Morning Read: Poll shows Tuck and Torlakson in close race

Tight race for schools chief
A new Field Poll shows a virtual tie between incumbent Tom Torlakson and challenger Marshall Tuck in the race for state superintendent. The Sacramento Bee


Long Beach looking to extend its push for college to preschools
Believing it’s never too early to think about college, Long Beach public officials and educators plan to take their message to the earliest learners — preschoolers. KPCC


CA children falling through the cracks, says study on kids’ well-being
Kids across 58 counties in California are faring poorly overall when it comes to education, health and socio-economic outcomes. KPCC


Database maps college readiness policies
A new report shows how California’s “college readiness” policies stack up against those in other states. Ed Source


N.Y.C. schools to open doors to student cellphones
The country’s largest school district plans to end its ban on student cellphones in schools. Education Week

Commentary: From Klein’s new book, the key is ‘teacher quality’

the-new-york-times

Via The New York Times | By Frank Bruni 

More than halfway through Joel Klein’s forthcoming book on his time as the chancellor of New York City’s public schools, he zeros in on what he calls “the biggest factor in the education equation.”

It’s not classroom size, school choice or the Common Core.

It’s “teacher quality,” he writes, adding that “a great teacher can rescue a child from a life of struggle.”

We keep coming back to this. As we wrestle with the urgent, dire need to improve education — for the sake of social mobility, for the sake of our economic standing in the world — the performance of teachers inevitably draws increased scrutiny. But it remains one of the trickiest subjects to broach, a minefield of hurt feelings and vested interests.

Read the full commentary here.

Morning Read: $25 million to be spent on state superintendent race

Union power on the ballot
The campaign for California superintendent of public instruction is on pace to be the most expensive contest in the state this cycle. Politico


LA Unified turns to teenager to teach social media
San Pedro High School senior Delaney Wells recently taught a technology class on Instagram for a group of Los Angeles Unified staffers. KPCC


LAUSD travel spending suspended after Deasy’s final credit card bill
Los Angeles Unified this week suspended all out-of-town travel and off-campus training as well as the former superintendent’s credit card. Los Angeles Daily News


Many schools lack Internet capacity for tests
California officials have identified many schools that will have difficulty offering online statewide tests scheduled in the spring. EdSource


Bay area students’ shrimp project destroyed in Tuesday’s rocket explosion
The explosion of an unmanned Orbital Sciences rocket is a disappointment to hundreds of school children across the country. CBS San Francisco

LAUSD aiding students returning from ‘juvie hall’ programs

Juvenile campLA Unified is unveiling a new program today, one directed at a small group of students with exceptional needs: those returning to schools from juvenile justice programs.

Designed to serve students from probation camps, juvenile halls and residential situations, the program aims at helping them mount a successful return to school, with a special emphasis on attendance, academic achievement, graduation rates and the prevention of recidivism.

“Our goal is to make sure every LA Unified student graduates and is ready to go on to a college career or the workforce,” said Lydia Ramos, the district spokeswoman. “That means every student. If we don’t help them, they will end up in the prison system, so either we help them as a student now, or the state deals with them later.”

In a presentation prepared for a board committee meeting today, Debra Duardo, executive director of the district’s Student Heath and Human Services division, says that 180 “juvenile offenders” are returned home from  a detention facility each month, two-thirds of them living within the LA Unified school district.

Last month, as an example, the district found that 159 LA Unified students were in justice programs, and they ranged from age 11 to 28.

These students require added attention for the social and educational disruptions they’ve experienced by virtue of their own behavior.

As a result, Duardo says, the district is appointing three sets of monitors to ease the transition. They include counselors assigned to students in detention, counselors assigned to guide each student’s return to a school site, and “aftercare” counselors to monitor attendance, behavior and academic performance.

The program is a collaboration among LA Unified, the LA County Office of Education and the LA Probation Department.

