Cortines approves next phase of LAUSD iPad program

LAUSD Superintedent Ray Cortines

LAUSD Superintedent Ray Cortines

Let the iPads roll. Again.

LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines today approved moving ahead with the next phase of the district’s iPad program, officially known as Phase 2B of the Common Core Technology Project.

It’s actually, iPads et. al.

The goal with this action is to complete the second round of buying digital devices by equipping teachers and students at an additional 27 schools with learning devices. That brings the total to 85 district schools with iPads or, in the case of the Phase 2B buy, other digital devices, such as Chromebooks.

The total reflects 47 schools receiving iPads in Phase 1 and 11 in Phase 2A, which was halted by former Superintendent John Deasy after questions arose about the procurement process.

The cost to date: $114 million, which covers devices, keyboards, charging carts, testing devices, and the laptop pilot program for 21 high schools.

In this latest phase announced today, each school will have the option of buying devices that the principal and teachers deem best for their students. And the district intends to sustain that approach going forward.

District officials said they expect this latest round of devices to reach students by February.

“Our students deserve the best tools available to meet the requirements to be successful in the 21st century workforce,” Cortines said in a statement. “Without the appropriate tools, they will be disadvantaged compared to their peers across the entire nation. We also need to keep the dialogue open with our schools. We want Phase 2B to provide more options than previous phases so that our students are fully utilizing the most appropriate and current devices available.”

Unlike iPads being purchased under a new request of $13.3 million from the Bond Oversight Committee for computerized testing at the end of the academic year, the Phase 2B devices will be loaded with instructional software.

The list of schools scheduled to receive new devices is here.

Just In: LAUSD settles Miramonte civil cases for $139 million

LA UnifiedThe Los Angeles Unified School District has just announced a settlement today in civil cases stemming from the actions of a former teacher at Miramonte Elementary School. The school district resolved the remaining Miramonte litigation at issue for a total of $139,250,000.

“There is nothing more important to us than the safety of the students we serve,” said Superintendent Ramon Cortines. “Our goal from the outset of these appalling revelations has been to spare the Miramonte community the anguish of a protracted trial, while at the same time being mindful of the financial consequences stemming from settlements. Given these circumstances, we believe we struck a balance between those objectives.”

Check back with LA School Report later for more details.

Morning Read: South LA ‘Promise Zone’ application submitted

Coalition submits application for South L.A ‘Promise Zone’ designation
A coalition led by Los Angeles Trade-Technical College finalized an application Thursday seeking to make South Los Angeles a “Promise Zone.” City News Service

Chino Valley Unified target of suit over prayer at board meetings
A local school district is the target of a lawsuit that claims prayer during board meetings violates the First Amendment. CBS Los Angeles

How many K-12 students are illegal immigrants?
How many illegal immigrants are attending K-12 schools in the United States? Washington Post

Federal funds reauthorized to provide child care for low-income families
More federal funds are in the pipeline to help low-income families following President Obama’s signing of the Child Care Development Block Grant reauthorization. KPCC

Is school reform progressive?
At its core, to be “progressive” is to fight for the little guy against powerful forces of self-interest. The Hechinger Report

Commentary: Cheers for LAUSD’s sub teacher appreciation day


Via The Huffington Post | By David Lyell

In my 13 years of teaching at over 100 schools within LAUSD, K-12, regular and special education, students have asked me this question more times than I care to remember.

While some question the commitment and contribution of substitute teachers, the tired cliche of a Substitute Teacher reading the newspaper and drinking coffee while students hang from the ceiling is just that. The Substitute Teachers I know take the job seriously, and recognize the impact we have on students’ lives. According to some estimates, students spend an equivalent of one year with a Substitute Teacher in the course of a K-12 education: (Albuquerque Public Schools).

So it’s heartening to see substitute teachers recognized in a resolution proposed by LAUSD Board Member Monica Ratliff and adopted at the November 18, 2014 LAUSD School Board Meeting declaring November 21, 2014 Substitute Educators Appreciation Day.

