Morning Read: California attorney general calls for improvements in student attendance reporting, especially in early grades

California attorney general calls for state actions to improve student attendance 

California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Wednesday called for the California Department of Education to take over a job that her office has done for the past four years: release an annual data analysis on chronic student absenteeism. The request came as part of a 10-point call for action included in her office’s latest attendance report, In School + On Track 2016. Harris said that, beginning as early as preschool, chronic absenteeism has emerged as an indicator of whether students will be able to read at grade level in 3rd grade. That, in turn, is a predictor of graduating from high school, obtaining employment, paying taxes and staying out of prison. The report found that in 2015-16 about 7 percent of K-5 students were chronically absent, which is defined as missing more than 10 percent of school days. By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource

Morning Read: Not one teacher lives in LAUSD’s affordable housing units built for them

LAUSD teachers earn too much to live in the affordable housing apartments built for them 

In the mid-2000s, in the midst of a housing boom, the Los Angeles Unified School District realized that skyrocketing rents were fueling teacher turnover. Nearly half of all new teachers in some neighborhoods were leaving the district after three years. L.A. Unified was pouring millions of dollars into training new hires, only to watch them pick up and go. Two below-market apartment complexes were built on unused district land and a third is under construction. Today, both are fully occupied. But not one L.A. Unified teacher lives in them. That fact alone doesn’t mean L.A. Unified’s affordable housing experiment is a failure. By Anna M. Phillips, Los Angeles Times

Charter school scorecard: How the board voted Tuesday night

stevezimmercollegedayschoolboard-1* UPDATED

Five independent public charter schools were denied Tuesday night by the LA Unified school board.

The board granted one petition of the nine schools on the special agenda that had been recommended for denial. Another school will likely keep its charter under a last-minute deal, and two were petitions withdrawn.

Here is the action Tuesday night. Come back to LA School Report on Wednesday for a full report.

El Camino Real Charter High School — The charter will remain, as long as a last-minute deal is ratified next week by the charter’s board. In it, Executive Director David Fehte will resign and four members of the governing board will step down. This is after the district staff had recommended taking the second step toward revoking the school’s charter. The last-minute deal was worked out with the involvement of UTLA, the LA teachers union.

WISH — The petition was withdrawn prior to the meeting after issues were “remedied” over the weekend, and the petition will instead come before the board in November.

Citizens of the World — Citizens of the World 3’s petition was granted to expand the elementary school to serve grades 6-8. The organization withdrew its request to open a new school, Citizens of the World Westside, which would have served 740 students in grades TK-6. District staff recommended against both petitions.

Celerity — Both petitions were denied based on concerns about transparency of governance. Celerity Dyad and Celerity Troika will lose their charters at the end of the school year unless they appeal to the county. This followed the staff recommendations, and the board and staff acknowledged that the schools had a strong academic record.

Magnolia — The three schools were not renewed, for procedural and accountability issues that district staff deemed not yet cured. The schools can appeal to the county and then to the state. The schools can continue to operate through that process and remain on co-located campuses. The schools’ strong academic record was noted by the staff.

*This article has been updated to clarify the board’s action on Citizens of the World schools.

LIVESTREAM of today’s LA Unified school board meeting

LAUSD livestreamThe LA Unified school board is scheduled to hold a special meeting today starting at 5 p.m.

The meeting is dedicated to charter schools facing a recommendation of denial from district staff.

Seven schools are recommended to have their charters revoked and three other schools asking for revisions are also recommended for denial by staff.

Click here to watch the livestream of the meeting.

Magnolia may take legal action if charters are denied, calls on board President Zimmer to recuse himself

Alfredo Rubalcava, Magnolia's chief external officer, with other representatives waiting for buses.

Alfredo Rubalcava, Magnolia’s chief external officer, with other representatives outside LAUSD headquarters Tuesday afternoon.

Magnolia Public Schools, facing a Tuesday afternoon vote that could shut down three of its schools, is prepared to take legal action and is calling on board President Steve Zimmer to recuse himself based on “a level of bias.”

A letter sent Tuesday by a law firm on Magnolia’s behalf lays out its response to the denial recommendations for three of the charter management organization’s schools and says it is prepared to take legal action if its schools are shut down, citing “discriminatory practices in violation of state and federal law.”

It also states that the reasons laid out for district denial are “merely a pretext for the real reasons LAUSD seeks to close these schools” and that concerns were not brought up with Magnolia prior to last week’s release of the staff report.

In addition, the letter calls for board President Steve Zimmer to recuse himself from the votes based on statements he gave to the Los Angeles Times “that indicate a level of bias.” It notes that Zimmer made his comments prior to the release of the staff report. “This sort of predetermination of outcome evidences the very sort of probability of actual bias that is of concern to the courts,” the letter states.

