Morning Read: Granada Hills an Academic Decathlon powerhouse

Granada Hills Academic Decathlon team has championship in its sights
In the last five years, Granada Hills students have won 11 out of a possible 14 city, state and national titles. Los Angeles Times

Senate OKs bill barring sexual consent of minors as defense
It comes after LA Unified Unified successfully argued last year that a 14-year-old girl who had sex with a male teacher shared responsibility. Fresno Bee

Former South Bay schools chief fired after pay scandal sues district
Jose A. Fernandez alleged that the Centinela district had suspended, then fired, him last year without following the proper steps. Los Angeles Times

Advocates press Sacramento on arts funding
Advocates are seeking more money for arts education in public schools, citing a new report that shows impact of arts on the economy. SI&A Cabinet Report

U.S. Investigates Possible Misconduct in Chicago Public Schools
Local news media outlets, citing anonymous sources, reported that the investigation related to a no-bid contract that was awarded. New York Times

Talks cool between Los Angeles Unified, teachers union
In a sign contentious talks have cooled, the teachers union and Los Angeles Unified on Wednesday agreed to meet again this week. LA Daily News

Burbank forum an ‘interrogation’ of LAUSD’s Hill for superintendent

Burbank Unified’s selection of LA Unified Chief Strategy Officer Matt Hill as a finalist for its superintendent position is turning some heads and raising the blood pressure of some people in Burbank.

Hill, who was closely involved in LA Unified’s MiSiS and iPad ventures, was questioned at a public meeting Tuesday in what the Burbank Leader newspaper described as a “interrogation.” Check out the video of the meeting above.

Hill was questioned about various topics, including his lack of teaching experience, his involvement with the Broad Foundation, his support of charter schools and the technology problems at LAUSD.

The finalist is scheduled to be chosen by the Burbank school board tonight.

LAUSD ranks low on ‘bang for buck’ list; Cortines planning exit?

school report buzz

Sometimes, it seems, the hits never stop coming for LA Unified.

The latest blow comes from the financial website Nerdwallet and its article, “Best School Districts for Your Buck in California.”

The story ranked all the state’s districts based on the criteria of affordability to live there, standardized test scores, college readiness and class size.

So how did things shake out for LAUSD on the list?

Not well. Out of 375 districts, LA Unified ranked 369th.

According to the list, the Davis Joint Unified School District offers the best bang for the buck in California. The list also found that some of the highest performing districts were small, rural ones and that you “don’t need to spend a mint to live in a good school district.”

Cortines leaving?

Rumor and Speculation Department: LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines has told people at district headquarters that he does not intend to stay in the job for another year beyond this current one.

“He’s contemplating his replacement,” said someone who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

His departure would bring to an end his third tour of duty as LAUSD superintendent, following his hiring last year to replace John Deasy.

Who could the next superintendent be? If the district stays inside, the best guesses are Chief Deputy Superintendent Michelle King, Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and School Support Ruth Perez and CEO of Educational Services Thelma Melendez.

If the board goes outside? Could be anyone — although probably not John Deasy.

UTLA calls for leniency for convicted Atlanta educators

“Unexpectedly harsh” sentences were given to eight former Atlanta educators this week as they were convicted of racketeering in connection with falsifying their students’ standardized test scores, the New York Times reported.

With prison terms of up to seven years, some teacher unions are saying the sentences go too far, and the LA teachers union, UTLA, agrees. There were many calls for leniency, but Judge Jerry W. Baxter made it clear where he stands when he called the scandal “the sickest thing that’s ever happened in this town.” For a city that has seen a horrific child serial killer, a bombing at the Olympics and its burning to the ground during the Civil War, that is saying a lot.

UTLA is among the unions calling for leniency and on its Facebook page posted a link to a petition calling for the educators not to receive jail time. “Their conviction, however, fails to recognize the real racketeers–the corporate reformers who created the high-stakes testing regime and profit off its failure,” the petition states.