Click here to read the full story.

Viramontes criticized, Common Core confusion, 5K Challenge

school report buzz

Earlier this month, Arnold Viramontes, an outside expert hired by former superintendent John Deasy, issued a report to LA Unified that was a scathing indictment of the new MiSiS system, finding that “red conditions” arose early and should have signified “No Go.”

This week, in it’s weekly newsletter, the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA) expressed disappointment with Viramontes’ homework, with a suggestion that he has been copying off AALA’s earlier assessments.

The newsletter reads:

What we do find disconcerting, however, is that Viramontes, who was hired by former Superintendent Deasy and who has a contract with the District through February 2015, actually comes up with little new information and regurgitates much of what we have previously written, albeit using more organizational management semantics. For example, “The Help Desk had not been tiered to handle the call load or have the level of expertise needed.” Hmmm…we said that last spring. Also, “There appeared to be a significant lack of input from the community of personnel that would eventually use the applications.” Gee, didn’t we say that too? In fact, for AALA members and those on the MiSiS Committee, there is really little new information in the seven-page report.”

Following the Board

LA Unified board meetings have always been interminably long. Now, they’re growing interminably disjointed. Take this week’s meeting on Tuesday, for example.

The members met in five different settings: open session, closed session, open session, closed session, open session. The festivities began at 10 a.m., rather sometime after 10 am because they never start on time, and they concluded at 8:30 p.m.

That’s bad enough. But the open sessions have devolved into a spaghetti plate of disorder. Simply following the agenda as written is futile.

Continue reading

Morning Read: LAUSD spending $22 million for more iPads

iPad contract resurrected: LAUSD to spend $22 million on tech
LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines is planning to spend $22 million in bond money to buy more than 20,000 iPads for standardized tests in the spring. KPCC

Obama’s immigration plan will affect students of undocumented parents
President Barack Obama will announce on Thursday night his plan for executive action on immigration. The Huffington Post

Stock market surge gives big boost to school revenues
The state’s minimum funding guarantee to schools would grow from $63.2 billion in 2014-15 to $74.5 billion by 2019-20 under a revenue forecast. S&I Cabinet Report

Inglewood teachers lash out at schools chief for insensitive remarks
Inglewood Unified School District teachers, staff, and parents blasted schools trustee Don Brann Wednesday night following his remarks that he felt unsafe in the city. KPCC

Obama: U.S. needs to bring schools into 21st century
President Obama called on local school officials Wednesday to help meet his goal of bringing high-speed Internet to virtually every American student. The Huffington Post

Jury selection, settlement talks ongoing in Miramonte case

Miramonte Elementary SchoolJury selection resumed today in the Miramonte Elementary School sex-abuse civil case against LA Unified while settlement proceed but not yet with any results.

The district school board met in a closed session yesterday reportedly to discuss a settlement offer that was made by the plaintiffs, who are former students and parents at Miramonte suing the district over the actions of former teach Mark Berndt, who is now in prison.

With no settlement reached, about 75 prospective jurors were brought in Tuesday, with roughly two dozen advancing in the selection process, according to the Long Beach-Telegram.

Attorney Brian Claypool, who represents three plaintiffs, told ABC7 that a settlement offer had been made and that they were waiting to hear back from the district. He also said he believed the district had been dragging its feet on the case.

“We’re forging ahead, we’re moving forward with the trial, we’re not going to be side-tracked anymore,” Claypool told ABC7. “There’s not going to be any more detours in this case because we feel like that’s what this was.”

LA Unified has already settled 65 claims for about $30 million in civil cases related to Berndt, and there are dozens of other plaintiffs waiting to go to trial.

