LAUSD students design green park above 101 freeway in Hollywood


By Nita Lelyveld

The STEM Academy of Hollywood is perched above eight lanes of traffic on the 101 Freeway. Its classroom windows offer the high school engineers a bird’s-eye view of some of Los Angeles’ most enduring woes.

Too many cars. Too much cement. A freeway system that slices through neighborhoods, leaving them uninviting to crisscross on foot.

It’s an ideal vantage point from which to dream about how to right some of those wrongs.

This year, some juniors at the L.A. Unified campus spent time brainstorming how best to design a park built right on top of the freeway.

Click here for the full story.

Commentary: Educating Latino youth key to strong economy in CA

Sacramento Bee

By Rob Lapsley

Latinos are now the largest ethnic group in California and will continue growing. Half of all children under 18 in California are Latino.

The demographic change impacts just about every aspect of our society, none more critically than our economy. With this young and growing population, California has a consumer market and workforce rivaled only by entire nations.

The future of California’s economy will be determined by how well we educate our Latino population and develop our workforce. It’s not just a matter of preparing our workforce. We are also concerned about creating a two-tier economy, or a two-class California that will threaten our prosperity.

Click here to read the full commentary.

Morning Read: Brown’s cautious projections spark grumbling

California budget fight: Predictions more than programs
The state government’s annual fiscal blueprint is drawn not with real data but with projections about tax revenues. KQED

New commission to focus on California’s early education services
A coalition of policymakers, business and community leaders launched a new effort Thursday to “modernize” the state’s early childhood services. KPCC

National Spelling Bee ends in tie for 2nd year in a row
The bee hadn’t ended in a tie for 52 years — until last year. Now it’s happened for an unprecedented two years running. Los Angeles Daily News

Key education bills face legislative deadline
Bills that would increase funding for school transportation, career education and create new academic standards are among the proposals. SI&A Cabinet Report

The ongoing struggle of teacher retention
Getting experienced educators to work in the highest-need schools requires more than bonus pay. The Atlantic

Young Hispanics squeezed between gangs and cops in Central Valley
Young people suffer from hopelessness desperate enough to drive them to join criminal organizations run by men living in prisons hundreds of miles away. VICE

Students Matter cheers committee stall on state ‘anti-Vergara’ bill

sacramento_state_capital_houseLast month, leaders from Students Matter held a conference call to rail against several bills in the California legislature that the group deemed “anti-Vergara.”

Today the group is claiming a partial victory over Assembly Bill 753 after the Assembly Appropriations Committee voted to hold it in committee, essentially killing it for the current session. The bill would have extended tenure protection to teachers who work in small school districts and certificated employees that work in non-teaching positions.

“AB 753 flew in the face of the Superior Court ruling in Vergara and defied all logic by seeking to expand the very system the court found to be unconstitutional and harmful to California’s students and teachers,” Students Matter Policy Director Ben Austin said in a statement.

Students Matter is the group that funded Vergara v. California, in which nine students successfully sued the state and California’s two largest teacher unions over laws governing teacher employment. It’s currently under appeal, but Students Matter said that AB 753 and three other bills were unconstitutional as they ignored the Vergara ruling.


Vladovic has widest margin of victory among three board elections

Richard VladovicRichard Vladovic, who is completing his second and final term as LA Unified board president, won by the widest margin of the three board elections last week, according to a final accounting by the Los Angeles City Clerk, released today.

His margin of victory over his District 7 challenger, Lydia Gutierrez, was 12.57 percent.

In District 3, challenger Scott Schmerelson beat two-term incumbent Tamar Galatzan by 9.53 percent of the vote, and in District 5, challenger Ref Rodriguez ousted one-term incumbent Bennett Kayser by 6.69 percent.

Overall, only 8.57 of the 841,643 registered voters cast a ballot, the clerk said.




Editorial: Ethnic studies rollout an embarrassment for LAUSD


By The Times Editorial Board

It’s all too typical at the Los Angeles Unified School District: Leaders want to make a change to help the district’s students, but instead of investigating costs, options and whether the change is even achievable or desirable, the board forges ahead. Only after it has committed itself do the very foreseeable problems emerge.

The iPads-for-all project that blew up in the district’s face. The requirement that every high school student pass the full set of college-prep courses with at least a C, which has left most of its current 10th-graders unlikely to graduate unless the policy is reconsidered.