Editorial: New boss won’t cure ‘poisonous’ LAUSD atmosphere

Los Angeles Times logo

Via The Los Angeles Times | By the Editorial Board

With John Deasy no longer in charge at the Los Angeles Unified School District, the school board needs a new superintendent who shares his passion for improving the lives of children in poverty, but not his adversarial approach or his refusal to listen to critics.

Even if the board finds such a person, however, that alone won’t clear the poisonous atmosphere or do away with the rancorous politics that regularly slow progress at L.A. Unified. Even the world’s most talented and collaborative superintendent will not be effective in a district where opposing camps are at war over high-stakes testing and weakening of teacher job protections, and where the board regularly interferes in minor administrative work.

In fact, the board’s reputation for grandstanding, micromanagement and factional conflict could well diminish its ability to draw top candidates.

Read the full editorial here.

Morning Read: New kindergarten cutoff age causes debate

State implements new kindergarten cutoff age
Of the panoply of reforms now being implemented in California schools, the one affecting the state’s youngest students passed almost unnoticed this fall. EdSource


Title IX decision, a reminder on equality in athletics
With an appeals court finding that a California district violated federal discrimination protections, legal experts suggest a review of athletic programs. S&I Cabinet Report


L.A. school officials order review of every senior’s transcript
Los Angeles school district officials have ordered a review of every senior’s transcript. Los Angeles Times


LA Unified acknowledges mistakes in transcripts as deadlines loom
The new $130 million MiSiS student data system is now turning out student transcripts with incorrect information. KPCC


The Secret Lives Of Teachers: Mei-Ling Uliasz
When’s she’s not teaching, Mei-Ling Uliasz turns bottle caps and little tin cars and brass protractors and other found objects into whimsical “upcycled” jewelry. NPR

State superintendent race spending? There’s an app for that

Edsource logoVia EdSource | By John C. Osborn

The race for California state superintendent of public instruction has been fueled by a combined $24 million in total campaign spending for incumbent Tom Torlakson and candidate Marshall Tuck.

Outside groups not affiliated with either candidate represent the bulk of that spending – close to $19.4 million on ads and mailers on behalf of the candidates.

For more details about the money behind the race, check out our campaign finance app here.

Torlakson and Tuck have raised nearly the same amount in direct contributions, according to recent campaign filings reported on the Secretary of State website. Torlakson, who started fundraising in 2011, has raised about $2.5 million, while Tuck, who started fundraising in late 2013, has raised about $2.4 million.

Read the full story here.

Morning Read: With Deasy gone, is LAUSD’s iPad program history?

With Deasy out, is LA schools’ iPad program ‘dead’?
With the departure of John Deasy, the future of the Los Angeles School District’s controversial one-to-one technology program hangs in uncertainty. KPCC


LAUSD scrambles to ensure MiSiS doesn’t keep seniors from college
Los Angeles Unified’s staff is in a scramble to make sure a computer system doesn’t stop seniors from going to college. Los Angeles Daily News


L.A. Unified students could take iPads home soon
Los Angeles Unified students could take school-issued iPads home as soon as next month. Los Angeles Times


9 LAUSD schools each get $50,000 for proximity to a huge garbage dump
Nine schools will each receive $50,000 grants under an action approved Friday by the Los Angeles City Council. Los Angeles Daily News


Inglewood schools chief criticized over costs of his security detail
Some are questioning why the cash-strapped Inglewood Unified School District is paying for an armed California Highway Patrol officer. Los Angeles Times

Morning Read: ACLU questions Jefferson improvement plan

ACLU: Jefferson High class scheduling improvement plan may be flawed
Attorneys for students who want LA Unified to fix class scheduling problems at Jefferson High say the district’s plan to cure the issues may fall short. KPCC


LA Unified gets school lunch makeover in test of locally sourced meals
Los Angeles Unified and 14 other school districts across California launched a pilot program Thursday that aims to bring the farm-to-table movement to school campuses. KPCC


The War on Teacher Tenure
It’s really difficult to fire a bad teacher. A group of Silicon Valley investors wants to change that. Time


New downtown L.A. boarding school aims to enhance culture, education
The American University Preparatory School is a new private boarding school at a luxury downtown hotel off Figueroa and Third streets. Los Angeles Times