California bill to strengthen vaccination requirements delayed


By Patrick McGreevy | The Los Angeles Times

A proposal that would require more children to be vaccinated in California ran into trouble Wednesday amid objections that it would force thousands of non-immunized students out of public schools.

The measure’s author, Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), agreed to delay a vote on it after being warned by the Senate Education Committee chairwoman that it would not win the panel’s approval in its current form.

“If I were you, I would not take a vote today,” said the chairwoman, Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge).

She urged Pan to try to resolve the deep-seated concerns of a majority of committee members. “Otherwise, I don’t think your bill proceeds out of this committee,” she said.

The senators say the bill, which would remove the “personal belief” exemption from the state’s vaccination requirement, would mean that students whose parents refuse to immunize them would be barred from public schools.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: Common Core math creating ‘freakout moments’

Southland parents still scratching their heads on Common Core math
California’s new Common Core learning standards have some public school parents pulling out their hair. KPCC

Wrestling coach accused of molesting 25 students on team
A high school wrestling coach in Southern California has been arrested on suspicion of molesting 25 students on his team. San Jose Mercury News

Discontent continues to roil Port of Los Angeles High in San Pedro
Tension at San Pedro’s Port of Los Angeles High School continued to mount Wednesday night. Daily Breeze

SD Unified criticizes standardized testing
San Diego schools chief Cindy Marten reluctantly kicked off testing season this week with a letter to parents that downplays its significance. U-T San Diego

Teachers’ union cries foul on superintendent selection
The Burbank Teachers Assn. asked the LAs District Attorney’s office to look into possible violations of the Brown Act regarding the potential hiring of Matt Hill. Burbank Leader

Study finds genetic link to academic indifference

International Business Times

By Rina Marie Garcia | The International Business Times

A study consisting of 25 co-authors and led by Yulia Kovas, a professor of psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, say that a genetic predisposition may be behind why some children are not motivated to go to school. The research, which was partially supported by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development, involved more than 13,000 twins hailing from six countries, discovered that there are approximately 40-50 percent difference in the factors that affect the twins’ motivation.

Study co-author and professor at the Ohio State University Stephen Petrill initially thought that the shared environmental setup where the kids grew up will play a significant role in determining their motivation level. However, he was surprised to find out that these do not play an important role, and that genetics and non-shared environmental factors are more highly contributory.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: On a bus tour, UTLA calls for class size reduction

UTLA conducts bus tour to rally for better education
UTLA conducted a bus tour of Los Angeles Unified School District schools Tuesday where they say there are unacceptable learning and teaching conditions. ABC7

Home bound students use robot to virtually participate in LAUSD classes
Students with special needs Tuesday demonstrated how new technology allows for virtual participation within classroom and social settings. CBS Los Angeles

‘We were all anticipating the challenges’ of Common Core
EdSource is conducting a series of interviews featuring educators’ experiences with the Common Core State Standards. Ed Source

The odd thing Arne Duncan told Congress
The discussion was about VAM, the value-added method of evaluation in which student standardized test scores are used to evaluate teachers Washington Post

Arts educators seek helping hand, straight from your tax form
For the second year in a row, Californians have a chance to support arts education funding while filing their taxes. KPCC

3 reasons Chromebooks are shining in education
For districts looking to get the most bang for their ed tech buck, devices that fall somewhere between tablets and traditional laptops can be the right fit. The Journal

New York taking center stage in standardized tests battle

New York Times logo

By Kyle Spencer | The New York Times

This past winter, Nicholas Gottlieb, the father of a third grader and a sixth grader in Manhattan, helped organize a citywide forum against standardized testing during which more than 200 parents and teachers talked about ways to “attack the issue from different angles.”

Just last month, he led chants at a rally to protest Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s education platform, including a plan to make teacher evaluations more dependent on test scores.

But on Tuesday, when more than a million third through eighth graders in New York State sit for the first of six English and math testing sessions, Mr. Gottlieb’s two daughters, who attend Public School 3 in the West Village and the Clinton School for Writers and Artists in Chelsea, will be opting in.

