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.



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

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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

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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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

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, 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 website produced about 100 email addresses that included 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.

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

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

Hey, what about the smart kids? Schools may be neglecting them


By Anya Kamenetz

Chester E. Finn, Jr. has three very bright granddaughters. He thinks they “have considerable academic potential and are not always being challenged by their schools.” But Finn is not just a proud grandpa; he’s a long-established expert on education policy with the Fordham Institute and Hoover Institution.

So its not surprising that his grandkids got him wondering about — and researching — a big question: How well is the U.S. doing educating its top performers?

His answer: Not very. “High achievers are being neglected in all sort of ways by schools that had no incentive to push them farther up.”

His research became a book, with co-author Brandon Wright, out next month from Harvard University Press. It’s titled Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students. It contains an analysis of the U.S. issue, plus case studies on gifted education from a dozen countries around the world.

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: CA lawmakers seeking mandatory Kindergarten

It’s true: Kindergarten is optional in California
Educators and state lawmakers who want to close this achievement gap say it’s time to do away with optional kindergarten for California children. Los Angeles Times

Raising graduation bar poses challenges for school districts
More than 65,000 LAUSD students were funneled into summer school this year because they were behind on credits. EdSource

LAUSD reaches settlement in music teacher sex abuse case
At least four former students, who were not identified, accused Vance Miller of having sex with them while they attended the high school. Los Angeles Times

Irvine police flub active shooter drill at elementary school
No shots were fired, but parents said they were concerned at the apparent lack of coordination at the police department. CBS Los Angeles

U.S. schools are too focused on standardized tests, poll says
The results released Sunday come from the 47th annual PDK/Gallup poll of attitudes toward public schools. Washington Post

New twist on accountability: focus on existing reports
State officials appear to be focused on using a number of existing academic and fiscal reports to help explain how well schools doing. SI&A Cabinet Report

Californians having hard time getting accepted to UC colleges


By Matt Krupnick

They were once the envy of the world for the access they offered to high-quality education for all students at a low price. But California’s public colleges and universities delivered something different to Andrew Hotchkiss when he applied for admission two years ago: a punch to the gut.

Hotchkiss, now 21 and from Fontana, Calif., was snubbed by the selective Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego campuses of the public University of California system, but never expected California State University at Long Beach to turn him down too. After all, any California resident who is eligible for a UC campus, which Hotchkiss was, is all but guaranteed entry to the Cal State system.

For years, it was a safety net of sorts. That’s no longer true.

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: Housing project for LAUSD employees opens

Public officials celebrate affordable housing milestone in Hollywood
The project will house school district employees and families earning 30 to 60 percent of the area’s median income. City News Service

A request for the new LAUSD superintendent: Ask our kids what they need
Two moms and their children talked about what they would like the LA Unified school board to consider as it searches for a new superintendent. Los Angeles Times

Common Core yet to emerge as major issue in presidential campaign
EdSource plans to track the Common Core’s role in the 2016 presidential campaign. The following is the first of our occasional reports. EdSource

New York schools with many students who skipped tests won’t lose money
For months, state and federal officials warned that districts that fell below a 95 percent participation rate might lose federal funds. New York Times

How will Pearson spend $2 billion more on education?
Pearson was already the biggest education company in the world. Now its education business is getting even bigger. NPR

8-year-old’s 3D-printed smartwatch a vision of the future of STEM
A young maker’s contribution to the movement shines a light on how 3D printing can revolutionize education. Ed Tech Magazine

How many students at LAUSD, exactly?, ‘Crying kid’ goes viral

school report buzz LAUSDMajor news outlets in the Los Angeles area did a “Los Angeles Unified heads back to school” story this week. But there was no unanimity among them on the number of students the district serves.

Three local television stations — NBC, ABC and CBS — all pegged the number at roughly 550,000, likely ignoring students enrolled at district charter schools. The Los Angeles Times said 650,000, as did City News Service. KPCC said the district has “over 600,00 students.”

So just how many students are there, anyway?

The district’s annual “fingertip facts,” which reflects the most recent data available, put the K-12 enrollment at 643,483, a number determined from the 2014-2015 school year, broken down to 101,060 at charters and 542,433 at traditional schools.

The number for this year will be set on “norm day,” usually the fifth Friday of the school year, which would make it Sept. 18. The number of students enrolled on that day represents the enrollment for the year, and if the district’s recent predictions are accurate, it will be 3 percent fewer than last year.

Everybody got that?

Crying kid goes viral 

The “crying kid” story made the rounds yesterday, including into our Morning Read. It focused on an LAUSD preschooler named Andrew, being interviewed by a reporter before he broke down and cried. It was viewed 7.6 million times through yesterday, making him a bona fide viral sensation.

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Lawsuit against Compton schools exams impact of area trauma


By Corey Turner

The defendants may be one southern California school district and its top officials, but an unprecedented, class action lawsuit could have a big impact on schools across the country.

Today in Los Angeles, a U.S. District Court judge will preside over the first hearing in the suit against the Compton Unified School District. To understand the complaint, you need to understand Compton.

The city, located just south of L.A., has long had a violent reputation. Last year, its murder rate was more than five times the national average. Now, a handful of students say they’ve been traumatized by life in Compton and that the schools there have failed to give them the help they deserve.

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: Parents protest after unvaccinated kids sent home

Angry parents protest after LAUSD send unvaccinated kids home
As many as 100 students were removed from their classrooms and told to call their parents, according to protesters. ABC7

Getting to the ‘why’ of discipline disparities
What happened at a rural high school was, according to a new guide to school discipline, the starting point for change. EdSource

GOP presidential hopefuls tested on education issues at N.H. forum
The candidates detailed their plans to improve America’s public schools, which many of them described as being in crisis. Washington Post

New bill would protect school contractors’ payments
The legislation is aimed at counteracting the impacts of a state appellate court decision in June. Sacramento Bee

Poll: Americans want more government spending on farm-to-school programs
Research suggests that the more kids know about what they are putting on their plate, the better they will eat. iSchoolGuide

How Bill and Melinda Gates want to transform teaching
Bill and Melinda are posting a series of blog entries in which they ponder the ways education could be transformed by technology. Yahoo