Zimmer declined to comment Tuesday afternoon.

“The staff report was inaccurate and did a disservice to the thousands of students, family members, teachers and staff who have worked so hard to build some of the best schools in Los Angeles Unified,” Magnolia CEO Caprice Young said Tuesday afternoon. “The district should be focusing on these schools’ tremendous academic outcomes as well as the fact that the state auditor confirmed that we fulfilled all of its recommendations, therefore making our organization fiscally and operationally sound.

“Instead, they’re choosing to focus on things that have nothing to do with education.”

Young also noted that on Monday the organization allowed the district’s Office of Inspector General to scan documents it had demanded containing the social security numbers and birth dates of all of its staff, teachers and students since Magnolia started operating in 2002.

“These are the final documents” in “a monstrous records inquiry,” she said, adding that Magnolia couldn’t agree to the release until the district promised to protect the confidentiality of the information. Without that, the personal data would be available to the public. “For anyone to say that we have been anything less than transparent and forthcoming is just not true.”

The letter with Magnolia’s response was sent to board members around noon Tuesday as they headed into the third of four board sessions for the day. The charters recommended for denial will come up for a board vote in the last session, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

About 50 charter school representatives had gathered outside the downtown Beaudry headquarters by midafternoon. Magnolia is expecting 450 of its community members to attend. “We have three buses coming. School ended at 2,” said Magnolia’s chief external officer Alfredo Rubalcava. “We take this very seriously.”

Parents at El Camino Real Charter High School are also considering legal action if their school loses its charter, Lisa Dawn Miller, a parent at the school, said in an email. Parents “are ready to take legal action against the LAUSD if they violate our rights and the rights of our students,” Miller wrote in a letter sent Friday to local and state officials calling on them to demand oversight of LA Unified.

LIVESTREAM of today’s LA Unified school board meeting

LAUSD livestreamThe LA Unified school board is scheduled to hold a special meeting today starting at 9 a.m. dedicated to charter school issues, including new applications and renewals.

The meeting is the first of four sessions scheduled for today. The 9 a.m. meeting is for charters that have a recommendation of approval from district staff. There is also a 10 a.m. closed session meeting, a regular board meeting at noon and a 5 p.m. special meeting for charters facing a recommendation of denial from district staff.

Click here to watch the livestream of the meeting.

Morning Read: Huntington Park leaders call for ban on new charters for one year

Huntington Park leaders want to ban new charter schools for a year
The small, densely populated city of Huntington Park is peppered with schools, about two dozen in 3 square miles. At least 10 are charters, and city leaders contend they’re bringing in unwanted traffic. Their solution is to try to ban new charter schools. By Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times

Morning Read: California ballot measure may overturn law limiting bilingual education

Californians, having curbed bilingual education, may now expand It
In 1998, voters in California passed a law that severely restricted bilingual education in public schools, arguing that students were languishing in their native language and that requiring English-only instruction would speed up the time it took children to learn English. Now voters are being asked to overturn the measure in November. By Jennifer Medina, New York Times

Morning Read: Duel between California, Obama administration over education continues

Science instruction is changing in California and 17 other states 

In an unexpected response two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Education rejected California’s application for a federal waiver from having to administer the California Standards Tests in science, a multiple choice test based on outdated science standards adopted nearly two decades ago. What makes the latest run-in with the administration so head-scratching is that it comes in the waning months of the Obama administration — over a relatively small piece of a student’s standardized testing regimen, at least compared to the Smarter Balanced math and English tests aligned with the Common Core standards. By Louis Freedberg, EdSource

Morning Read: NYT editorial board calls NAACP anti-charter resolution ‘ill-advised’

A misguided attack on charter schools 

The N.A.A.C.P., the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, has struggled in recent years to win over younger African-Americans, who often see the group as out of touch. The N.A.A.C.P.’s board will reinforce that impression if it ratifies an ill-advised resolution — scheduled for a vote this weekend — that calls for a moratorium on expansion of public charter schools, which receive public money but are subject to fewer state regulations than traditional public schools. These schools, which educate only about 7 percent of the nation’s students, are far from universally perfect, and those that are failing should be shut down. But sound research has shown that, when properly managed and overseen, well-run charter schools give families a desperately needed alternative to inadequate traditional schools in poor urban neighborhoods. The Editorial Board, New York Times

ESL teacher at James Monroe High is named 1 of 5 California Teachers of the Year


California Teacher of the Year Isela Lieber with Superintendent Michelle King.


