Morning Read: Delayed pension funds may cost taxpayers

Delays would mean bigger costs for shoring up teacher pension fund
The longer California’s leaders delay shoring up the cash-strapped teacher pension fund, the more money it will cost taxpayers in the long run, according to an analysis presented to lawmakers on Wednesday. If lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown eliminate the fund’s $71-billion shortfall over the next 20 years, the extra contributions needed from the state, schools and teachers would total a little more than $180 billion in that time period. LA Times

Federal grant targets special education teachers, administrators
As part of a national effort to improve instruction for children with learning, behavioral, physical and other disabilities, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing has been awarded a $200,000 federal grant for an intensive review of training for the state’s teachers and administrators – in both general and special education settings. EdSource

Districts will get extra funding for foster students, once state finds them
Under the state’s new school finance law, districts for the first time will receive additional funds based on the number of foster students enrolled in their schools. The law also requires that, by July, districts set academic goals for those students. But just identifying them by then is a problem. EdSource

Cancer scare at Malibu High turns messy
Nobody knows if Malibu High School is making people sick. But last October, Los Angeles media reported a possible cancer cluster involving three teachers allegedly diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The ensuing controversy was met with missteps by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District — and silence from the teachers union. LA Weekly

Weighted admissions lotteries: Will they reshape charter demographics?
New federal regulatory guidance that now allows charter schools to hold weighted admission lotteries in favor of disadvantaged students may affect a small number of charters now, but could have a greater impact in the future, experts say. EdWeek

No shortage of interest in career readiness grants
Competition for $250 million in career-readiness funding looks to be fierce as some 276 educational entities have signaled their intention to apply for one of 40 grants from the newly-created California Career Pathways Trust. That list includes community college districts, charter schools, K-12 districts and county offices of education – all of which have submitted a “letter of intent to apply.” S&I Cabinet Report

Morning Read: Strings tied to money for needy LAUSD students

As deadlines near, LA schools debate how to help foster youth
When Gov. Jerry Brown announced a new boost in school funding — reversing years of cuts — he tied some strings around the money: districts would be paid more for needy kids and they’d have to come up with plans on how the money would help English-learners and students from low income families or in foster care. KPCC

Possible Head Start closures spur Waters to seek probe
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) protested outside the county Board of Education meeting in Downey with a few dozen Kedren staff members and parents clutching signs and their children who attend those preschool centers. The county education office’s “responsibility is to not close down Head Start, but to help sustain them,” Waters said, adding that she refuses to see another federally funded preschool program closed in South L.A. LA Times

LA charters record among the biggest learning gains in nation
Students in independent charter schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District significantly outperform similar students in traditional schools in the district, according to a report released last week by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University. The gains were particularly large for schools serving low-income Hispanic students. EdSource

The survey says: Superintendents want more tech funding
More than half the California school districts surveyed by an education advocacy group said they’ve spent all or most of the funds set aside to implement Common Core State Standards, but still have more to do to prepare for the new academic standards. EdSource

Lawmakers call for more computer science in California schools
Half a dozen bills before the state Legislature address the growing concern that California students don’t have the computer science skills necessary to thrive in the modern workforce. Educators and tech industry leaders would like high schools to teach students more than just how to use a computer – the goal now is for students to be able to program one. EdSource

New laws for teachers will ensure better education for kids
Commentary: One would think that our public schools, Legislature, unions and administrators who help manage them, would be deeply committed to ensuring that every child is taught by a high quality, passionate educators. – SF Gate

Morning Read: Rally at LAUSD HQ over $1B in student spending

Community Groups Call For LAUSD To Spend $1B On Poorest Students
A coalition of Southland community groups was expected Tuesday to deliver thousands of petitions to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board demanding that $1 billion in state funding over the next seven years be used to help low income students, English learners and foster youth. CBS Local

Thelma Melendez, mayor’s education advisor, to join L.A. Unified
The mayor’s top education advisor, Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, is joining the Los Angeles Unified School District as a senior administrator. The 55-year-old Melendez, a former Obama administration official, was talked about in recent times as a contender for the top job at the nation’s second-largest school system. LA TImes

Stanford study highlights gains at Los Angeles charter schools
A new Stanford University study finds that Los Angeles charter school students are making significant gains in learning compared with their district school peers. Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found the typical student in a Los Angeles charter school takes in the equivalent of 50 days more of learning in a year than students in traditional schools, as well as an additional 79 days of learning in math alone. LA Daily

