Teachers union joins state charter group in endorsing Vladovic

Richard Vladovic

LA Unified school board President Richard Vladovic

The LA teachers union, UTLA, has decided to endorse LA Unified school board President Richard Vladovic in his reelection bid for the District 7 board seat.

While it’s his third run for the seat, it’s the first time the teachers are throwing support his way, making him that rare candidate who has won the endorsements of both UTLA and the California Charter Schools Association.

“I am honored to have the support of teachers in Los Angeles,” Vladovic said on his campaign website. “I will continue to fight to ensure that school employees and students feel empowered so together we can continue to provide a strong education for a better Los Angeles.”

UTLA did not respond to messages seeking comment, leaving open the question of whether the union will spend on Vladovic’s behalf.

The District 7 race is one of three on the May 19 runoff ballot involving the school board. Two other incumbents are defending their seats — Tamar Galatzan in District 3 and Bennett Kayser in District 5. Galatzan won her primary and will face Scott Schmerelson in the runoff, and Kayser advanced by finishing second to Ref Rodriguez.

Vladovic, who has served as president since 2013, moved into the runoff by narrowly defeating Lydia Gutierrez, 42.6 percent to 37.6. He won the endorsement of the charter group but not UTLA.

Given the margin of victory, the union’s support might come in handy in the runoff.

Gutierrez, a former teacher in the Long Beach Unified School District, is a Republican who won nearly 1 million votes statewide last year in challenging Tom Torlakson for State Superintendent for Education. With backing from the charter group in the primary, Vladovic beat her by only 657 votes among 13,086 cast.

Success in his first runs for board came with less uncertainty. In 2007, he won in the general election with 54.2 percent of the vote. Four years later he won reelection with an outright victory in the primary, with 63.1 percent of the vote.

UTLA and the charter group waged a million dollar spending war in this year’s primary, largely focused on District 5, with UTLA supporting Kayser and the charters helping Rodriguez.

The charters also spent to aide Galatzan. After sitting out the primary, UTLA is backing Schmerelson in the runoff.

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Senate panel moves school bond bill
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CCSA says report on charter school fraud ‘simply inaccurate’

California Charter Schools AssociationThe California Charter School Association (CCSA) is calling “simply inaccurate” a report released yesterday that said state charter schools require more financial oversight.

The report from the Center for Popular DemocracyAlliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and Public Advocates estimated the state would lose $100 million this year from fraud, waste and mismanagement at charter schools and called for a number of changes, including regular state audits of every charter school.

In a statement released on its website, the CCSA said, “While we don’t presume to understand the motives behind this report, we do know that California is a state where the charter school sector, authorizers and legislators have come together to put into place real solutions. It is unfortunate that we continue to have similar distractions for a sector that the report itself suggests is demonstrating to be responsible users of precious public funds in addition to serving a half a million public school students well.”

The CCSA was particularly critical of the amount the report attributed to fraud, waste and mismanagement, saying, “The report’s estimate of charter fraud by simply applying a 5% assumption of fraud based on some ‘global assumptions’ without any specific analysis, simply calls the whole report into question.”

In response to the call for more financial oversight of charters, the CCSA said the report “does not do justice to the system already in place and that is actually more rigorous for charter schools” than other education agencies, in the state, including school districts.

The report pointed to several examples of past documented fraud or waste at some charter schools, but the CCSA said the examples cited were old and out of date.

“The majority of the examples cited in this report are old, from schools that have since closed, and reflect old laws that were updated to provide even greater protection,” the statement said.

Click here to read the full statement from CCSA.

 

LA Unified developing list of teachers at rallies to dock their pay

Teachers at  Dr. Owen Lloyd Knox Elementary School boycott a faulty meeting. (Credit: Twitter user @00dreday00)

Teachers at Knox Elementary School boycott a faulty meeting. (Credit: Twitter user @00dreday00 )

LA Unified officials today began a process of determining which teachers skipped a faculty meeting yesterday to participate in school-site rallies.

Tom Waldman, a district spokesman, said efforts are underway to learn from each school tha names of teachers and other staff who chose a rally over a meeting — a violation of the law, in the view of Superintendent Ramon Cortines. UTLA officials dismissed the warning as saber-rattling, insisting that attending the rallies violated no laws.

Waldman said is was still unclear how the district could collect a list of names — whether it would require calls to individual schools or reports from principals.

But any district employee who attended a rally would lose the equivalent of one hour of pay, he said.

Why grading teachers on test scores is not as simple as it seems

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By Eduardo Porter | The New York Times

In 2004, the Chinese government decided there were too many accidental deaths. China’s safety record, it decreed, should be brought in line with those of other middle-income countries. The State Council set a target: a decline in accidental deaths of 2.5 percent per year.