“I would like to think that I would have the courage of my convictions,” he said. “But can I really do that when it means I’m gambling with my kids’ futures?”

Click here to read the full story.

LIVESTREAM coverage of today’s LA Unified school board meeting

livestreamGrafix250The LA Unified school board is scheduled to meet today at 1 p.m.

Among the agenda items of interest is a tentative agreement with eight labor partners on a package of benefits through 2018.

Also included is discussion of spending issues, charter approvals and a long list of groups and events to recognize.

Click here to get the agenda and materials for the meeting.


Morning Read: Teacher unions dismiss USC poll results

Unions critical of poll on teachers tenure and seniority-based layoffs
Teachers unions expressed concern Monday over the results of a poll indicating that California voters are critical of current teacher job protections. Los Angeles Times

Atlanta judge urges talks on sentences in school cheating case
Ten educators were convicted on April 1 for their roles in one of the nation’s largest school cheating scandals. New York Times

SFUSD administrator named superintendent of Albuquerque public schools
Luis Valentino previously worked in various roles for the Los Angeles Unified School District for more than two decades. San Francisco Examiner

A political novice who scored big upset finds herself on the defensive
Patty Lopez had no elective experience; much of her work as an education advocate was as a volunteer. Los Angeles Times

Doing away with the high school exit exam
California is set to join a handful of states that have decided the high school exit exam isn’t useful. SI&A Cabinet Report

Rodriguez opens big money lead over Kayser in District 5 campaign

Ref Rodriguez

Ref Rodriguez

With the May 19 runoff elections five weeks from tomorrow, Ref Rodriguez has opened a huge money lead over incumbent Bennett Kayser for the District 5 school board seat.

Rodriguez, a charter school official, has built a nearly 3-to-1 edge in individual contributions, raising $26,896 to Kayser’s $9,575 through April 4, the latest figures from the LA City Ethics Commission, and the edge in money spent by outside groups, which candidate campaigns do not control, is even greater.

The California Charter Schools Association and a New York-based student canvassing group, Students for Education Reform Action Network, have combined to spend $141,839 for Rodriguez. SEIU Local 99, the service employees union, has accounted for all the outside spending so far for Kayser, $8,545.

No doubt, much more money will be spent to help Kayser, who finished second to Rodriguez in the primary. He has been endorsed by the teachers union, UTLA, which has promised to mount a robust campaign to help him win a second term.

Between them, the charter group and UTLA spent nearly $1.5 million for the two candidates in the primary.

In the other two elections for board seats, the incumbents have the advantage.

In District 7, where President Richard Vladovic is seeking a third term, he has out-raised his challenger, Lydia Gutierrez by about 9-to-1, $30,205 to $3,650, and SEIU Local 99 has spent $8,349 on his behalf. Gutierrez has no outside support so far.

Vladovic has been endorsed by both the charter group and UTLA.

In District 3, Tamar Galatzan has raised $15,850, nearly double the total of her opponent, Scott Schmerelson, $6,862. And SEIU Local 99 has spent $8,313 for Galatzan, with no outside spending yet for Schmerelson, who has also been endorsed by UTLA.

How important is racial diversity in teacher work force?

New York Times logo

By Shannon Doyle | The New York Times

Growing up in the 1970s and ’80s in the Chicago suburb of Blue Island, Ill., Gladys Marquez, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, never once had a Hispanic teacher. Sometimes, when trying to explain to her parents her plans for college — or even why she wanted to play softball or try out for the cheerleading team — she wished she had a mentor who shared her background.

“It would have been nice to have a teacher in the classroom who could help you bridge over and help you become a better version of yourself,” she said in a recent interview.

Now Ms. Marquez is herself a high school teacher in Blue Island. But while nearly half of the students at the school are Hispanic, Ms. Marquez is still one of a small minority of Latino teachers in the building.

