Special ed enrollment at charters nearly matches district’s percentage, but exodus from LA Unified looms

LA Unified’s district schools and independent charters enroll nearly the same percentage of students with disabilities after five years of gains by charters, a new report shows.

But cooperation between nearly 100 of LA Unified’s 221 charters and the district could slide into chaos if the LA Unified school board decides not to continue a five-year pilot program that has been credited with the enrollment increase. At least one charter leader said discontinuing the pilot could cause a chain reaction leading to the school board not approving the charters’ renewals.

The report, from LA Unified’s independent monitor of its special education programs, shows that 11.04 percent of students at independent charters are in special education — a new high — compared to 11.96 percent at district schools. The statistics were celebrated in a press release this week from the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). However, the release does not mention that the district still has a much larger number of special education students with moderate or severe disabilities, who are more costly to educate.

The number of students with moderate to severe disabilities at the nearly 100 charters has increased from 1.2 percent in 2010-11 to 2.1 percent this past school year, while the percentage of special education students in traditional district schools with moderate to severe disabilities has risen to 4.72 percent from 3.63 percent five years ago. The district noted in an email that the percentage at traditional schools includes preschools, which charter schools do not serve, so “it is difficult to compare the district’s percentage to charters.”

Caprice Young, CEO of Magnolia Public Schools, operator of eight charters in LA Unified, said the reason for the increase is the pilot program that is up for review this fiscal year.

“The pilot has led to a lot of really great things. It has led to an increase in the quality of special education in charter schools because we have been implementing the best practices that we have been learning from each other,” said Young, a former LA Unified school board president.

In 2011, some charter operators were threatening to leave LA Unified’s Special Education Local Planning Area (SELPA) and have their special education students served by the El Dorado County Office of Education in Northern California. Under state law, multiple school districts can band together to pool money and resources to serve special education students, and some of the district’s charters believed the cost of special ed at El Dorado would be cheaper.

But then a deal was struck that persuaded the charter schools not to leave LA’s SELPA, and that deal must now be reviewed during the current fiscal year.

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Education at the RNC? Not so much. Why the GOP doesn’t seem all that interested

#EDlection2016By Max Marchitello 

Although it was light on ideas, the four days of the Republican National Convention were nevertheless exciting at times. A few states staged a walkout in an attempt to secure a roll call vote. From Florida to Washington, we debated what does or does not count as plagiarism. We pretended to be a grand jury during a mock indictment of Hillary Clinton. And finally, we heard over and over from the Trump family.

Much to the chagrin of wonks like me, and really anyone who wants to get a sense of what a Trump White House might look like, 10-point plans and policy ideas were afterthoughts. And given the central role it plays in just about every area of American life, even more disappointing was the fact that education policy was such a fringe issue. Schools barely received any mention at all.

But benching education isn’t all that surprising these days. Looking back at the last few presidential races, education took a backseat to other issues such as the economy, national security, or entitlement reform. This isn’t to suggest that America’s education problems are few or less important. Quite the contrary. But because in the last few races candidates just haven’t been prioritizing them. Can anyone remember Mitt Romney’s or John McCain’s thoughts on how to improve our schools?

This conspicuous absence is a function of the GOP’s inability to develop new policy ideas that will increase school quality, close achievement gaps, and expand access to college and good jobs. Of course that’s not to say Republicans don’t have any ideas to improve education. Rather, that those ideas have a hard time taking root as they run afoul of an increasingly popular and narrow vision of conservatives.

• Read the complete archive of The 74-Bellwether Education Partners live blog of the 2016 Republican National Convention. (See our DNC coverage here.) We will be covering national and state-level education issues leading up to Election Day at our #EDlection2016 page — sign up for The 74 newsletter to get all our campaign updates. 

So what do you do when you’re limited by your own party’s ideology? You get back to your sweet spot; to the things with which you are comfortable. For the Republican Party, that’s traditionally states’ rights, choice, and free market principles. And this year they’ve added nativism and uncritical American exceptionalism.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

These are the very same ideas they put forth to improve the job market, the healthcare system, or international trade. The list goes on.