Previous stories: Jury selection, settlement hearing to begin in Miramonte civil trialFirst Miramonte civil trial scheduled to begin on Wednesday


Cortines tells LA Unified board MiSiS fix needs another year

Ray Cortines Oct 21, 2014LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines told the school board today that the beleaguered MiSiS program will need at least another year of remediation before it functions properly.

“The MiSiS project isn’t going to be a quick fix,” he said, as if that came as much of a surprise. “It’s estimated that it will take a minimum of a year to fix it.”

Cortines said he has taken steps to expedite work on the issues, including bringing in a squad of experts from Microsoft and dozens of retirees to help out in schools. He also said he would make efforts to seek help from “all who use it,” such as teachers and administrators.

The MiSiS program, a student data tracking system rolled out this year with considerable difficulty, has resulted in students placed in the wrong classes or no classes at all. It has also morphed into a big issue with the teachers union, UTLA, whose president, Alex Caputo-Pearl, blasted it in remarks before the board, calling it one of former Superintendent John Deasy‘s “autocratic decisions.”

Caputo-Pearl said MiSiS was “looking sexy but hurting students.”

Morning Read: Study shows high-poverty schools lose learning time

California students in high-poverty schools lose learning time, study says
California high schools with high-poverty students lose nearly two weeks of learning time, according to a new UCLA study. Los Angeles Times

How strict is too strict?
Hundreds of schools have embraced an uncompromisingly stern approach to educating low-income students of color. The Atlantic

Plaintiff attorney in Vergara in Twin Cities to talk about teacher tenure
Could Minnesota – a state lawmakers routinely skirmish over the issue of teacher tenure – be a state to see a case similar to Vergara? Star Tribune

Number of homeless children increases in Southern California
The number of homeless children across the Golden State rose last year according to results of a national report released Monday. Los Angeles Daily News

Work starts on school performance measures
Work has begun in earnest on a new system for measuring school performance. S&I Cabinet Report

LA Unified guaranteeing teachers the pay raise already offered

teachers union raise salary UTLA Contract Negotiations LA UnifiedLA Unified said today it has altered its salary offer to teachers by eliminating any contingency on a package that includes raises of 2 percent for this year, 2 percent for next year and 2.5 percent for the year after that.

The district’s previous offer to the union, UTLA, had been with the same percentage increases, provided funds were available.

“The removal of this language is very significant,” Vivian Ekchian, the District’s chief labor negotiator, said in a statement. “It assures our teachers of the District’s long-term commitment to providing them with the compensation they deserve, in addition to sustaining a robust health benefits package for them and their family members.”

The district is still including a 2 percent lump sum payout for last year.

In negotiations last week, the district said subjects discussed covered a range of subjects, including teacher evaluation, student discipline, grievance procedures, teacher transfers, small-learning communities, campus safety, shared-decision making, school-based management and the student records system known as MISIS.

Neither side has reported any agreement on anything.

Jury selection, settlement hearing to begin in Miramonte civil trial

miramonteJury selection is scheduled to begin today in the civil case stemming from the sex abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary School by former teacher Mark Berndt.

Also set for today is a settlement hearing, which was scheduled by the judge in an effort to settle the case before it goes to trial.

Assuming no settlement arises out of today’s hearing, opening statements at trial are expected in early December.

Berndt plead no contest last year to 23 counts of lewd conduct on a child between 2005 and 2010 in a case that made nationwide headlines. Berndt is currently serving a 25-year sentence in prison for crimes that included feeding students cookies containing his bodily fluids. 

LA Unified has already settled 65 claims for about $30 million in civil cases related to Berndt, and there are dozens of other plaintiffs waiting to go to trial. The case heading into jury selection today involves 16 former Miramonte students and 27 parents who plan to argue that the district knew Berndt was a danger to students but kept him in the classroom, according to the Los Angeles Times

The district had asked for a gag order which would prevent any attorneys involved from talking publicly about trial details, but the Superior Court judge in charge of the case dismissed the motion on Friday, according to the Los Angeles Times.