EdTracker: EdSource’s guide to education legislation
Last year California state legislators passed the Local Control Funding Formula, transforming how schools are funded. They ended the state’s existing system of standardized testing and created a roadmap for introducing new assessments of student performance. And they approved significant funding for implementing the new Common Core standards. EdSource

Morning Read: LAUSD moves students into rival territory and incites protest

L.A. Unified’s decision to move students sparks furor
Officials didn’t take into account long-standing rivalries when they decided to transfer about 280 students from Boyle Heights to Lincoln Heights, critics say. The two schools are a two-minute drive apart in similarly low-income, largely immigrant neighborhoods. But to hear students tell it, the two places might as well be different planets. LA Times

Candidate to head L.A. teachers union faces discipline
Los Angeles school district officials say one of the top candidates for president of the teachers union faces discipline for leaving his campus to campaign during the school day. The issue has entangled L.A. Unified in a contentious union race with high stakes both for teachers and the nation’s second-largest school system. LA Times

Program will help cash-strapped teachers fund their projects
For 14 years, Los Angeles math teacher Darryl Newhouse has run a robotics program aimed at showing inner-city students that careers in science and engineering are just as possible as ones in sports and entertainment. But when funds run short, he digs into his own pocket — often shelling out as much as $5,000 a year. LA Times

Are schools ready for the new online Common Core tests?
California is just weeks away from learning whether its test of the test will pass or fail. For nearly 12 weeks, beginning March 25, more than 3 million students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 will take the computer-based Smarter Balanced field, or practice, test aligned to the Common Core State Standards in math and English. Edsource

Deadline passes with few teacher layoffs in Southern California
State law requires public school districts to notify employees with teaching certificates by March 15 if their services might not be required in the coming year. After that, no additional teachers can be laid off in the coming school year. In comparison, non-teacher employees only have to get notice 60 days before the coming school year. San Bernardino Sun

Morning Read: CA suspends statewide tests until 2016

State decides no API for schools until 2016
Faced with a complete sea change of its K-12 education system and having been relieved of its duty to meet some federal accountability requirements, the State Board of Education on Thursday temporarily suspended its school performance measurement tool known as the API. As a result of this decision, no Academic Performance Index scores – used to indicate how a school’s students are performing on standardized tests will be calculated for the next two years. SI&A Cabinet Report

Common Core learning curve
Editorial: If a sentence contains the phrases “New York state” and “Common Core,” chances are that somewhere between the two is the word “botched.” New York and California have taken opposite approaches to implementing the new academic standards, which have been adopted by 45 states but are now the target of a backlash. California’s approach bucked the Obama administration’s rules, but as it turns out, California was right. LA Times

Testing waiver acknowledges California’s commitment to Common Core
Editorial: California lawmakers were absolutely right last fall to suspend our outdated standardized tests a year earlier than planned, allowing teachers, administrators and students to devote more time and energy to the new Common Core state standards. San Jose Mercury

LAUSD employees should get a well-deserved raise
Guest Commentary: When I joined the school board in July 2011, the employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District were in a state of shock. Many colleagues had been laid off the month prior. By then we were three years into the recession, and multiple rounds of layoffs and cuts in hours and services had devastated every facet of our public education system. LA Daily News


Westside parents oppose LA schools’ breakfast in the classroom
For the first day of breakfast in the classroom for all students at Castle Heights Elementary Thursday, the menu included whole wheat pancakes, syrup, wildberry juice and milk. But most students didn’t bite. Castle Heights is in the affluent Cheviot Hills neighborhood in West Los Angeles and only 30 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced lunch, way below the district average of 85 percent. KPCC


National report highlights racial disparities in suspensions
In schools across the nation, African American boys receive harsher penalties than white students for the same offense; there is no evidence that “bad” students need to be removed from class so “good” students can learn; and poverty does not fully explain racial disparities in discipline, according to the findings of a series of reports released Thursday. EdSource

Morning Read: LA Unified board amends Deasy contract

L.A. school board approves amended contract for Supt. Deasy
Los Angeles Unified schools Supt. John Deasy has a newly modified contract that includes an annual buyout of unused vacation days and new performance measures that require him to bring in revenue and enroll more students. He will also pay his own pension deduction for the first time, a cost offset by an increase of $20,000 to his annual salary. LA Times

Schools central to Promise Zone anti-poverty strategy
Most days, you can find Melissa Estrada at Monseñor Oscar Romero Charter Middle School in Central Los Angeles where her son Angel Hernandez is in eighth grade. While Angel is in school, Estrada has taken classes to learn how to track his attendance and grades online and talk to him about drugs and safe sex. EdSource