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LA Unified principal selected as California’s 2016 National Distinguished Principal

Marcia Reed

Marcia S. Reed

Marcia S. Reed, principal of 186th Street Elementary School in Gardena, was selected as California’s 2016 National Distinguished Principal.

“Reed was nominated and selected by her fellow principals through a statewide search process conducted by the Association of California School Administrators,” said Elementary Principal Representative Ron Tanimura.

The National Association of Elementary School Principals established the program in 1984 to celebrate elementary and middle-level principals, who set high standards for instruction, student achievement, character and climate for their learning communities.

“At the helm of every successful school is a successful principal,” said Gail Connelly, executive director of the elementary school principals group. “Our National Distinguished Principals program provides us with an opportunity to recognize the outstanding leadership of these principals and their commitment to creating successful learning communities. Because of them, students thrive academically, teachers grow professionally, and communities are strengthened.”

Click here for the full story from LA Unified.


LA’s first all-girls charter school is still looking for a few good GALS

CarrieWagnerGALSGirls Athletic Leadership School

Carrie Wagner picks up yoga mats donated for her new GALS charter school.

On a weekend when she has nothing to do, Carrie Wagner may climb 10 miles up the 10,000-foot summit of Mount Baldy. She has already conquered two 19,000-foot volcanoes.

But now, at 41, this surfer, skier, adventurer and educator is facing a unique career challenge as the executive director of the first all-girls charter middle school in the second-largest school district in the country. On Aug. 4, she will be introducing parents and students to the Girls Athletic Leadership School of Los Angeles when they will first be able to tour their school facilities at LA Unified two weeks before school begins.

Until then, Wagner has about two dozen more seats to fill to reach the capacity of 125 sixth-grade girls and is handing out flyers to prospective families at a San Fernando Valley Walmart and introducing herself and the school at local community events.

“It’s a unique opportunity for Los Angeles and the area,” Wagner said. “We want them to know that it is possible to be happy in middle school. They come in as little girls and leave as fine young women.”

GALS is the first single-gender charter school to open at LA Unified, and the staff has worked closely with Liz Hicks, who is opening an all-girls traditional school called GALA, the Girls Academy Leadership Academy, which is also looking for new recruits for the coming school year. A year from now, the district plans to open an all-boys school at Washington Preparatory High School.

So far, the population of GALS is predominantly Latina (about 80 to 85 percent), and 70 percent are low income, with more than half coming from the Panorama City area, where the school is sharing facilities with Vista Middle School.

The student population hails from Sherman Oaks, Valley Village, Pacoima, Chatsworth, Granada Hills and only a few from over the hill outside the Valley.

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Transgender TV ad scheduled for Trump’s big night at the RNC

LGBT advocates are looking to reach and persuade conservative voters tonight with a prime-time TV ad about transgender discrimination that’s set to air on Fox News around the time Donald Trump is accepting the Republican party’s nomination for president.

The ad features a transgender woman from North Carolina who is prevented from using a restroom that corresponds with her gender identity — calling out the controversial state law that bars people from using restrooms that do not correspond with the gender on their birth certificates. However, the ad also speaks to debates — and lawsuits — that have boiled up in schools across the country. One of those lawsuits, filed against a school district in Virginia, is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Despite a GOP platform that opposes the Obama administration’s take on transgender student rights, Donald Trump’s stance on the issue is somewhat unclear. At first, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee appeared to drift away from the Republican base, saying Americans should be able to use whichever bathroom they feel comfortable with.

But he later backed away from that stance, telling TV personality Jimmy Kimmel states should be able to decide on their own.

• Read more on the live blog: The 74 and Bellwether Education Partners are partnering to cover both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

The stance of Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is far more straightforward. Pence became a household name when he signed a “religious freedom” bill in 2015 that said religious business owners were not required to participate in same-sex weddings, a stance opponents called discrimination against LGBT customers.