Across the country, government estimates show that minority students have become a majority in public schools. Yet the proportion of teachers who are racial minorities has not kept up: More than 80 percent of teachers are white.

Click here to read the full story.

New USC poll on statewide education: good, bad, predictable

usc pollResults from a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll released over the weekend had a little something for everyone in the education wars, with overall results that were anything but shocking.

The ambiguity was especially true for teachers, who respondents said deserved a raise but should not have the same job protections they have now.

More specifically, 56 percent of voters said they believed teachers are underpaid, with only 5 percent saying their paid too much.

On the other hand, 38 percent said California teachers shouldn’t be given tenure, which comes with strong job security and makes it more difficult to fire poor-performing teachers, and another 35 percent said tenure should not be granted until a teacher has been on the job for at least 4 to 10 years.

As the largest statewide survey of registered voters, the poll was conducted March 28-April 7 and surveyed 1,504 registered voters, with a significant oversample of Latino voters and strong presence of cell phone samples. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 2.7 percentage points.

Here’s is a sampling of the results, by issue:

Method of layoffs

Voters rejected the notion that teachers should be laid off based on seniority, a practice that was struck down as unconstitutional in last June’s Vergara v. California ruling. When asked how California schools should lay off teachers in times of budget pressures, 53 percent said layoffs should first target teachers who receive poor marks in classroom observations, and 26 percent said teachers whose students did not make enough progress on standardized tests throughout the year should be laid off first.

Just 8 percent said layoffs should first target the teacher with the least seniority or classroom experience.

“Seniority is clearly the least important factor in teacher performance. Voters across all demographic groups reject the ‘last in, first out’ policy by overwhelming margins,” said David Kanevsky, vice president of Republican polling firm, American Viewpoint, that conducted the poll with the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

When asked whether administrators should take into account teacher performance or years of teaching when making layoff decisions, 82 percent said administrators should take performance more into account compared with 11 percent who said seniority should be taken more into account.

Continue reading

Ratliff seeking delay in health care package for 8 labor groups

LA Unified board member Monica Ratliff

The LA Unified board is preparing for a big spend on health care tomorrow when the members vote to approve a tentative agreement with eight labor partners on a package of benefits through 2018.

But Monica Ratliff, the District 6 member, said in a statement this morning from the district that she wants to delay passage, pending a deeper analysis of the district’s financial situation, including how Gov. Jerry Brown‘s revised state budget, due next month, would impact LA Unified.

“If we are committed to fiscal responsibility and good stewardship, then the requested analysis absolutely must be done prior to entering into this or any other Health Benefits Agreement and prior to our completion of the budget,” she said. “I hope my colleagues and our labor partners will join me in demanding that the district wait for the Governor’s May Revise and provide all of us – the Board, our labor partners, and the public – with a thorough analysis before committing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to any endeavor that will potentially have a significantly negative impact on our budget, our employees, our programs, and, ultimately, our future viability.”

Ratliff is asking that action on the health care package be held off until several conditions are met. Besides the governor’s revised budget, they include: how bankruptcy could impact district retirees and employees, how declining enrollment interacts with the budget and nearly $11 billion in other post-employment benefit liabilities and what impact these commitments would have on the district have over the next 10 years.

Continue reading

Morning Read: ‘Teacher bashing’ part of teacher shortage in CA

‘Teacher bashing’ may be turning new recruits away
The precipitous decline in young people entering the teaching profession in California is now a 10-year trend. SI&A Cabinet Report

Vaccine fears haunt L.A.’s west side
The issue has dominated lives and reconfigured the behavior of parents in the affluent environs of west Los Angeles. Sacramento Bee

Nevada transgender bill passes committee
LAUSD has not received one report of a student pretending to be transgender to spy on students. Reno Gazette-Journal

Kindergartners who share iPads perform better in school, study suggests
A recent study suggests that sharing of iPads among kindergarteners provides more satisfactory school performance. International Business Times

One year later: Deadly California bus crash
It has been a year since 10 people lost their lives during a fiery collision involving a FedEx truck and a bus carrying students to Northern California. NBC Los Angeles

How rich parents spend to raise kids that grow up to be rich

the atlantic

By Derek Thompson | The Atlantic

Each year, the U.S. government tells Americans how much money the country spends on stuff, like houses, cars, and alcohol. Organizing this information by income, Josh Zumbrun at The Wall Street Journal produces this nice chart of spending on food, health care, and other categories.