Rocketship, charter schools dealt setback by San Jose court ruling
The South Bay movement to fast-track the opening of charter schools has been dealt a setback, with a court ruling that county school boards can’t override local ordinances while deciding where to place campuses. San Jose Mercury 

A study seeks to determine what makes pre-k successful
The teacher held up a card with a number on it, then looked at the 4-year-olds waving their hands eagerly in front of her. “Anderson,” she said, calling on a small boy in a blue button-up shirt and a sweater vest. “Five,” Anderson said, correctly. New York Times

Report: Commercialism in schools poses threat to students
Private companies using school facilities to market products to students poses a significant threat to children, argues a new report released Tuesday from researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder. The list of offenses includes exploiting digital platforms that contain advertising, using fundraising sponsorships to promote products and offering incentives to districts to buy brand-related products or services. SI&A Cabinet Report

In defense of Common Core
Commentary: If there’s anything more surprising than how quickly and calmly 45 states embraced the new Common Core curriculum standards, it’s how quickly and contentiously the backlash erupted. The standards, which California adopted in 2010, outline the skills and knowledge public school students should acquire in each grade from kindergarten through high school. LA Times

Morning Read: Pre-K costs could be higher than expected

Cost grows for proposal to expand transitional kindergarten
A Senate proposal to expand transitional kindergarten to all 4-year-olds would be more expensive than originally predicted, according to a new analysis. At full rollout in 2019-20, Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg’s proposal would cost $1.46 billion in addition to the $901 million already being spent on the current transitional kindergarten program, according to a recent analysis by the California Department of Education. EdSource

Solvency issues diminish as LEA budgets improve
Reflecting the upswing in the state economy, the number of school districts classified as being financially at-risk dropped sharply for the second year in a row, state schools chief Tom Torlakson reported Tuesday. The biannual fiscal certification found 49 local educational agencies in either negative or qualified status – that’s down from 124 flagged in the danger zone one year ago and 188 in May, 2012. SI&A Cabinet Report 

Teachers stage apparent sickout at Compton high school
More than half the teachers at a Compton high school called in sick Tuesday, leaving students unattended and forcing district officials to scramble to bring order to the campus. The Compton Unified School District blamed labor action for the absence of teachers at Dominguez High. LA Times

Experts, officials address concerns over transgender student athletes
On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, the Azusa High girls softball team took the field for its first preseason game. It wasn’t perfect, with all the excitement and errors that come from first-game jitters. But a lopsided score — 22-2 — gave the Aztecs’ and their friends and family members plenty to cheer about. LA Daily News

San Jose court ruling spells setback for Rocketship, charter schools
The South Bay movement to fast-track the opening of charter schools has been dealt a setback, with a court ruling that county school boards can’t override local ordinances while deciding where to place campuses. In a widely anticipated order, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Franklin Bondonno has ruled that the Santa Clara County Board of Education lacks authority to exempt charter schools from zoning rules. Contra Costa Times

Parent innovation leads to unusual solution to school frustrations
Tamara Hernandez isn’t the first parent to be underwhelmed by her local public school. But she’s solving the problem in a way not many do: she’s joining other frustrated parents to start a new school. She said the idea had been percolating in her head for some time. But the project didn’t get started until one afternoon this Winter, while brainstorming with parents about another way to bring change at the school. KPCC

Morning Read: Rising truancy draws Capitol attention

Rise in elementary school truancy prompts raft of bills
Warning that truancy has reached a crisis level in California elementary schools, state Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris and half a dozen lawmakers proposed a raft of bills Monday aimed at keeping kids in school. Harris said 30% of elementary school students were truant in the 2012-13 school year. LA Times

Truancy bills propose to revamp data collection in CA schools
New state legislation that would standardize public school attendance records and track truancy interventions was announced by California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Monday. Her office estimates 1 million elementary students were truant at least one day last school year, costing schools $1.4 billion in lost funds. KPCC

Gov. Brown again takes aim at testing overload in schools
Governor Brown took aim at excessive testing in the schools – an ongoing theme of his governorship – and warned lawmakers in Sacramento and Washington not to burden teachers with more demands than they are already experiencing in forceful remarks at the California Democratic Convention in Los Angeles over the weekend. EdSource

Advocates see parent engagement key to LCFF
For school administrators working on the compliance details surrounding the Local Control Funding Formula, community organizer Oscar Cruz has a message when it comes to parental engagement – a minimal effort won’t do. Cruz, the head of Families in Schools, nonprofit advocate for low-income and minority families, is already working with parents in Fresno, the Inland Empire and Los Angeles to prepare them for the spring budget season. SI&A Cabinet Report