Commentary: More study needed on LAUSD ethnic studies


By Tamar Galatzan | Via Los Angeles Daily News

At first glance, the proposal to increase the number of ethnic studies classes in Los Angeles Unified schools sounds like a good idea. After all, students would undoubtedly benefit from a deeper understanding of their neighbors and themselves.

However, the resolution scheduled for a school board vote on Tuesday would also make Los Angeles Unified only the second district in the state — after tiny El Rancho Unified in Pico Rivera — to require ethnic studies for high school graduation. While this would be a big deal for students, the district has yet to study its impact on schedules, hiring or even its always-precarious finances.

Two years ago, the school board reduced the number of credits needed to graduate to 210, a change that ramped up the difficulty of academic courses and slashed the number of electives. With 150 credits now required for academic courses, 20 credits for physical education and five credits for health, there’s room in a typical schedule for just a handful of electives — the kinds of classes that many kids say are the main reason they stay in school.

Read the full commentary here.

Morning Read: LAUSD board to consider $22.4 million repair bill

LAUSD eyeing more bonds as funds for school repairs dwindle
The school board is scheduled to consider a $22.4 million request to address repairs needed at seven schools. KPCC

Residents Wary of Plans to Convert Old Elementary Schools
Plans to redevelop four Valley elementary school campuses and reopen them as charter schools have received mixed reactions. Post Periodical

Parents lie on school survey to identify as English speakers
California education officials say it’s tough to know how many parents lie on the home language survey. Fox News Latino

New LAUSD chief Ramon Cortines prioritizes school maintenance
LA Unified faces a half-a-billion-dollar price tag for critical maintenance and a backlog of 48,000 requests for repairs. Los Angeles Daily News

Educator says he was left in ‘teacher jail’
Steven J. Lang sued LA Unified this week, seeking punitive damages and costs for civil rights violations. Courthouse News Service

LA groups model of community engagement
Under the Local Control Funding Formula, districts and schools are expected to involve local communities in determining how to spend their funds. Ed Source

LAUSD report says nearly 5,000 students affected by MiSiS issues

MiSiSThe outside consultant hired by LA Unified to help fix the district’s new data tracking system is reporting that, through yesterday, nearly 5,000 students had been affected by flaws in the MiSiS computer system.

In a breakdown the district released today, the Viramontes Group found that 2,580 students were without schedules, 1,251 had duplicate IDs and another 1,136 were missing their district IDs — for a total of 4,967 students suffering issues linked to the system.

In addition, the report identified 229 “programming bugs” through Nov. 10, a list of problems affecting more than two dozen categories of data, such as attendance, grade books, state reporting and transcripts.

The seven page report also includes a section of “observations,” which lists problems found, steps taken to eliminate them and further work that needs to be done.

The report lists 30 issues to be dealt with, 29 of which require additional work.

UTLA adds to contract demands in latest talks with LA Unified

teachers union raise salary UTLA Contract NegotiationsLA Unified and the teachers union, UTLA, met in another bargaining session today, but from the union’s perspective, not much happened to draw the sides closer.

The union announced late this afternoon that it was “rounding out” its list of demands, to include supports for displaced educators, improved UTLA representation for substitute educators facing termination, clean and safe schools, improved grievance procedures to deal with unfair treatment by principals and increased school-based decision-making regarding Breakfast in the Classroom.

As far as salary increases, nothing’s changed. The district is sticking to its offer of 2 percent; the union wants 10 percent.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for December 4.

LA Unified under fire for saying girl consented to sex with teacher

Los Angeles Times logo

By Teresa Watanabe | Via The Los Angeles Times

L.A. Unified officials are coming under fire for allowing their attorneys to argue that a 14-year-old student was mature enough to consent to sex with her middle school math teacher.

The arguments were made in a civil case that was filed last year by the student, who was seeking financial compensation from the district. She said she suffered emotional trauma from a five-month sexual relationship nearly four years ago with her teacher at Edison Middle School in Los Angeles.