Two clear stories. To the far left: The richest 10 percent spend much less of their income on food. To the far right: The richest 10 percent spend much more of their income on insurance (and relatively more than all but the very poorest on education).

When you have money, you spend less on the stuff that ensures you survive the day and more on the stuff that ensures that you (and your children, and your possessions, and your estate) survive and thrive for many years. Poverty is a chaos that screams in the present tense, and the anxiety of having no money forces poorer families to direct their attention to immediate concerns. As a result, the poor spend relatively more on what will keep them alive, because they must. And the rich spend more on what will keep them rich, because they can.

Click here to read the full story.


Morning Read: State aid improves finances for school districts

More state aid stabilizes school district finances
Recent infusions of state aid, and the prospect of more to come, have improved the financial stability of California’s school districts. Sacramento Bee

Santa Ana Unified set to offer ethnic studies classes
In December, the LA Unified School District’s board voted to make ethnic studies courses a high school graduation requirement. Voice of the OC

NV bill to be heard on segregating transgender students
The Los Angeles Unified School District has overseen the integration of transgender students into the bathroom of their choosing for a decade. Reno-Gazette Journal

Elementary jump start program on chopping block
It was started in the 70s as a way to even the playing field for low income and English language learners. NBC Los Angeles

Art appreciation helps young children learn to think and express ideas
Art lessons for pre-kindergarten students are moving beyond finger paints and into the worlds of van Gogh, da Vinci and Rivera. Ed Source

Just In: CA Supreme Court rules against LAUSD on charter space

Logo_LATimesVia The Los Angeles Times | By Maura Dolan 

The California Supreme Court decided unanimously today that the Los Angeles school district’s method for allocating space to charter schools violates state education law.

Advocates for charter schools hailed the ruling, arguing that it would lead to more classrooms for charters.  A lawyer for the L.A. Unified School District disagreed, saying that the amount of space allotted to charters in L.A. would not be affected.


Lawsuit would curb teacher unions’ political power


By Howard Blume | The Los Angeles Times

An advocacy group has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop teachers unions in California from using member dues for political purposes unless individual instructors provide their permission.

The effort, if successful, could weaken the influence of these unions by limiting their spending.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court by StudentsFirst, a Sacramento-based organization that has opposed candidates and measures backed by teachers unions nationwide, while also working to pass laws that curtail union power.

In the suit, four teachers, including two from the Los Angeles Unified School District, assert that union rules and state laws violate their 1st Amendment rights to free speech because they cannot belong to the union unless they allow a portion of their dues to be spent on political activity. The teachers claim they should be able to join without subsidizing viewpoints they may oppose.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: $1 billion more for Common Core moves forward

Panel approves $1b allocation for Common Core
A proposal adding $1 billion for state schools transitioning to Common Core won easy passage Wednesday from a key legislative committee. SI&A Cabinet Report

Chicago is waiting to see if runoff battle has humbled Rahm Emanuel
Public school teachers, who were leading the charge against Emanuel and who went on strike, are already in negotiations for a new contract. New York Times

Lawsuit details new misconduct allegations against Marlborough teacher
A lawsuit filed in LA County Superior Court on Wednesday detailed new allegations of sexual misconduct by a former Marlborough School teacher. Los Angeles Times

Students struggle to get past instructions on practice tests
Educators worry that overly complicated instructions could interfere with students’ ability to get through the full battery of tests. Ed Source

Guiding principles for a more enlightened U.S. education policy
Congress and the White House are doing the porcupine dance as they try to reauthorize the education law called No Child Left Behind. Washington Post