Head Start accrues most benefits to kids with little home stimulation
Head Start preschool programs make a difference to children who get little academic stimulation at home, according to a new study from U.C. Irvine. For children who are rarely read to at home, or whose parents don’t work with them on letter and number recognition or word pronunciation, daily Head Start classes matter, the report found. KPCC

The watchdog at L.A. Unified
Commentary: Amid allegations of overbilling, environmental hazards and spiraling costs at the Belmont Learning Center in downtown L.A. in the late 1990s, the state Legislature created a separate investigative office within the Los Angeles Unified School District. The new inspector general was authorized to issue subpoenas, and charged with examining operations in the district with a piercing and unimpeded eye. LA Times


Morning Read: LAUSD iPads content still unavailable

LAUSD iPads: Officials chose incomplete software over competitors
When the Los Angeles Unified School District set out last year to buy tablets for every teacher and student, officials drew up a scoring system to rate 19 hardware and software options. The scores meant a lot: the contract will ultimately be worth about $500 million and marks the largest school technology expansion in the country. KPCC

Candidates vying to lead UTLA reflect recent teacher woes
One candidate to head the Los Angeles teachers union was laid off. Another was removed from the classroom for alleged misconduct. A third lost his position when his school was restructured with new staff because of low test scores. A fourth is an elementary school counselor who must shuttle between two campuses. LA Times

California gets waiver for Common Core field tests without penalties
California will not face penalties or multimillion-dollar fines from the federal government for giving all students a preliminary test on the new Common Core standards, instead of on the old state standards that California has abandoned. EdSource 

Testing waiver clears path for accountability update
In what is likely to be an historic step in transforming how California schools are graded for student success, the board of education this week is expected to officially suspend for two years the state’s school-performance measurement tool known as the API. SI&A Cabinet Report

Districts, partnerships signal interest in ‘career pathways’ grant program
Competition is shaping up to be fierce for a new state grant program supporting programs that link academics with real-world career opportunities. The California Department of Education has received some 275 letters from parties interested in seeking a piece of the California Career Pathways Trust. EdSource 

Dumbing down the SAT won’t prepare students for college
Commentary: When the going gets tough, well, why not just make the going easier? This seems to be the conclusion of the College Board, which administers the dreaded SAT college entrance exam. Recently announced “improvements” to the test are designed, say board officials, to better gauge what students actually study and learn in high school. Shouldn’t take too long. Sacramento Bee

Morning Read: Budget cuts push young teachers out

New teachers scarce after state funding cuts
Young teachers have become far more scarce in California classrooms after school districts slashed their budgets to survive the recession. From 2008 to 2013, California saw a 40 percent drop in teachers with less than six years’ experience, according to a Sacramento Bee review of state data. Sacramento Bee 

California school spending goal would cost $36 billion more
Representatives of the Education Coalition told a state Senate budget subcommittee Thursday that despite increases in school spending in the current state budget and promises of more in the next one, California still needs to spend much more money on education. Modesto Bee

Special education needs a ‘do-over,’ state panel told
Eight minutes into a public meeting on how to reform the state’s vast special education system, the woman who ran special education in California for nine years came up to the microphone. Alice Parker was blunt. “I wish I could have a ‘do-over’ for the 45 years I worked in special education,” Parker told representatives of a new Statewide Special Education Task Force at a public forum Monday. EdSource 

California releases child abuse identification and reporting guidelines

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on Wednesday issued new guidelines to help parents and guardians report suspected child abuse at schools. In a letter to school officials, Torlakson explained that California’s Education Code requires the state Department of Education to adopt guidelines for parents and guardians to follow if they want to file complaints against those suspected of abusing their child at school. San Jose Mercury News

Homeless LAUSD girls get prom dresses, makeovers for big night
Getting all dolled up was “very foreign” for Sun Valley High School senior Cheri Hodge. But that’s exactly what she did Thursday during the Operation School Bell Prom Day at the Assistance League of Southern California in Hollywood. LA Daily News

SAT redo is (A) Good; (B) Bad; (C) Overdue; (D) None of the above
Commentary: Less than a decade after it started requiring students to write an essay as part of the SAT, the College Board announced Wednesday that it is eliminating that portion of the test. At the same time, it will do away with certain obscure vocabulary words and the penalty for inaccurate guesses. LA Times

