California Teacher of the Year says stress a top problem for kids

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By Sarah Tulley

When the nation’s top teachers were asked about the biggest barriers to students’ success, most didn’t point to reasons inside the classroom. Instead, they ranked family stress and poverty as the main issues facing students.

The Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic Inc. sent surveys to the 56 winners of Teacher of the Year awards from all states and jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., and Guam. Of those, 46 winners from 2014-15 responded.

The top answer was “family stress” by 76 percent of respondents, followed by 63 percent stating poverty and 52 percent citing “learning and psychological problems.”

California’s Teacher of the Year, Maggie Mabery, works as a science teacher at Manhattan Beach Middle School in an affluent, beachside community in Los Angeles County, so poverty isn’t a core issue there.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: Gov. Brown signs strict student vaccine law

California mandates vaccines for schoolchildren
California on Tuesday became the largest state in the country to require schoolchildren to receive vaccinations. New York Times

California’s new vaccine law: Questions and answers
Here are some questions and answers about the controversial vaccine law that Gov. Jerry Brown signed on Tuesday. San Jose Mercury News

Labor fears setback as Supreme Court hears case on union dues, fees
If Orange County teacher Rebecca Friedrichs wins her case against the California Teachers Assn., it could prompt an exodus of union members. Los Angeles Times

Tired of hearing about failing schools? Here are four that work.
Here are four new profiles of some of the winners in a pilot project called Schools of Opportunity. Washington Post

Even vocational high schools are pushing kids to go to college
A look at the growing pains for high schools offering career and technical training. Hechinger Report

A phys ed teacher battles tight budgets and childhood obesity
Mindy Przeor founded an after-school program in Mesa, Ariz., to get elementary school kids up and running. NPR

Commentary: Vaccine opponents sincere yet misleading


By Robin Abcarian 

Despite all the noise around mandating vaccinations for schoolchildren, most California adults — some 67 percent, according to a recent poll — think it’s a good idea.

We will soon know whether Gov. Jerry Brown agrees. On Monday, the Legislature sent him a bill that would end the personal belief exemption, a routinely abused loophole that has seriously eroded the immunization rates in many of California’s school districts. Children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons would be allowed to attend school.

Even if Brown signs the bill, you can bet the kicking and screaming on the other side will not stop. This week, opponents have launched a ferocious social media campaign directed at him, using the hashtag #HearUs.

Click here to read the full commentary.

Morning Read: State’s alternative schools have little oversight

There’s no good way to know how CA’s alternative schools are working
Thousands of low-income students flood schools designed for the most vulnerable students, but no one is keeping track of what happens to them. Hechinger Report

LBUSD teachers call for pay hikes, class-size reductions
The teachers’ contract in Long Beach Unified set to expire at month’s end. Long Beach Press-Telegram

Children get extra semester before kindergarten with midyear classes
The Los Angeles Unified School District looked at the concept when the board voted last week to drastically expand its transitional kindergarten program. Ed Source

Report: Low-income communities lack child care in LA County
Families encounter a big disparity in access to licensed child care spaces depending on where they live in Los Angeles County. Ed Source

Senate passes vaccine bill on second vote; now heads to Gov. Brown
The controversial bill would give California one of the country’s strictest vaccination laws. San Jose Mercury News

7 solutions that would improve graduation rates
This month we reported the findings from our nationwide investigation into the forces driving the nation’s rising high school graduation rate. NPR

Editorial: California school district reserve cap is ‘bad policy’


By The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board

Despite broad bipartisan support, legislation to repeal an onerous cap on school district reserve funds didn’t have much of a chance in the Democrat-controlled California Legislature. The bill by Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon) died in the Assembly Education Committee faster than you can say “opposed by the California Teachers Assn.”

But good ideas with broad support have a way of persisting, even in the toxic environment of partisan politics. The repeal bill may be dead, but in its place is a new campaign — backed by school districts, the state PTA, the League of Women Voters, education policy groups and others — to “modify” the cap in order to get Democrats on board. Hey, if that’s what it takes to relax the irresponsible rule that prohibits schools from socking away extra cash during boom years, that’s fine with us.

Click here to read the full editorial.