The newest example is the requirement that every student take an ethnic studies course in order to graduate, a policy scheduled to take effect in 2019 — meaning it will be imposed on the freshmen who enter high school this fall.

Click here to read the full editorial.

Morning Read: Starting sex education in kindergarten?

The case for starting sex education in kindergarten
By law, all primary school students in the Netherlands must receive some form of sexuality education. The system allows for flexibility in how it’s taught. PBS

LAUSD to pay $4.42 million in 3 Pacoima molestation lawsuits
The lawsuits alleged the district was negligent in its supervision of former teacher Paul Chapel, who was sentenced in 2012 to 25 years in prison. City News Service

Ongoing issues face new LAUSD technology chief
Shahryar Khazei succeeds Ron Chandler, the district’s last chief information officer, who resigned abruptly last year. KPCC

Bill to deter, study recycled tires in artificial turf facing critical vote
LA Unified and New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation already banning the use of recycled tires for turf. San Mateo Daily Journal

Many students in Silicon Valley community not reading by 3rd grade
In San Mateo County, 43 percent of 3rd-graders are falling behind in reading, according to standardized test scores. Ed Source

Teachers Of All Races Are More Likely To Punish Black Students
Many studies suggest that implicit bias, not white supremacist intentions on the part of individuals, plays a role at nearly every stage. Huffington Post

Musk didn’t like his kids’ elementary school so he created his own


By Maya Kosoff

Elon Musk didn’t like his kids’ school, so he started his own, the inventor and entrepreneur said in an interview on Beijing Television.

The school is called Ad Astra — which means “To the stars” — and is small and relatively secretive. It doesn’t have its own website or a social media presence.

Christina Simon, who writes about private elementary schools in Los Angeles, has done some digging around Ad Astra.

She says she’s been in contact with a mother whose child attends Musk’s school. The mother told Simon that the relatively new Ad Astra School is “very small and experimental,” and caters to a small group of children whose parents are primarily SpaceX employees.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: LAUSD sued after alleged sexual assault on campus

LAUSD sued after student allegedly sexually assaulted on campus
The lawsuit claims that the school principal said she was too busy to help when notified during the attack. ABC7

Wall Street cheers Brown’s revised May budget
A key Wall Street rating agency gave California a positive credit report last week. SI&A Cabinet Report

Can we really prepare kids for both college and career?
California is making a big investment in “linked learning.” Hechinger Report

Number of kids treated for mental health issues has risen 50% in last 20 years
The research is published in the May 21 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. iSchoolReport

7 lessons learned from a successful 1-to-1 laptop program
Last year, Savannah-Chatham County Schools launched a 1-to-1 laptop learning program that has spurred higher test scores. The Journal

As school year ends, so does Vladovic presidency; Zimmer next?

ZImmer Board Meeting March 3, 2014


The close of the school year next month also brings an end to Richard Vladovic’s second term as LA Unified board president. Rules bar him from serving a third consecutive year.

While critical issues await the new president — transformation to new technology, managing the growth of charters, dealing with new budgets, among them — nothing may be more critical than leading the search for a successor to Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who has re-upped for what is almost certain to be his final year.

Cortines was plucked out of retirement last year to replace John Deasy and end a tumultuous period within the district. In large measure, he has succeeded. But turning 83 in July, he’s not the face of LA Unified’s future.

The board that will start the next academic year is essentially a young group in terms of service, with two new members after election victories last week — Scott Schmerelson and Ref Rodriguez — and two others with two years of service or less, Mónica Ratliff and George McKenna.

Mónica García served six years as president, the longest of any board board member in 80 years, but she is barred from returning to office because board rules now limit members to four years in total as president.

That leaves Steve Zimmer, a member since 2009, as the likely favorite to replace Vladovic.

Continue reading

Report: More time, a lot more money needed for ethnic studies

Supporters of Ethnic Studies rally outside LAUSD headquarters (Credit: Twitter user @Manuel Criollo)

Supporters of Ethnic Studies rally outside LAUSD headquarters (Credit: Twitter user @Manuel Criollo)

When the LA Unified school board passed a resolution that would begin the process of making ethic studies a graduation requirement, it did so without knowing how much it would cost.