Morning Read: LA schools welcome sweeping changes to the SAT

Students, area school staff embrace changes to SAT
Pablo Muñoz is no stranger to academic rigor. And don’t expect him to shirk additional work. As many cheered sweeping changes to the SAT — such as the optional essay — the 15-year-old Loyola High School sophomore is likely not to skip that portion. “I would probably do the essay because I think it could give me a slight edge over test takers,” he said. “I think it might be a gateway for students to shortchange themselves” if they don’t write the essay. LA Times

L.A. County Supervisors approve crossing guards at certain middle schools
Weeks after a mother was killed walking her daughter to school, the county Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to deploy crossing guards at certain middle schools in unincorporated areas. While its previous policy covered only elementary schools, now the county’s Department of Public Works and Office of Education can post the guards near middle schools if there’s evidence of unusually complicated intersections or heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic. LA Daily News

Bill would provide $1.5 billion more for Common Core implementation
California school districts would receive another year of Common Core implementation funds under a bill introduced Wednesday by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord. Last year, as chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, Bonilla pushed for the $1.25 billion that schools are using this academic year to support teacher training, textbooks and other instructional materials and technology upgrades needed to carry out the transition to Common Core State Standards. EdSource

LAO says Brown’s child care funding falls short
Legislators will need to include “a few million dollars” more in this year’s budget if the state expects to fully cover the costs of its largest subsidized child care program for low-income families. While it is likely that state lawmakers will heed the advice of the Legislative Analyst’s Office and budget the additional money needed to pay for California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids – or CalWORKs, the issue of increased funding for other state subsidized child care and preschool programs is less certain. SI&A Cabinet Report

Community rallies around George McKenna for L.A. school board
The recent storm couldn’t keep parents, students, educators, and voters away from helping to celebrate the grand opening of Dr. George McKenna’s Leimert Park campaign headquarters on March 2. Among those in attendance were Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, South Los Angeles Councilmember Bernard Parks, retired L.A. Councilmember Jan Perry, and former Assemblymember Mike Davis. LA Sentinel

By easing path from high school to higher ed, CA can build its workforce
Commentary: The forecast for 2025 is grim – California will fall short by millions of college graduates of meeting workforce demands. But as a policymaker who has worked for decades on quality and accountability in our schools, and as a community college president leading change, we see no shortage of students who are eager and ready to succeed in college. Sacramento Bee

Morning Read: CA moving away from bilingual education

Calif. Bill Would Repeal Bilingual-Education Restrictions

A new bill that seeks to repeal California’s long-running restrictions on bilingual education may be only the most recent signal of a shifting political climate around English-language-learner instruction in that state. California drew national attention in 1998 when voters passed Proposition 227, a ballot measure that severely restricted the availability of bilingual education for students in favor of English-only immersion programs for English-learners. EdWeek

Los Angeles preschool advocates cheer Obama’s budget
Early education advocates were thrilled at the $75 billion President Barack Obama proposed Tuesday to spend on their cause over the next 10 years – even though the budget is unlikely to pass as is. Alex Morales, CEO of the Children’s Bureau of Southern California, said the president’s proposed expansion – to $1.3 billion next year to implement universal preschool and expand other programs – would be a game changer for the poor families his organization serves. KPCC 

Linked learning promotes grad rates if not test scores
Students enrolled in linked learning programs over the past four years outperformed their peers in traditional classrooms when it came to earning high school credits and completing advanced college readiness courses, according to a new study released Tuesday. But the report from SRI International and the Irvine Foundation found only mixed results when comparing scores on standardized testing between students in the project-based learning system and their counterparts who were not. SI&A Cabinet Report

U.S. needs to add student online privacy rules
Editorial: As more of our children’s education moves online, there are increased opportunities for abusing the collection of their personal data. Last month, state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) introduced a bill that would help close a loophole in federal regulations — at least in California — in an effort to safeguard personal information of public school students. The potential privacy violations could be significant, and it makes sense for the Legislature to act now. LATimes

School districts should begin planning now for new science standards
Commentary: The Next Generation Science Standards, adopted last September by the State Board of Education, will better engage and educate all students in science, and better prepare them to enter more in-depth science, computing and engineering courses in high school and beyond. EdSource

Morning Read: UTLA leader threatens complaints over ‘jails’

In survey, union leader vows to file complaints over ‘teacher jails’
Los Angeles teachers union president Warren Fletcher lashed out at the school district Monday for its handling of teachers accused of misconduct, vowing to file federal and state age-discrimination complaints. LA Times

