Deerfield declined a request for an interview, and Carroll did not return a message seeking comment.

The petition does not mince words, throwing out many common accusations at the charter school industry, which it says “cherry pick students, falsify records, commit enrollment fraud, close down community schools, destroy jobs, bust up unions and segregate students.”

Should the petition gain momentum, it would be watched closely within LA Unified, which has over 101,000 charter school students, more than any in the nation. LA Unified also received news recently that a number of high-powered charter school backers like Eli Broad are crafting a plan to begin a dramatic expansion of the number of charters in the district.



In a Sunday ‘retreat,’ LAUSD picking firm to find next superintendent

superintendent searchThe LA Unified board is going to the end of the earth, or close to it, to accelerate the search for the district’s next superintendent.

The seven board members are gathering at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Point Fermin Outdoor Education Center in San Pedro, about a quarter mile from the Pacific Ocean, for a retreat that board President Steve Zimmer had intended to hold earlier this month but couldn’t because of members’ travel plans.

So it was finally scheduled on a day all could attend, even through it precedes by only a few days the September board meeting, planned for Tuesday in the usual place, the district’s downtown headquarters.

The Sunday retreat differs from a regular board meeting in two ways: One, it’s less formal, which means members might show up in shorts and t-shirts and certainly without ties. And, two, only one item is on the open session agenda: a decision on which of five executive search firms will win a $250,000 contract to find the district’s next leader.

“The Sunday meeting will give board members the opportunity to spend important time together to make sure we all understand each step in the process that lies ahead of us,” Zimmer told LA School Report. “It has been almost a decade since LAUSD conducted a national search for our superintendent. We all know that this is a pivotal moment for public education and the collaborative equity mission of this district.  And that the eyes of the nation are upon us.”

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3 PUC Schools moving to a new 7.5-acre campus in Sylmar

PUC Triumph Charter Academy Three PUC Schools are scheduled to open tomorrow with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a new campus in Sylmar. Newly-elected school board member Ref Rodriguez, who co-founded the PUC Schools, will have a courtyard named after him.

The 7.5-acre campus will accommodate PUC Triumph Charter Academy for grades 6 through 8 and two high schools — PUC Triumph Charter High School and PUC Lakeview Charter High School. The campus also includes facilities that all three schools will share, including a state-of-the-art gym, a soccer field, regulation basketball courts, baseball/softball diamond, science labs, a theater and dance room.

The thee schools had been operating at different sites before now.

The $26 million campus is expected to reach the full capacity of 1,250 students by next school year. Currently, 250 students are on the waiting list to attend one of the three schools, which were financed through a bond and $600,000 from the Ahmanson and Weingart foundations.

PUC –Partnerships to Uplift Communities — operates 12 PUC public charter schools that provide college prep educational programs in densely-populated urban communities with low-achieving schools in northeast Los Angeles and the northeast San Fernando Valley. There group also runs one school in Rochester, NY.

California sets Sept. 9 for release of Common Core test results

common-core-standards-The California Department of Education has set Sept. 9 as the probable date for releasing the results of the new statewide Common Core-aligned tests that were administered in the spring.

The tests, called Smarter Balanced Assessments, were given to 3.2 million students in grades 3 to 8 and 11.

The new tests will be used as part of a new statewide accountability system still in the works. However, the full results, which can be broken down by state, district and school, will be released online, and parents and guardians of students will be able to see their child’s individual scores.

LA Unified officials have already seen the results for the district and have  begun preparing parents and the public for some low proficiency results. Education officials across the state have repeatedly stressed that lower scores were expected the first time around, because they were conducted online and based on the new Common Core curriculum.

The Department of Education’s website has prepared guidelines for parents on how to read and understand their child’s scores.

Cynthia Lim, Executive Director of the Office of Data and Accountabilty for LA Unified, sent a letter to the school board and Superintendent Ramon Cortines last week, warning that the “percentage of students who will have ‘met or exceeded standards’ on the new tests will be lower than the proficiency rates we have seen with the old California Standards Tests.”



In defense of Common Core as a means for deeper understanding

New York Times logo

By Natalie Wexler

Standardized tests are commonly blamed for narrowing the school curriculum to reading and math. That’s one reason Congress is considering changes in the law that could lead states to put less emphasis on test scores. But even if we abolished standardized tests tomorrow, a majority of elementary schools would continue to pay scant attention to subjects like history and science.

Consider this: In 1977, 25 years before No Child Left Behind ushered in the era of high-stakes testing, elementary school teachers spent only about 50 minutes a day on science and social studies combined. True, in 2012, they spent even less time on those subjects — but only by about 10 minutes.

While critics blame the Common Core for further narrowing curriculums, the authors of the standards actually saw them as a tool to counteract that trend.

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: Voters unfamiliar with Local Control Funding Formula

Most voters haven’t heard of Local Control Funding Formula
Two-thirds of those surveyed said they had never heard anything about the Local Control Funding Formula. EdSource

Dan Walters: Poor kids’ school aid diverted
Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union surveyed the “local control accountability plans” of 40 large districts and found them wanting. Sacramento Bee

CDC gives schools good grades for nutrition
Federal authorities give American schools good grades for improving the nutritional quality of food served, but there’s still room for improvement. Los Angeles Times

2015 Superintendent of the Year: High-stakes testing is ‘fool’s gold’ 
Philip D. Lanoue is the superintendent of the 13,000-student Clarke County School District in Georgia, the most impoverished county in the state. Washington Post

How schools are handling an ‘overparenting’ crisis
Two new books make strikingly similar claims about today’s youth and their parents. NPR

Hunger strike over future of Chicago school enters its 11th day
Parents, teachers and activists are fighting to defend a high school the Chicago Public School Board voted to close several years ago. NPR

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?


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


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


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