Five state teachers have been selected as California Teachers of the Year, including LA Unified’s Isela Lieber, a former English learner who now teaches English and English as a Second Language at James Monroe High School, state Superintendent Tom Torlakson announced Wednesday.

Lieber is an immigrant from Ecuador who came to the U.S. with only a seventh-grade education and very little knowledge of the English language, according to an LA Unified press release.  

“I want to make a difference in the students I serve,” Lieber said. “I tell them that I studied hard and I worked hard and I have been able to achieve something, and that I believe they can do the same thing.”

Lieber also sponsors SUCCEED, a club she founded that provides information and support to first-generation high school students interested in pursuing a post-secondary education.

Lieber has been teaching for 10 years, starting her career at Sepulveda Middle School and working the last four years at Monroe High in the San Fernando Valley. She also worked six years as a specialist, training other educators in bilingual education.

“Her example to our students is living proof of a strong commitment to student achievement,” Monroe High School Principal Chris Rosas said in the release. “As an immigrant herself, English learner, and first-generation college student, she makes a daily commitment to serve by leading by example.”

Lieber said she was overcome with emotion when learning of the honor, especially after being nominated for the award by a former student.

“She said that I inspired her,” Lieber said. “She wants to be a teacher too.”

Torlakson also announced two other LA Unified educators as finalists for the Teacher of the Year honors – Marcella DeBoer, who teaches English at the Social Justice Humanitas Academy on the campus of Cesar Chavez Learning Academies, and Matthew Waynee, a cinematic arts teacher at the LAUSD/USC Media Arts & Engineering Magnet.

Other finalists include Glendale Unified’s Dominique Evans-Bye, who teaches biology and geospatial technologies at Clark Magnet High School, and Covina-Valley Unified’s Sheila Edwards, who teaches American history and pre-AP American history at Sierra Vista Middle School.

The California Teachers of the Year Program began in 1972 to honor outstanding teachers and encourage new teachers to enter the profession. It is presented by California Casualty and the California Teachers of the Year Foundation.

The other four 2017 winners are:

• Megan Gross is an autism spectrum disorder teacher for ninth- through 12th-graders at Del Norte High School, Poway Unified School District, in San Diego. Torlakson also nominated Gross as California’s representative for the National Teacher of the Year competition. Gross will compete against other state nominees, and a 2017 National Teacher of the Year will be named in the spring.

• Shaun S. Bunn teaches mathematics to 8th-graders at Ethan A. Chase Middle School, Romoland School District, Menifee, Riverside County.

• Corinne (Corrie) Traynor is a fifth-grade multi-subject teacher at Barrett Ranch Elementary School, Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District, Antelope, Placer County.

• Yun (Jenny) Tzu Anderson teaches science, technology, engineering and mathematics to students in kindergarten through fifth grade at Casita Center for Technology, Science, and Math, Vista Unified, Vista, San Diego County.

Torlakson will honor the Teachers of the Year and the finalists at a gala to be held in Sacramento in February.

Visit the Teach California Web site for more information. 

*This story has been updated to show that Marcella DeBoer teaches at the Social Justice Humanitas Academy on the campus of Cesar Chavez Learning Academies.

Morning Read: 3 Magnolia charter schools could be shut down over use of teachers from Turkey

Magnolia charters face closure over past use of teachers from Turkey

Three Los Angeles charter schools could be shut down, largely because of their practice of bringing in teachers from Turkey, The Times has learned. The schools are part of a group of 10 campuses operated by locally based Magnolia Public Schools, which has relied heavily on using temporary work visas to import Turkish teachers. The three charters now under review have five-year operating agreements that are expiring, and the L.A. Unified School District must either approve or deny their renewal applications. The official word, with no accompanying explanation, reached their campuses by email Tuesday afternoon: School district staff will recommend denial. By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

LAUSD expands magnet offerings as application period opens

Cadets at Reseda High’s Police Academy Magnet. (Credit: LAUSD)

Cadets at Reseda High’s Police Academy Magnet. (Credit: LAUSD)

The application period began Tuesday for LA Unified’s popular magnet schools and centers, which next fall will add nearly a dozen new options for families seeking a specialized education.

Applications will be accepted online and by mail until 5 p.m. Nov. 10 for one of the 225 themed magnets, which will have an estimated 87,000 available seats for the 2017-18 school year.

Programs known as STEM or STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and math – are also becoming increasingly popular. Eight of the 11 new programs for next fall are designated as STEAM programs, while Angeles Mesa Elementary School created a variation of the STEAM theme dubbed DREAMS – design, research, engineering, arts, math and science.