Teacher tenure: Wrong target
Commentary: Eliminating teachers’ job security is not going to attract better educators — or do much to improve school quality. New York Daily News


Morning Read: No iPad software with bonds, says Cortines

Bonds should not pay for iPad curriculum, new L.A. Unified head says
Newly installed Supt. Ramon Cortines said he opposes using construction bond money to pay for curriculum on student computers. Los Angeles Times


California moving rapidly toward post-NCLB accountability
In one sentence, the president of the California State School board signaled the end of the old era of assessment and the dawn of another. Education Week


State seeks $140 million federal grant to expand preschool
CA officials are asking for $140 million in federal funds for subsidized preschool slots in communities where parents have a difficult time finding quality childcare. KPCC


Support for Prop. 2 inching toward 50 percent
Voter support for Proposition 2, a new version of a state budget rainy day fund, has increased from a month ago. EdSource


Art ed advocates put candidates on the spot
If you want to know where school board candidates stand on arts curriculum, there’s an online tool that can help – sort of. S&I Cabinet Report

Weingarten pleads for ‘collaboration’ in Deasy aftermath

Weingarten at AFT convention

AFT President Randi Weingarten Weingarten speaking at an AFT convention

In a speech today  in Buena Park, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, cited former LA Unified superintendent John Deasy as a failed example of school district management and argued for collaboration over fiat as the pathway to success in public education.

“Collaboration is the vehicle that creates trust. It’s the vehicle that enables risk. It’s the vehicle that enables shared responsibility; it’s the vehicle that has all our backs as opposed to throwing us under the bus, or under the bicycle,” she told an audience of union leaders and school and district administrators from across the country at the West Coast Labor Management Institute. “And it’s the vehicle that gives parents confidence in our public schools and our public institutions.”

While she insisted that collaboration “is not a silver bullet,” she described it as “a way to engender collective responsibility.”

Her plea was to both sides the labor-management relationship, insisting that the “top-down” ways of leaders like Deasy, Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee have failed to achieve their promised revolution in public education.

To her labor colleagues, she asked, “Is a manager or a principal really going to be willing to help us solve a problem after we’ve punched the living daylights out of them? Really? Who would ever want to solve a problem if that happens?”

A full transcript of her speech is available here.

Commentary: Is the L.A. teachers union tone deaf?

Los Angeles Times logoVia Los Angeles Times | By Steve Lopez

It was back-to-school night in August. A time for new beginnings and high hopes at Thomas Starr King Middle School on the Silver Lake/Los Feliz border.

Then came an awkward moment.

With new parents and students in the room, a teachers union rep got up on a soapbox to lay out the labor issues that could lead to a strike.

“He could not have been more tone deaf,” said Tomas O’Grady, a parent who was in the room. “What a stupid thing to do, for a new group of parents excited about this school.”

O’Grady said the speaker is “one of the most amazing teachers at King,” so out of kindness, O’Grady reined him in by suggesting this was not the time or place for a labor rally.

“In an attempt to protect him, I spoke up. Because if it was anyone else, I’ll be honest, it wouldn’t have been to protect him, but to reprimand him.”

Read the full commentary here.

Morning Read: Education Secretary meets with Cortines

Education Secretary Duncan talks tech with L.A. Unified’s Cortines
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a brief visit to Los Angeles on Tuesday, met with newly installed L.A. Unified Supt. Ramon C. Cortines. Los Angeles Times


Education secretary says time to debate preschool is over
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a conference of preschool advocates in L.A. Tuesday that the value of early education to young children is undisputed. KPCC


LGBT students face less harassment and fewer assaults in schools
Harassment and physical assault against LGBT students has been trending downward in the last six years, according to a report. Los Angeles Daily News


Officials debate Common Core amid standing-room-only crowd
About 200 people attended a standing-room-only debate in a special meeting by the Orange County Board of Education. Orange County Register


Nation’s wealthy places pour private money into public schools
Private groups are raising an increasing amount of money for public schools in wealthier communities, highlighting concerns about inequality. New York Times

LIVESTREAM coverage of today’s school board meeting

livestreamGrafix250Today, available by LIVESTREAM, the seven members of LA Unified school board will meet for the first time since the high-profile resignation of Superintendent John Deasy and the selection of Ray Cortines as interim replacement.