But now, after a draft report from the Ethic Studies Committee was released last week, it has some idea, and it is not chump change.

The committee estimates it will cost almost $72.7 million over four years, an amount that far exceeds the initial district estimate of $3.4 million that was tossed around at the November meeting when the resolution was voted on.

“My concern is that there’s no money attached to the resolution,” board member Mónica García said in November before she voted in favor of the resolution. “Whether it’s $3.4 million or $30 million, an action without a budget is nothing.”

As it turns out, $30 million would have been cheap. In the coming school year alone, the committee estimates the cost to be $5.75 million and ratchet up significantly over the next several years. Much of the costs could go toward new textbooks and training staff.

While many district schools already offer ethnic studies courses as electives, LA Unified became only the second district in the state after El Rancho Unified to have an ethnic studies course required for graduation.

Continue reading

Editorial: No fake classes for California’s students


By The Editorial Board

When it was revealed that students at Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles and other schools were being assigned to “classes” in which nothing was actually taught, many people wondered how this could happen. Isn’t it against the law to stick kids in fake classes and deprive them of basic educational opportunities?

In a word: Nope.

But declaring something illegal doesn’t automatically make it stop.

Click here to read the full editorial.

Minimum wage boost could decrease affordable child care

KPCC logo

By Deepa Fernandes

The higher minimum wage in the city of Los Angeles may harm the very poor families it is intended to help, according to members of the child care planning committee that advises the county.

The L.A. City Council voted Tuesday to raise the minimum wage from the current $9 an hour to $10.50 on July 1, 2016 and then in annual steps up to $15 on July 1, 2020.

City leaders proposed the increase to address California’s income inequality and its high cost of living. But there may be unintended consequences for both child care providers and the low-income earners many of them serve.

Most people in the child care field agree that preschool teachers and child care workers, among the lowest paid professions, need the higher pay. However, administrators of child care centers say they don’t receive enough money per child to cover the scheduled wage increases.

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: Demonstrators call for removal of South LA principal

Demonstrators call for removal of principal at John W. Mack Elementary 
The emotions were raw outside of John W. Mack Elementary School in South Los Angeles Thursday. ABC7

New California teaching credentials decline for 10th successive year
At the same time, the number of teachers given short-term and provisional permits, and so- called “intern” credentials, rose sharply. Ed Source

Plan unveiled to bring computer science into high schools nationwide has teamed up with The College Board. iSchoolGuide

Study: Cell phone ban linked to rise in test scores
None of the schools surveyed had cell phone bans in place in 2001, 50% had them in 2007. By 2012, 98% did not allow them on school grounds. Education News

California unveils new student score reports
For California students, it’s new standards and new tests. For their parents, it’s new score reports. Monterey Herald

Will Bernie Sanders take on K12 education issues?
As we enter the campaign for the 2016 presidential race, educators and students are looking for a candidate willing to buck some very powerful trends. Living in Dialogue

Rodriguez win a reform anomaly, AALA opens ‘me too’ negotiations

school report buzzRef Rodriguez is an anomaly not only for becoming the first candidate backed by the state charter schools to win a seat on the LA Unified board. He’s an anomaly for winning at a time of mayoral disengagement with public education.

That’s the view of Ben Austin, political director for Students Matter, the Vergara people, and founder of Parent Revolution, the trigger law people.

“The politics of education reform in Los Angeles the past two decades largely rises and falls with the politics of the sitting mayor,” he said. “When you have a reformer in a mayor like Richard Riordan and Antonio Villaraigosa, you have a stronger reform movement. When the mayor is disengaged in education, like Jim Hahn and Eric Garcetti, the movement tends to go into hibernation.”

And that’s why, he said, “the stakes are high” for Rodriguez, founder of a charter school and the antithesis of the incumbent he defeated, Bennett Kayser, UTLA’s closest ally on the board, who generally voted against charters for spooling money out of traditional public schools.

“If Ref hadn’t pulled this out, the reform movement would have gone back into political hibernation for the rest of Garcetti’s term,” Austin said. “He showed that it’s possible to win against UTLA without a reform mayor.”

LAUSD reaches deal with clerical employees

LA Unified has reached a three-year contract deal with the union that represents its clerical and office workers.