Severely disabled are to face double testing this spring
Thousands of the state’s most severely disabled students face a double testing dilemma this spring as a result of the state’s complex transition to the Common Core curriculum – a problem lawmakers are scrambling to fix. SI&A Cabinet Report 

Universal preschool will be a hot issue this spring in Sacramento
Three little boys crawled around a colorful classroom rug, roaring like dinosaurs as other preschoolers learned the value of a dollar. One hundred pennies felt much heavier in the 4-year-olds’ tiny hands than a dollar bill. A casual observer might assume the kids were just playing, but St. Elizabeth’s Day Home in San Jose is no ordinary day care. Contra Costa Times

Effective teacher training critical to success of Common Core math
The quality of teacher training will be crucial to the success of the new Common Core State Standards in math, educators say, and the pressure is on districts to give elementary school teachers the skills they’ll need to provide students with a firm foundation in early arithmetic. EdSource 

Why this bilingual education ban should have repealed long ago

Commentary: In the mid-1990s, conditions were right for California to build the multilingual economy of the future. A slumping economy needed a boost. A remarkably multilingual population — including millions of Spanish speakers — was already in place. But in 1998, with globalization knocking ever more loudly on its door, Californians voted instead to pass a ballot measure known as Proposition 227 that imposed wide-reaching restrictions on bilingual education, effectively banning it. CNN

Morning Read: LAUSD board to consider more computer science

L.A. school board to consider expansion of computer science offerings
An initiative to address the shortage of computer science offerings in the L.A. Unified School District will go before the school board Tuesday. Only one-in-three of the district’s high schools are offering a basic course this year, and far fewer are offering the Advanced Placement Computer Science course.  KPCC

Boyle Heights school protests district’s decision to move campus
When Catherine Aleman and Ana Renteria learned that L.A. Unified might move or close their small school in East Los Angeles, they did what the Academy of Environmental and Social Policy had taught them to do: They tried to make a difference and organized a protest. LA Times

Eli Broad appoints head of philanthropic education efforts
After more than a decade of directly overseeing $1 billion in education reform grants from his non-profit foundation, philanthropist Eli Broad is grooming a replacement. He’s hired Bruce Reed, a high profile Washington political operative who spent decades in the halls of power. KPCC

New all-digital curriculums hope to ride high-tech push

English language curriculums built entirely on a digital platform — replacing written textbooks, worksheets or printed study guides — are about to enter the market from several companies, with promises that they will change the nature of classroom learning across the country. New York Times 

Why teaching art to our children matters
Commentary: The reality is that Obama is not alone in revealing an attitude that marginalizes the significance of the arts when compared to “more serious” priorities. In recent years, as school funding in CA has been drastically reduced, that attitude meant that arts education programs were often the first to be cut. Sacramento Bee

About 3.5 hours of homework a day for high schoolers? That’s too much.
Commentary: A poll of public school teachers finds that on average, high school students are assigned 3.5 hours of homework per weeknight, or more than 17 hours a week. Or that’s the teachers’ perspective, anyway. If that’s how it actually plays out, it strikes me as too much by far. LA Times

Morning Read: LAUSD says it needs billions for school repairs

Billions would be needed to repair L.A. schools, officials say
Maintaining Los Angeles Unified campuses will be difficult because of staffing and funding shortages combined with repair backlogs, aging buildings and more than 100 new schools, officials said Thursday. LA Times

LA teachers can only afford 8.7 percent of LA houses
A new real estate study out from listing site Redfin shows that only 8.7 percent of the residences on the market in Los Angeles are at all affordable for working teachers in the city. CurbedLA

Surveys differ on teacher preparedness for Common Core
The results from two studies that examine teachers’ perceptions on the Common Core State Standards were released this week, and they come to some markedly different conclusions on how ready teachers are for implementation.  EdWeek

Summer and after-school programs provide a jump on Common Core
Adopted by California and 44 other states, the new standards emphasize an in-depth approach to subjects, the development of verbal and analytical skills, teamwork, and student-centered learning focused on real-world examples. Hands-on projects and robust discussions among students replace lecture-style teaching. EdSource

Wait, What? Educators Highly Satisfied With Classroom Autonomy, Morale

A recent report from the Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive think-tank in Washington D.C., found that the majority of educators 1) are happy in their jobs and 2) report high levels of autonomy over almost “every aspect of teaching, including what to teach and how to teach.” NEAToday