Morning Read: SoCal schools grapple with teacher shortage

SoCal schools may see more interns, substitutes in classrooms 
School is out for the summer, but for some in education, the work is just beginning on a problem that is growing more acute: the teacher shortage. KPCC

Best school districts for your buck in Southern California
To find the best schools in Southern California, we weighed a district’s affordability, standardized test scores, college readiness and student-to-teacher ratio. NerdWallet

In drought’s firm grip, California schools try to cope
School districts are grappling with how to adhere to new water use requirements. Ed Source

Have Millenials turned away from teaching profession?
Education planners in a number of states are looking with alarm at the sudden drop of college students entering the teaching profession. SI&A Cabinet Report

Arne Duncan: These are the things parents should demand from schools
Certain educational rights should be universal, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Friday. Huffington Post

7 more states, District Of Columbia receive No Child Left Behind waivers
The six states, and the District of Columbia, were given a three-year flexibility extension through school year 2017-18. iSchoolGuide

Schools consider implications after vaccine bill passes Assembly

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By Jane Meredith Adams

In the pockets of California where hundreds and even thousands of kindergartners are not fully vaccinated, school districts are starting to think seriously about how a proposed law requiring vaccinations – which the Legislature approved Thursday –  could affect their enrollment and in turn, their funding.

The proposed law, Senate Bill 277, would end the state’s personal belief exemption for vaccinating schoolchildren, an opt-out practice that in a small number of schools and communities has become widespread.

More than 13,500 California schoolchildren held a personal belief exemption in 2014-15, a relatively low number compared to the state’s overall kindergarten enrollment of more than 500,000, but a figure of public health and financial importance in some districts.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: Panel recommends NCLB waiver for LAUSD, CORE

Panel recommends continuing districts’ waiver from NCLB
A committee is recommending that a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law be extended to six California school districts, collectively known as CORE. Ed Source

California bill requires hearings for school military gear
The legislation was introduced before President Obama announced that his administration would stop providing military gear to local law enforcement. Associated Press

What’s the future of iPads in schools?
The debacle in Los Angeles and changing tech have shifted focus from the once-popular device. Ed Dive

Study: Parents Often Think Their Firstborn Is Smarter
Univerersity researchers found that a parent’s perception of his or her child can impact the latter’s future. iSchoolGuide

In lawmakers’ final deal, NYC charters emerge as only big winners
The deal double the number of new charter schools that can open in New York City, from 25 to 50. Chalkbeat New York

LAUSD assistant superintendent is honored by local NAACP

Earl R. Perkins

Earl R. Perkins

Earl R. Perkins, LA Unified’s assistant superintendent for school operations, was recently honored by the  Los Angeles chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Perkins was one of eight given the Youth Council Men of Valor Award at a ceremony at the Double Tree Hilton in Torrance on Saturday. According to a district press release, the award “recognizes those who are: helping others by acting as positive role models; and achieving and contributing to society, especially to African Americans.”

“I am very honored to have received this award, especially from the NAACP, one of the longest tenured civil rights organizations in the nation,” Perkins said in a statement. “Today, we must focus on our young people who will be the professionals and voters of tomorrow. If changes will happen for African-American folks, we must educate and prepare our youth to meet the challenge.”

Perkins has been working as an educator and administrator with the district for 40 years, and has served in his current role since 2007.

“You are helping to make positive differences in the lives of others,” said a letter from Los Angeles NAACP officials to the award winners. “Your achievements are motivators for others. You are a role model for those yet to achieve and your contributions to society are immeasurable.”

Commentary: Research suggests racism in special ed placement

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By Paul L. Morgan and George Farkas

More than six million children in the United States receive special-education services for their disabilities. Of those age 6 and older, nearly 20 percent are black.

Critics claim that this high number — blacks are 1.4 times more likely to be placed in special education than other races and ethnicities combined — shows that black children are put into special education because schools are racially biased.

But our new research suggests just the opposite. The real problem is that black children are underrepresented in special-education classes when compared with white children with similar levels of academic achievement, behavior and family economic resources.

Click here to read the full commentary.

Morning Read: Who will replace Cortines at LA Unified?