At 10:00 a.m., the board is set to hear an update on the troubled computer system, MiSiS, which, has caused management and scheduling snafus at several schools. The board is also set to vote on the terms and conditions of the employment contract for Cortines as well as hear public comment.

In a closed-door session to follow, of note is a late addition to the agenda of an item listed as ‘Public Employment, Chief Deputy Superintendent of Schools,’  a possible look at the employment Michelle King, who was passed over to serve as interim superintendent after she offered up her services to replace Deasy.  The agenda is here.

At 2:00 p.m., the Committee of the Whole is scheduled to meet to discuss the controversy over the district’s temporary suspension of the Parent Trigger Law will be discussed with a presentation by Gloria Romero, former California State Senator. The committee’s agenda is here.

At 3:15 p.m., the full board will return for a Special Session to report on the labor negotiations between the teachers union and the district. Agenda is here.

At 4:15 p.m. the Committee on Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment is set to meet to discuss, among other items, the Public School Choice Initiative, first launched in 2011 by then interim Superintendent Cortines. That agenda is  here.

Morning Read: Deasy is being paid but won’t advise Cortines

New LA schools superintendent won’t use district-paid Deasy as adviser
New L.A. Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines said his improvement plans won’t involve the man who arguably knows the district best: resigned Superintendent John Deasy. KPCC


Deasy’s exit reflects other school battles across the U.S.
Union leaders say Deasy’s exit marked a repudiation of his policies. Los Angeles Times


On his first day, Cortines feels a ‘sense of urgency’ at L.A. Unified
Ramon C. Cortines’ first day in his latest tour at the helm of Los Angeles Unified started in a familiar fashion: early, with his first meeting at 7 a.m. Los Angeles Times


Gloria Romero: Parents trigger change at failing school
Commentary: Increasingly, parents are mobilizing to “trigger” change at failing schools. Orange County Register


A New Breed of Journalism
There’s been a recent and surprising revival of education reporting, a resurrection driven by a new breed of journalism. Education Next


NYC Chancellor Fariña Forges a New Era for Nation’s Largest District
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s victory last November was a clear indication that many voters sought a clean break from former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s signature school policies. Education Week

City measure would extend LAUSD school board term to 5 1/2 years

Steve Zimmer takes the oath of office for the LA Unified school board

Steve Zimmer takes the oath of office for the LA Unified school board

The Los Angeles City Council is considering a measure that would extend the terms of the next school board election winners to 5 1/2 years, from the usual 4.

The longer terms would only apply to the next two school board voting cycles, bringing the board elections into even-numbered years that correspond with other city and state elections.

The change is part of the city’s effort to enhance voter turnout by consolidating elections. Because of periodic orphan scheduling, school board seats are sometimes filled with only a small percentage of registered voters determining the outcome.

In the case of George McKenna’s runoff victory over Alex Johnson for the District 1 seat in August, just 9 percent of the district’s voters cast ballots. In 2013, only 23 percent of voters citywide participated in the mayoral election.

Several steps remain before the new schedule goes into effect. The City Council is expected to vote on Wednesday to ask the City Attorney to write an ordinance that would appear on the March 3, 2015 ballot, effectively changing the City Charter.

Then the council would have to approve the wording, probably by the end of the month, for the measure to seek final approval from voters.

The first group of school board members to be affected would be McKenna, Tamar Galatzan, Bennett Kayser and Richard Vladovic, as well as their challengers, in a primary scheduled for the same day.

Members up for election in 2017 — Monica Garcia, Steve Zimmer and Monica Ratliff — would also win the longer terms.