Morning Read: A new attempt at a CA teacher dismissal bill

State lawmaker makes new bid to change teacher dismissal rules
A state lawmaker introduced a bill Wednesday that would attempt to streamline the process for dismissing California teachers accused of misconduct. The proposed bill by state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) also would strive to make the dismissal process less expensive. Recent attempts to change rules have wilted under opposition from teacher unions. LA Times

School Boards Association proposes teacher dismissal bill
Picking up pieces from two failed attempts to rewrite the law on teacher dismissals, the California School Boards Association will lead this year’s attempt to make it easier and less expensive to fire teachers accused of serious misconduct and sex crimes against children. EdSource

LAUSD kicking off district-wide Arts Fest
Dozens of Los Angeles-area schools are opening their doors to showcase student films, dance recitals and art exhibits. Seeking to spark creativity among its students, Los Angeles Unified School District’s “Arts Fest” kicks off Saturday and will feature events at about 30 schools over a two-week period. LA Daily News

Funding dispute threatens health, counseling program
School nurses, speech pathologists, counselors and psychologists throughout California face pink slips this spring as districts struggled to close a $600 million gap created by a withholding of federal funds.  SI&A Cabinet Report

CA district makes a tough choice between NCLB, Obama policies
At a table strewn with papers, four eighth-grade boys with gelled hair and flashy sneakers comb through lyrics, discussing everything from girls to grammar. Only one remains silent, nodding lazily. When they reach the line, “You were my pills, you were my thrills,” the unofficial leader shouts: “That’s a metaphor!” He asks the silent one what he thinks. Hechinger Report

Morning Read: LAUSD music instruction to be cut in half

Teachers: LA schools’ arts budget ‘a step in the wrong direction’
A plan by the Los Angeles Unified School District to cut the time elementary school children are taught orchestra in half is angering teachers – many of whom learned about it only after KPCC reported on the arts budget, which was released unexpectedly at a committee meeting last week. KPCC

Lawmakers seek to streamline financial aid applications
Lawmakers announced a new bill Tuesday that would streamline the college financial aid application process, in hopes of increasing high school students’ access to higher-education cash. LA Times

Call to fix or phase out school transportation
With the Legislature set to tackle a remake of California’s 67-year-old school transportation funding system, the Legislative Analyst on Tuesday offered up three options ranging from a complete phase-out of the program to covering an increased share of reimbursement costs for districts receiving less than the state average. SI&A Cabinet Report

SF Unified eliminates ‘willful defiance’  to expel or suspend
Administrators in San Francisco Unified will no longer be able to use “willful defiance” as a reason to suspend or expel a student, beginning in the 2014-15 school year. San Francisco’s school board voted unanimously Tuesday to eliminate the controversial category, which has been used disproportionately to suspend African American students in that district and also statewide. EdSource 

What do teachers think about the Common Core standards?

The more teachers get to know the controversial Common Core State Standards, the more they like them, according to a teacher survey published this week. And even as many states debate whether to stick with the standards, the survey suggests that the Common Core is already being taught at most schools in the 45 states that adopted it. Hechinger Report

Common Core for schools: Boon? Horror? You tell me
Commentary: You would have thought that after 45 states leaped forward to adopt the Common Core curriculum standards for their schools, the only issue going forward would be how to make this big change happen in the smoothest and most successful way. LA Times

Morning Read: Funding poses challenge for English-learners

New funding law puts focus on translation for non-English speakers
School districts with high concentrations of English-learner students are facing a new challenge in ensuring that parents who need language translation are informed of their role under the funding formula for schools. California’s new Local Control Funding Formula emphasizes the importance of parental involvement in guiding school spending decisions. EdSource

Rules to limit marketing unhealthy food in schools
Even the scoreboards in high school gyms eventually will have to promote good health. Moving beyond the lunch line, new rules that will be proposed Tuesday by the White House and the Agriculture Department would limit marketing of unhealthy foods in schools. Sacramento Bee

Bipartisan effort to restore school bus funding
School districts could see significant increases in funding for transportation costs if either of two separate Senate proposals introduced this week ends up as law. Because the funding distribution is so uneven, critics say, children – depending upon where they live – are denied equal access to their schools, especially in lean budget times. SI&A Cabinet Report

Repeal of California transgender student rights bill fails
Efforts to overturn a law shielding transgender students stalled Monday, with advocates of the repeal failing to gather enough signatures to qualify for the statewide ballot. Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced that the referendum on Assembly Bill 1266 finished about 17,000 signatures short of the 504,760 valid names needed to go before voters. Sacramento Bee