Provincial authorities kicked into gear. Eventually, 20 out of a total of 31 provinces adopted “no safety, no promotion” policies, hitching bureaucrats’ fate to whether they met the death ceiling. The results rolled in: by 2012 recorded accidental deaths had almost halved.

It wasn’t, however, all about increased safety. For instance, officials could reduce traffic deaths by keeping victims of severe accidents alive for eight days. They counted as accidental deaths only if the victims died within seven.

In a study of China’s declining deadly accidents, Raymond Fisman of Columbia University and Yongxiang Wang of the University of Southern California concluded that “manipulation played a dominant role.” Bureaucrats — no surprise — cheated.

This is hardly unusual. It is certainly not exclusive to China. These days, in fact, it has acquired particular importance in the debate over how to improve American education.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: UTLA wants MiSiS meeting with Torlakson, Cortines

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As market surges, schools struggle to find the best tech products
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Hillary Clinton caught between reformers and teacher unions

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By Maggie Haberman | The New York Times

The last time she ran for president, Hillary Rodham Clinton did not have to take a position on the Common Core, teacher evaluations or Race to the Top.

She won the endorsement of one of the nation’s largest teachers’ unions in 2007 after deploring the use of standardized tests and the underfunding of the No Child Left Behind law by President George W. Bush’s administration.

Now, as she prepares for a likely second run at the White House, Mrs. Clinton — who largely avoided domestic policy when she was secretary of state — is re-entering the fray like a Rip Van Winkle for whom the terrain on education standards has shifted markedly, with deep new fissures opened up in the Democratic Party.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: 4 years to fully implement Common Core in CA

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What makes a good teacher?
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Teacher shortage around state leading to ‘employees’ market’

teacher prep stats

(Credit: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing)

As LA Unified is currently laying off hundreds of teachers and other employees to deal with a looming budget crisis, there is perhaps one piece of good news for any teacher getting a pink slip: it has become an “employees’ market” for teachers in the state.

Due to a growing shortage, many large districts are struggling to hire enough qualified teachers. The shortage is due in part to the number of students enrolled in teacher preparation programs in the state being cut in half from 2008 to 2013. The stark numbers were cited in an October report by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

In 2008, when the recession hit and thousands of teacher began getting laid off in the state, there were over 42,000 students studying to become teachers. By 2013, the number was down to 19,933, the data shows.

The Sacramento Bee offered some theories as to the current teacher shortage beyond student enrollment in prep programs:

The inclination is to think that there are thousands of teachers who were let go during the recession and who are ready and willing to fill these jobs. Unfortunately, few younger, less-experienced teachers hung around after seeing their jobs disappear; many chose different careers.

The shortage has led other districts like San Francisco Unified to struggle to hire enough teachers.

“It’s become an employees’ market versus an employers’ market,” Scott Gaiber, San Francisco Unified’s director of certificated staffing and recruitment, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “There is a lot more competition for talent.”

Substitute teachers are in high demand as a result of the shortage. One sub told the Sacramento Bee that he recently received 15 requests to work San Juan Unified School District classrooms on a Friday.

In an op-ed in northern California’s Press DemocratSteven D. Herrington, Sonoma County’s superintendent of schools, proposed at least one possible solution to the crisis:

“Tuition fees at state colleges and universities could be waived for the fifth year of teacher preparation education for students who successfully complete the program and secure employment in a California public school,” Herrington wrote.

 

 

 

 

Commentary: HBO’s hipster show ‘lies’ about charter schools, race

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By Joshua Leibner | Salon

Michelle Pierson, a 40-ish mother of two, is in a state of confusion over her direction in life and finds herself wandering down the main drag of her gentrifying, hip Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood. She hears a confident voice coming from Eagle Rock City Hall that entices her in.

Inside, David Garcia, a handsome, charismatic Latino, is speaking stirringly to a group of concerned parents. He says, “There’s like bird shit all over the place — I mean you got kids eating five-day-old sloppy joes. Our public school system is broken. I don’t think we can fix the old schools but I’ll tell you what we can do. We can build a new one. Isn’t a great school no more than a box and an inspired teacher inside of it? We need a great charter school here in Eagle Rock. Let’s create a place for our children to flourish. There’s a big empty hole in our community. And if we don’t do anything about it, our kids are going to be more disenfranchised and lost than we are now.”

Michelle is entranced, and suddenly her life has found a purpose.

Charter school dogma has made it to the Big Time: It just got its own soapbox on the Duplass brothers’ HBO Sunday night series “Togetherness.”

Click here to read the full story.

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Commentary: New book examines ‘social air bags’ for rich kids

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By Doyle McManus |  Los Angeles Times

What’s the difference between growing up in an affluent family and growing up poor in America?