Who will be Los Angeles Unified’s next superintendent?
Superintendent Cortines told board members at Tuesday’s meeting he would leave the district in six months. Los Angeles Daily News

Vaccine mandate bill up for vote Thursday in California assembly
The legislation, already approved by the state Senate, is expected to draw hundreds of parents to the Capitol for a rally. Los Angeles Times

School districts find ways to support low-income infants and toddlers
There has been a recent shift in school districts’ thinking about the early years. Ed Source

Lost and found yields trove of treasures at end of school year
As surely as the sun will rise in the east and time will march only forward, children will lose things. New York Times

In San Francisco, computer science for all…soon
Many children in San Francisco do not have regular access to computers in school, let alone computer science classes. Hechinger Report

200 schools are named for Confederate leaders. Is it time to rename them?
The backlash against Confederate flags has built quickly since nine parishioners were gunned down inside a South Carolina church last week. Washington Post

Q&A: An iPads-for-all program in California that works

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By Dan Gordon

As the superintendent of Coachella Valley Unified School District (CA), where 80 percent of the children live in poverty and 70 percent are English language learners, Darryl Adams spearheaded a successful bond measure that funded a 1-to-1 iPad initiative for Coachella Valley Unified’s 20,000 students.

The district then began putting WiFi routers on idle school buses in areas where families lacked high-speed Internet connectivity. Last November, President Obama recognized Adams’ innovative efforts at a ConnectED to the Future meeting where fellow educators were discussing the importance of technology in education.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: A full breakdown of the California education budget

2015-16 state education budget by the numbers
The $115.4 billion state budget is full of numbers – big ones when it comes to record high spending for K-12 schools and community colleges. Ed Source

Music Center cuts back its arts education at schools
After decades of sending artists to work with students in LA County schools, the Music Center has cut its education department’s staff. Los Angeles Times

Burbank school board superintendent search violated Brown Act, DA says
A letter says the board should have announced it had a finalist for superintendent job. Burbank Leader

Last minute moves support student discipline, adult ed
The language containing specific details for hundreds of programs follow the budget bill in what are known as budget trailer bills. SI&A Cabinet Report

New York’s public school students sweat out the end of the semester
Many classrooms in the city’s public schools suffer from broken air-conditioning units or lack them entirely. New York Times

State extends mayoral control of schools for only one more year
Gov. Cuomo and state legislative leaders agreeing to extend mayoral control over New York City’s public schools for just one year. New York Post

No teaching experience required to grade Common Core tests

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By Motoko Rich

The new academic standards known as the Common Core emphasize critical thinking, complex problem-solving and writing skills, and put less stock in rote learning and memorization. So the standardized tests given in most states this year required fewer multiple choice questions and far more writing on topics like this one posed to elementary school students: Read a passage from a novel written in the first person, and a poem written in the third person, and describe how the poem might change if it were written in the first person.

But the results are not necessarily judged by teachers.

On Friday, in an unobtrusive office park northeast of downtown here, about 100 temporary employees of the testing giant Pearson worked in diligent silence scoring thousands of short essays written by third- and fifth-grade students from across the country.

Click here to read the the full story.

Morning Read: CA providing $500 million for teacher training

New initiative for teacher development
School boards must prepare plans for how they will spend their share of a $500 million block grant aimed at boosting teacher competency. SI&A Cabinet Report

Court upholds LAUSD decision to offer Crenshaw facilities to charter school
LAUSD did not violate the state’s charter school law by offering school facilities at Crenshaw High, the Court of Appeals ruled Friday. Metropolitan News-Enterprise

State board gets extra year to create measures of school progress
The Legislature has given the State Board of Education an extra year to complete the next phase of a new school accountability system. Ed Source

Mark Twain Junior High raises the bar with a student study lounge
Making a place for teens to check on assignments, get some help and spend some quiet time studying has worked at Mark Twain Junior High. Modesto Bee

California tempers backlash while embracing Common Core
Gov. Jerry Brown and California’s elected K-12 schools chief are united in their support of the embattled benchmarks. Associated Press

Campbell Brown to launch non-profit education news site 
Former CNN host Campbell Brown went from a career in journalism to a second life as an education-reform advocate. Now she is looking to combine the two. Wall Street Journal

When charters and unions collide: A challenge for both sides


By Rachel M. Cohen

The April sun had not yet risen in Los Angeles when teachers from the city’s largest charter network—the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools—gathered outside for a press conference to discuss their new union drive.