‘Platooning’ on the rise in early grades
At Sharpstein Elementary School, 2nd graders are getting used to a routine that most American children don’t learn for four more years: Several times a day, they line up and switch classrooms and teachers by subject. They spend the morning with one teacher for reading and writing, breaking in the middle for music, library, or physical education classes. EdWeek

Morning Read: Budget cuts forcing LAUSD libraries to close

Many L.A. Unified school libraries, lacking staff, are forced to shut
In the sun-filled space at the Roy Romer Middle School library, thousands of books invite students to stimulate their curiosity and let their imaginations soar. There is classic “Tom Sawyer” and popular “Harry Potter,” biographies of Warren Buffett and Tony Blair, illustrated books on reptiles and comets. LA Times

LAUSD teacher arrested for alleged sexual assaults 15 years ago
Los Angeles Police detectives on Friday afternoon arrested 47-year-old high school teacher Peter Christopher Gomez for felony sexual assault. Gomez was arrested in Bell, where he teaches drama and history at Bell Senior High School. He’s a resident of La Habra. KPCC 

Advocate proposes big increase in early education for LA schools
A civil rights advocacy group is proposing the Los Angeles Unified School District spend $44 million over the next three years to restore 2,000 preschool and child care seats – a fraction of the 11,000 that have been cut since 2008. Kim Patillo Brownson, of the Advancement Project, made the proposal Thursday afternoon at a meeting of the school district’s early education subcommittee, of which she’s a member. KPCC

Expand Pre-K, Not A.D.H.D.
Commentary: Over the next few years, America can count on a major expansion of early childhood education. We embrace this trend, but as health policy researchers, we want to raise a major caveat: Unless we’re careful, today’s preschool bandwagon could lead straight to an epidemic of 4- and 5-year-olds wrongfully being told that they have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. New York Times

‘No Child’ waiver creates rift among Fresno education leaders
Nearly seven months after Fresno Unified and seven other California school districts got one year of relief from strict federal accountability rules for student academic performance, administrators are now looking to reapply for flexibility from the much-maligned No Child Left Behind law. But the waiver, which is the first of its kind applied to a group of districts instead of a state, has become a wedge among local education leaders. Fresno Bee

Alpine teacher talks break down; strike to continue Monday
Marathon negotiations over the weekend between the Alpine Union School District and its teachers union didn’t produce a contract agreement, setting the stage for more picketing by teachers Monday. Sunday night, leaders of the Alpine Teachers Association said members would hold their third day of striking as classes resume in the rural, mountain district. U-T San Diego

Morning Read: An effort in CA to return bilingual education

California senator proposes restoring bilingual education
Sixteen years after California voters approved an initiative requiring public school instruction in English, state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced a measure Thursday to repeal the requirement of Proposition 227. Lara’s proposal would place an initiative on the ballot that would give parents a choice to have their children receive bilingual education. LA Times

Despite $20 billion in bond funds, 50,000 backlogged repair requests
A Los Angeles Unified school board committee on Thursday found a backlog of 50,000 neglected repairs at campuses – a number that is only expected to grow. School district officials said the budget for repairs has been slashed by more than 65% since 2008. Monica Ratliff, who joined the school board last year, said the public deserves to know why repairs are piling up. KPCC

A deeply misguided lawsuit about teachers and students
Commentary: Vergara v. California, a lawsuit challenging three components of teacher employment law in California’s Ed Code that began on Jan. 27, has garnered considerable media attention. The plaintiffs’ legal team contends that due process rights for teachers, a cumbersome teacher dismissal process, and seniority-based layoffs violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Despite the plaintiffs’ claims, this lawsuit unfortunately does not address the needs of low-income students. Washington Post

Only 46 of 667 at-risk LA schools buildings get seismic evaluation
More than seven years after it identified hundreds of school buildings that presented a greater risk of collapse in an earthquake, the Los Angeles Unified School District has done comprehensive seismic studies on just a few dozen of the highest-risk structures, according to newly released data. KPCC

Finding fairness in high school dropout accountability
As part of a massive restructuring of California’s school accountability system, a key state panel decided Thursday to formally consider changes to a longstanding policy that penalizes the last high school a student attended before dropping out. Administrators and advocates of drop-out recovery programs have long argued that the current system acts as a disincentive for districts to continue working with these at-risk students. SI&A Cabinet Report

Alpine teachers launch strike
It’s the first teachers strike in San Diego County since 1996. The main disagreements between the Alpine district administration and the teachers union include how much state education funding the district expects to receive this year, how much of a salary reduction teachers should bear and how much the district should contribute to teachers’ health-care benefits. U-T San Diego