The deal with the California School Employees Association Local Chapter 500, covering 3,900 employees, includes a 2 percent salary increase in 2014-15, a 2 percent increase in 2015-16, with a living wage adjustment to $13 an hour for those who make less than $13 an hour; and a 2.5 percent in 2016-17, with a living wage adjustment to $15 an hour for those who make less than $15 an hour, according to a district press release.

“I want to thank CSEA for their professionalism and dedication to our students. This agreement continues to honor our joint commitment to serve the students in our District while at the same time respecting the rights of our employees,” Vivian Ekchian, LA Unified’s chief labor negotiator, said in a statement

The deal requires ratification by union members and the school board.

AALA to start “me too” negotiations

Speaking of union negations. . .

just because both the school board and UTLA have ratified their three-year contract agreement that includes a 10.4 percent salary raise, that doesn’t mean negotiations connected to the issue are over.

The district has several “me too” agreements with other unions that require the district to improve their contracts. The district reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA) last year that includes a “me too” clause.

In its weekly newsletter, AALA told its members that negotiations with the district would begin next week and that it expects “that AALA will receive comparable treatment, not necessarily, the same treatment as another group of employees. Therefore, AALA members will not automatically be granted what was negotiated with UTLA. We must return to the bargaining table and work out an agreement that is comparable. We anticipate that our negotiations will be complete by the end of the school year.”



‘Opt out’ of testing movement spreads across New York state

New York Times logo

By Elizabeth Harris and Ford Fessenden

It started with a speech in the fall, to parents who had gathered in the auditorium to learn what to expect during the nascent school year.

“I spoke at the open house and said, ‘We hope you’ll opt out of the tests,’ ” said Heather Roberts, vice president of the Bennett Intermediate School parent teacher association. Last year, 92 percent of eligible students in the Catskill Mountains district that includes Boiceville took their standardized English tests. “Jaws dropped.”

Soon there were forums, T-shirts with snappy slogans and fliers translated into Spanish. During pickups and play dates, in classrooms and at lunch, parents and students would ask one another: “Are you opting out?”

By the first day of testing in April, two of every three students in the district who were expected to take the exams were refusing to lift their pencils.

Across New York State, a small if vocal movement urging a rejection of standardized exams took off this year, maturing from scattered displays of disobedience into a widespread rebuke of state testing policies.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: Charters get a seat at LAUSD board table

L.A. school board seat is a pivotal win for charter school movement
The win gives the district’s 211 charter schools a key ally they never had before. Los Angeles Times

L.A. School Board wins/losss are like mirror images
Rarely do voters demand change while simultaneously reaffirming the status quo, but that’s exactly what happened in the May 19 LAUSD elections. Jewish Journal

Budget proposal is mixed for foster students
Although advocates for foster youth say they are disappointed that Gov. Brown did not increase funds to expand Foster Youth Services. Ed Source

Panel backs fee hike for teacher misconduct backlog
The Commission on Teacher Credentialing processes some 5,500 complaints each year about the actions of teachers and principals. SI&A Cabinet Report

It is Head Start’s 50th anniversary
The program was meant to attack poverty at its roots by helping to give disadvantaged kids some of same educational opportunities as affluent ones. Huffington Post

Editorial: Back to work at L.A. Unified
Voters — few though they were — sent some strong messages to the Los Angeles Unified school board Tuesday. Los Angeles Times

Morning Read: CA ready to send out Common Core report cards

CA readies new student report cards on Common Core testing
State officials say they are moving forward with the new student report cards despite potential conflicts with the No Child Left Behind Act. SI&A Cabinet Report

San Pedro mother claims school police officer used excessive force on son
Andres Munoz, 11, said his wrist injury came as a result of being handcuffed by a school police officer. ABC7

School districts struggling to get reserves cap repealed
Last week, on a party-line vote, the majority Democrats on the Assembly Education Committee rejected Assembly Bill 1048. Ed Source

Girls via online petition stand up against ‘sexist’ school dress code
Students from New York to California have lodged similar protests against dress codes, which include bans on tight-fitting clothes. San Jose Mercury News

A vow to veto a schools bill in Minnesota
Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, had advocated universal prekindergarten for the state’s 4-year-olds. New York Times

Mobile program reaches students to help fill gaps in arts education
As arts programs have been cut back in some districts, nonprofits and community groups have stepped in to fill the gap in school arts education. KPCC