The proposed measure might give any candidate pause, considering the additional time commitment for very small renumeration: For a board member who has no other full-time job, like McKenna, the annual salary is $45,637. For a member who also works elsewhere, like Galatzan, an assistant city attorney, the reward is $26,347 annually.

$300K contract for Cortines comes before LA Unified board

LA Unified's ray cortines

LA Unified Interim Superintendent Ray Cortines

* UPDATED

If it’s Tuesday, there must be another LA Unified board meeting.

Now that the John Deasy era is over, the seven members begin facing more mundane matters, and this time, tomorrow, the 10 am meeting has only one item for open discussion before the members move behind closed doors to discuss, among other things, labor contracts and litigation.

The item for the board in the open session is approving an employment contract for Ray Cortines, the once and current superintendent who was lured out of retirement to hold the seat until the board finds a permanent replacement for Deasy.

According to board documents, the Cortines contract will run from today through the end of next June and pay him the equivalent of $300,000 annually, or $50,000 less than Deasy’s deal. Plus, he gets a car and a driver.

In closed session, the members will review progress — or lack of progress — in bargaining with eight labor groups, including the teachers union, UTLA, which has given no indication its demands are changing now that Deasy is gone.

The board this afternoon added an open meeting at 3:15 pm tomorrow as a formality to recognize issues the union is seeking to negotiate in a new contract.


 

* Adds notice of an afternoon open meeting.

Morning Read: Brown preps plan for school construction funding

Brown’s plan for fixing school construction funding
Capitol sources say Gov. Jerry Brown is developing a sweeping new proposal for righting school construction woes. S&I Cabinet Report


Ding dong LAUSD’s John Deasy’s done! What do we do now?
Commentary: The controversial superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District is out. Now what? Los Angeles Daily News


Public is still owed accounting on Deasy’s iPad emails
Commentary: Will the public eventually find out the truth regarding the question-raising emails between John Deasy and the two companies that won the contract to provide iPads to students? Los Angeles Times


National school boards group ends tobacco partnership
The National School Boards Association ended its health curriculum partnership with R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. last week. EdSource


25 percent of low-income urban high schools beat the odds
A new report reveals that a quarter of low-income urban high schools are doing better than a quarter of their high-income counterparts. The Hechinger Report


Torlakson touts experience in tight re-election battle

Torlakson is counting on his years of experience and support from Democratic leaders to persuade voters to give him four more years at the helm of California schools. The Sacramento Bee

Morning Read: Deasy resignation makes headlines nationwide

Deasy resigns as Los Angeles schools chief after mounting criticism
In a sign of the powerful resistance that big-city school chiefs face in trying to make sweeping changes, John Deasy, LAUSD superintendent, resigned. New York Times


Why did the Los Angeles superintendent resign?
In his efforts to improve his district, John Deasy took risks and made impressive gains. He also made mistakes and earned some enemies along the way. The Atlantic


How the iPad helped bring down the Los Angeles schools chief
John Deasy resigned after a bungled effort to give an Apple tablet to every student in the district. Time


LAUSD Supt. John Deasy’s resignation is no cause for celebration
Commentary: More than anything else, Deasy’s departure is a dispiriting sign of a district that is in grave danger of losing its way. Los Angeles Times


Students at South LA’s Manual Arts High react to Deasy resignation
Students at South L.A.’s Manual Arts High School are hopeful that a future superintendent can be a model leader. Intersections South LA

Deasy separation agreement: payout through end of year

hands shakingBy terms of the separation agreement between the LA Unified school district and John Deasy, the out-going Superintendent retains his his salary through the end of the year.

Deasy is remaining an employee of the district “on special assignment” earning his existing salary but not any additional vacation time. His payout will include the cost of his health benefits until June of 2015.

Until the end of the year, the agreement states, he may be called upon to assist in the hand-off to his replacement, Ramon Cortines, who is also his former boss.

However, it clearly states that he is “not to perform any DISTRICT work unless requested to do so.” He is also free to pursue employment, and if he gets one, his relationship with the district would end upon his starting date of the new job.

Deasy is also required to be available for any legal action involving the district.