Joined by local labor leaders, politicians, student alumni, and parents, the importance of the educators’ effort was not lost on the crowd. If teachers were to prevail in winning collective bargaining rights at Alliance’s 26 schools, the audience recognized, then L.A.’s education reform landscape would fundamentally change. For years, after all, many of the most powerful charter backers had proclaimed that the key to helping students succeed was union-free schools.

One month earlier, nearly 70 Alliance teachers and counselors had sent a letter to the administration announcing their intent to join United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), the local teachers union that represents the 35,000 educators who work in L.A.’s public schools.

The labor struggle happening in Los Angeles mirrors a growing number of efforts taking place at charter schools around the country, where most teachers work with no job security on year-to-year contracts. For teachers, unions, and charter school advocates, the moment is fraught with challenges. Traditional unions are grappling with how they can both organize charter teachers and still work politically to curb charter expansion. Charter school backers and funders are trying to figure out how to hold an anti-union line, while continuing to market charters as vehicles for social justice.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: LAUSD more likely to put kids in special ed programs

Nearly 14 percent of LAUSD students in special education programs
Students in LAUSD were more likely to be placed in special education programs than their peers statewide, according to records. Los Angeles Daily News

California vocational education in danger
Career technical education is once again in peril in California. Fresno Bee

The deplorable way LAUSD is treating the world’s most famous teacher
Commentary: I consider Rafe Esquith of the Hobart Boulevard Elementary School in Los Angeles to be the best classroom teacher in the country. Washington Post

State to spend a half billion dollars to promote ‘teacher effectiveness’
The funds, which will be set aside as a block grant, will flow to each of California’s nearly 1,000 districts. Ed Source

Asian parents who stress academics could be hurting their kids, expert says
The pressure for Asian students to do well in school and college admission tests could lead to “a lot of shame and guilt,” an expert said. Pasadena Star-News

California Woman Goes from Teen Mom to Harvard
The teen juggled AP classes, basketball practice and working nearly full-time – 24 to 30 hours per week – to support her family. People

These 3rd graders spend 75% of the school day with their iPads


By Gail Robinson

When the 24 third-graders in Morgan Mercaldi’s class arrive at the Jackson Avenue School every morning, they take their iPads out of their backpacks and put them on their desks. The tablets will remain there, or in hands and laps, until the children put them in their packs to take them home.

Last year Mercaldi had her students stash the iPads away when they weren’t using them. But she has abandoned that. “Putting them away serves no purpose. We use them constantly,” Mercaldi says.

Mercaldi’s class in Mineola, N.Y., is in the fifth year of a district initiative that now provides iPads to all students in grades three through nine. At Jackson Avenue, which houses the third and fourth grades, all 417 children, including those in special education, have their own tablets, and they spend about 75 percent of their instructional day on the devices, more than many other schools that have embraced digital learning.

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: Parents lining up against principal at LAUSD school

Woman says dozens of parents sign petition asking for removal of principal
The parent of a student at a Maywood school says dozens of parents have signed a petition asking the district to remove the school’s head. CBS Los Angeles

Commentary: Why we need to keep iPads out of the classroom
People think tech will magically solve education’s problems—they’re wrong. Time

Zuckerberg announces $5 million donation to scholarships for immigrants
Facebook CEO’s donation to provide scholarships to undocumented students in San Francisco Bay Area. Wall Street Journal

More green space, less noise linked to better learning
A growing body of research shows a relationship between the physical environment of schools and student achievement. Seattle Times

Robert Reich: Elites are waging war on public education
The former secretary of labor on the racket of for-profit colleges and the unfair burden on America’s teachers. Salon

Teachers in L.A., across California file complaints against virtual academy
Teachers in Los Angeles County and throughout California filed scathing complaints Thursday against a statewide virtual school system. San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Critics say tougher teacher exams also racially biased

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By Elizabeth A. Harris

Students are not the only ones struggling to pass new standardized tests being rolled out around the country. So are those who want to be teachers.

Concerned that education schools were turning out too many middling graduates, states have been introducing more difficult teacher licensing exams. Perhaps not surprisingly, passing rates have fallen. But minority candidates have been doing especially poorly, jeopardizing a long-held goal of diversifying the teaching force so it more closely resembles the makeup of the country’s student body.

“This is very serious,” said David M. Steiner, dean of the School of Education at Hunter College and a former New York State education commissioner. “It reflects, of course, the tragic performance gap we see in just about every academic or aptitude test.”

Click here for the full story.