Yes, upper-middle-class kids have more money. But they also have more attentive parents, stable families, good teachers — and even more friends and acquaintances.

As a result, well-off kids have one more advantage, according to Harvard social scientist Robert D. Putnam: They have air bags in their lives.

Social air bags offer the same kind of protection as car air bags: In a collision, you walk away unharmed. When affluent kids stumble, a parent or someone else often jumps in to help — by hiring a lawyer, paying for therapy, making sure contraceptives are available or merely finding a tutor.

Click here to read the full commentary.

Morning Read: Parent sues LAUSD for teacher’s alleged racial slurs

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Commentary: Fewer being inspired to join teaching ranks

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By Stephen Mucher | Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles teachers and school district administrators are doing battle once again. Contract talks broke down last month after 18 rounds of negotiations on raises, healthcare costs, class size, employee evaluation and charter schools. Mediation begins next week. Strike language and recriminations grow louder.

Given the potential long-term impact of any settlement, it is a shame that a major stakeholder can’t be at the negotiating table. Namely, college graduates considering whether to pursue a teaching career.

Rocio Garcia, 24, is one such person. She struggled in a Southeast Los Angeles high school known for its dropout rate and overcrowding, but surrounded herself with educators who recognized her academic potential.

Click here to read the full commentary.

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California’s graduation rate grows to 81.4% but still only 31st in nation

graduationThe graduation rate for high school students in California grew to 81.4 percent in the 2012-13 school year, according to data released this week by the U.S. Department of Education.

The number is slightly up from the previous year’s 80.2 percent, but it still leaves California 31st among states and Washington D.C. in high school graduation rate.

The improvement of the state’s graduation rate is on par with LA Unified, which has seen consistent growth the last few years.

Gaps still remain when it comes to white and Asian students compared with other ethnic groups. White students graduated at a rate of 87.7 percent and Asian students had a 90.0 percent rate, compared with 75.7 percent for Hispanics and 78.1 percent for blacks, although the numbers were up for all groups.

Compared with other big states, California was ahead of New York (76.8 percent) in overall graduation rates, but behind Texas (88 percent) and Illinois (83.2 percent).

“The hard work of America’s educators, families, communities and students is paying off. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. “While these gains are promising, we know that we have a long way to go in improving educational opportunities for every student –- no matter their zip code — for the sake of our young people and our nation’s economic strength.”

Thomas declines to endorse either candidate for District 5 board seat

Andrew Thomas

Andrew Thomas

Andrew Thomas, who finished third in the recent District 5 school board race with 26 percent of the vote, said today he would not endorse either candidate in the May 19 runoff, Ref Rodriguez and Bennett Kayser.

“I ran for this seat to bring the voices of parents and kids to the school board,” Thomas said in a press release announcing his decision. “Our current board remains locked in a battle between charter schools and the teacher’s union, which is making it difficult for us to meet the many challenges families face when trying to get a great education for their kids.”

Thomas added that he and his supporters  “are creating a parent advocacy organization that will continue this critical work.”

In his first run for the board, Thomas had no outside backing, compared with more than $800,000 spent for Rodriguez, the winner, and more than $563,000 for Kayser, the incumbent, who finished second.

Rodriguez, a charter school executive, won 38.3 percent of the vote, largely with support from the California Charter Schools Association, to 35.7 percent for Kayser, who had financial backing from United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers union.

Thomas, who holds a doctorate in Urban Education and works as an education consultant and teacher trainer in public schools across the state, said his new group intends to create new parent-teacher organizations at schools throughout the district to serve as an advocate for parents’ rights. It will also have the ability to support and endorse parent-oriented candidates for election to the school board in the future.

“Although I applaud UTLA and their efforts to support teachers, as a group, parents and students continue to lack a strong, organized voice in LAUSD,” he said. “I believe that in the long run, bringing parents to the table in the political process will be to the benefit of teachers, students and administrators in LAUSD, as well as voters and residents of Los Angeles.”

The third-place finisher in District 7, Euna Anderson, has also declined to endorse the runoff candidates, Richard Vladovic and Lydia Gutierrez.

Zero tolerance on the way out for urban schools

To some extent, these massive districts are rejuvenating the “whole-child” approach integral to what’s known as “progressive education”—a model that was once viewed as incompatible with urban school systems. The contours of this model, which is often vaguely defined as schooling that is “child-centered” and focused on “active learning,” are outlined by the educator Tom Little and writer Katherine Ellison in Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools. Little (who died last year) toured 45 so-called progressive schools in 2013 and found several consistent features: attention to relationships; the students’ freedom, within limits, to follow their interests; and hands-on, creative projects.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: LA kindergarteners prepping for college

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Teachers at impasse with SD Unified
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School transit funding back on the front burner
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