District officials, defending their legal strategy Thursday, said they needed to rebut the student’s claim with evidence that she was a willing participant who had a prior history of sexual activity.

Click here to read the full story here.

Morning Read: State school groups want to postpone API scores

School groups ask to delay API scores
Organizations representing school administrators and school boards say that many districts aren’t ready to appraise schools’ performance with API scores. Ed Source

Universal Studios Hollywood holds 10th annual ‘Day Of Giving’ event
Universal Studios played host to 250 young homeless students who were bused in from over 30 LAUSD elementary and middle schools. CBS Los Angeles

Education secretary checks in on Common Core
Education Secretary Arne Duncan toured a school in San Diego on Thursday to get a firsthand look at the new Common Core academic standards. U-T San Diego

District LCAPs must include student input
Districts must seek student input in developing their Local Control and Accountability Plans under regulations being considered by the State Board of Education. Ed Source

How an El Sereno charter won the right to teach in an indigenous language
Anahuacalmecac International Preparatory High School has been teaching teenagers about their indigenous roots and culture for five years. KPCC

Magazine ranks Los Angeles School Police Department No. 1

(Credit: LASPD)

(Credit: LASPD)

The Los Angeles School Police Department (LASPD) has been named No. 1 in Security magazine’s rankings of the K-12 education sector for the fifth straight year.

The magazine analyzed key factors such as active shooter training, asset and theft protection and cyber security in assessing the security forces around the nation’s schools.

“This honor could not have been achieved without the incredible work of the men and women of the LASPD and the unwavering support of the Office of School Operations and all our LAUSD partners,” LASPD Chief Steve Zipperman said in a statement.

The LASPD is the largest independent school police department in the United States, with over 350 police officers, 126 school safety officers and 34 civilian support staff that protect 1,300 schools and buildings over 710 square miles, according to the LASPD. It is also the fifth largest police department in Los Angeles County and the 14th largest in California.

“Congratulations to LASPD officers and staff for this richly-deserved distinction,” Superintendent Ramon Cortines said in a statement. “The department works tremendously hard every day to provide safety and security to the students of the nation’s second-largest school district.”



Commentary: Saving teachers from burning out, dropping out


Via The Hechinger Report | By Jonas Chartock and Ross Wiener 

An abundance of recent books, research and headlines present growing evidence that our nation’s schools can and must do a better job of preparing teachers for the experiences they’ll face in the classroom. They show that if educators really knew how to address the challenges of teaching in high poverty areas, they would increase their impact and make a longer career out of teaching.

Certainly, better preparation is a crucial element to solving our teacher quality and retention issues, but it’s only half the challenge. The other is keeping those who become truly great teachers engaged and effective as they settle in to their careers.

For too long, teachers have had one of two career paths—stay in the classroom earning seniority and incremental pay increases or enter an administrative track and become a principal. This sort of flat profession wouldn’t work in most other sectors, and with half of teachers leaving their jobs within the first five years, it’s not working in education either.

Read the full commentary here.

Morning Read: LAUSD says girl consented to sex with teacher

LAUSD argued middle schooler can consent to sex with teacher
LAUSD lawyers fighting a civil lawsuit argued in court that a 14-year-old student was mature enough to consent to having sex with her 28-year-old teacher. KPCC

The most common gripes about Teach for America by ranking
The names and players change, but many of the same education themes we’re debating today are reruns. Voice of San Diego

Playing high-action video games may speed up learning, studies say
New evidence suggests playing high-action video games may help students learn and react faster—but not more impulsively. Education Week

LA Unified’s unpaid retail jobs for high school credits draw criticism
A training program that allows Los Angeles high school students to work without pay for class credit at large commercial chains is coming under some scrutiny. KPCC

Opinion: The public-school calendar that stole Christmas
A school board voted this week to eliminate references to religious holidays from its published calendar. Los Angeles Times