Also opening next fall is the district’s third Center for Enriched Studies, a rigorous instructional program that emphasizes critical and creative thinking. Currently under construction in Maywood, the 1,400-student span school will open with grades 6-11 and will add a 12th grade the following year. The $78-million school will feature a state-of-the-art library, music and dance studios, an outdoor amphitheater and a wellness center.

• Read the full article and access the application at

• Magnet schools make up more than a third of the LA Unified schools eligible for new grants from Great Public Schools Now, a new KPCC analysis shows.

• Read more about magnet schools from LA School Report

Morning Read: How Great Public Schools Now came to donate to LAUSD schools

Why an organization once seen as LA Unified’s biggest threat now plans to give money to LAUSD schools
In late January, a mere three weeks into her tenure as Los Angeles Unified School District’s superintendent, Michelle King welcomed two surprising guests into her office: representatives of the nonprofit group that sprouted from the controversial “Great Public Schools Now” plan. Since it was leaked to the press four months earlier, the document had been a lingering source of tension in the district. Backed by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and other deep-pocketed charter school supporters, the plan had called for doubling the number of charter seats in Los Angeles. By Kyle Stokes, KPCC


Pasadena-based company codeSpark raises $4.1 million; app teaches kids programming

Elementary Students Working At Computers In Classroom

A Pasadena-based startup called codeSpark has raised $4.1 million in seed funding for web and mobile games that teach kids how to code even before they know how to read and write effectively.

CodeSpark’s games were developed for kids 4 to 9 years old, and with a goal of not just teaching them STEM concepts, but engaging boys and girls equally well. The games feature characters who are girls, and storylines that do not involve the rescue of girls, for example.

Co-founder and CEO Grant Hosford said the edtech startup’s first game The Foos Coding has been played by 4 million kids in 201 countries to date. Part of what’s fueled the game’s popularity is that Hosford, and co-founder and Chief Product Officer Joe Shochet, designed its content to be visual, not verbal or numeric.

The funding round was led by Kapor Capital. Other investors included Idealab, PGA Venture Partners, Felton Group, NewGen Capital, and angel investors including Umang Gupta.

A year ago, the company secured $1.35 million in seed funding to expand The Foos.

Read more on the funding from TechCrunch and EdWeek Market Brief.

Read more on codeSpark at LA School Report.

Report: Charter schools provide stronger support for Hispanic students

Latino studentA new report shows that growing numbers of the 12 million Hispanic children in American public schools are turning to charter schools, where they tend to reach higher levels of achievement than at traditional district schools.

“While district public schools still continue to serve the majority of Hispanic students, an increasing number of Hispanic families are choosing to enroll in charter public schools,” the report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools reads, “as new charter schools continue to open their doors in neighborhoods with concentrated Hispanic populations, they are also investing in the future of the Hispanic community.”

Hispanic students make up approximately 30 percent of charter school enrollment and 25 percent of the total student body of traditional public schools. (LA Unified is 74 percent Latino.)

The study found that charter students get more instructional time than traditional counterparts. Charter students have additional learning equivalent to 22 extra days of math and six extra days of reading instruction as compared to peers in traditional schools, the report said. For Hispanic students living in poverty, this number jumps to an extra 48 days in math and 25 extra days of reading.

Read the full article from

Morning Read: LAUSD says it will pay lifetime benefits to El Camino teachers

L.A. Unified backs down and agrees to provide lifetime benefits to charter school teachers
The Los Angeles school district and a well-known charter school have quietly resolved a conflict in a way that will help a group of employees but deepen the district’s long-term budget deficit. L.A. Unified has agreed to pay lifetime health benefits for 10 employees who worked at El Camino Real Charter High School through last year. By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Morning Read: Local parents fear clown pranks and have called LA schools, which have not reported any incidents

Clown hoax brings warnings from authorities
The national craze of clowns scaring school-aged children has caused concern for local parents. LA Unified School Police Chief Steven Zipperman said that several district schools “have fielded calls from concerned parents regarding social media reports of individuals with a clown persona committing potential acts of violence.” There is even a Twitter handle, @ClownsSightings, dedicated to posting about various clown sighting across the U.S. LA Unified has not reported any. By Amber Marron, LA Canyon News

Morning Read: El Camino charter school’s principal to take pay cut, business chief to leave

LA charter school parts ways with business chief, cuts principal’s salary

The governing board of El Camino Real Charter High School announced Wednesday night that Marshall Mayotte will no longer be the school’s chief business officer by the end of December and that Executive Director David Fehte is taking a cut in both salary and length of contract. The “letter to the community” was posted online following a four-hour closed session board meeting in which possible “discipline/dismissal/release” of one or more employees was discussed amid a controversial probe by LAUSD. By Brenda Gazzar, LA Daily News