Throughout his time in office, the Obama administration has played a big role in extending protections for LGBT students — from the “It Gets Better” anti-bullying campaign to guidelines for schools to address transgender bathroom issues.

A joint “dear colleague” letter from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice delivered in May said Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs, applies to a student’s gender identity. The Department of Education also released a set of guidelines.

“This means that a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity,” read the letter. “The Departments’ interpretation is consistent with courts’ and other agencies’ interpretations of Federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination.”

In response, Pence called the guidelines another example of federal overreach: “I have long believed that education is a state and local function. Policies regarding the security and privacy of students in our schools should be in the hands of Hoosier parents and local schools, not bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. The federal government has no business getting involved in issues of this nature.”

Last week, a Virginia school board called on the U.S. Supreme Court to halt an April decision by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled the school district’s bathroom policy violated Title IX when officials said high school junior Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male, was barred from using the boys’ restroom.

This article was published in partnership with The74Million.org.

Could Donald Trump make social security great again — and win over 7 million voters in the process?

#EDlection2016By Kirsten Schmitz

Donald Trump has promised to make America great again. One thing he says he won’t look to change? Social Security. While maintaining the Social Security status quo might seem at the very least unobtrusive, it neglects an opportunity to extend coverage to the over 1 million teachers and 6.5 million government workers whose jobs go uncovered.

On February 29, Trump told Georgia rally attendees, “we’re going to save your Social Security without making any cuts. Mark my words.” He made similar remarks at an April rally in Wisconsin — both states, interestingly enough, extend social security coverage to only some of their teachers — and spoke favorably (though without specific recommendations) about preserving the program in a statement to AARP. Though no official stance on the topic appears on his website, and recent adviser statements seem to hedge toward cuts, let’s assume Social Security under Trump remains as is. He’s missing — perhaps not for the first time — an opportunity for real greatness.

• Read more on the live blog: The 74 and Bellwether Education Partners are partnering to cover both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

While existing state pension plans aren’t offering all workers adequate retirement benefits, Social Security at least offers them a solid floor of benefits. Expanding Social Security would help millions of uncovered workers, including all teachers in California, Illinois, and Ohio (where Trump will be accepting his party’s nomination tonight). Further, universal Social Security coverage would actually reduce the program’s existing deficit by 10% — yes, reduce — by more evenly distributing the program’s legacy costs. While Social Security isn’t designed to take the place of a stand-alone retirement benefit, it would provide all teachers with a much deserved and too often missed baseline of secure, nationally portable retirement benefits.

Neither candidate has broached the idea of universal coverage, though Hillary Clinton has proposed its expansion by increasing benefits for high-need groups, including widows and caretakers. Trump has yet to commit to any one approach – only promising not to make cuts. But to this point neither Clinton nor Trump has taken any steps towards addressing the benefit coverage gap that impacts millions of educators, many of whom will ostensibly head to the polls in November.

Kirsten Schmitz is an analyst with Bellwether Education Partners.

This article was published in partnership with The74Million.org.

Morning Read: Academics draft letter criticizing federal proposal on determining student achievement

Letter details opposition to federal proposal defining student success on tests

A University of Southern California professor has collected dozens of academicians’ signatures on a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education John King criticizing how the federal government proposes to measure student scores on standardized tests. California’s top state education officials agree with him and may express the same point of view in a letter they’re drafting. By John Fensterwald, EdSource

Free summit encourages teachers educating teachers

California Teachers Summit at Pasadena Civic Center

For the second year, the California Teachers Summit is holding what they call the state’s largest teacher training to encourage and inspire fellow educators.

The free summit is planned at 38 locations throughout the state on Friday, July 29, and is expected to attract 15,000 traditional, private and charter school teachers for lectures, seminars and individualized smaller breakout groups.

This year’s keynote speakers include actor and author Ernie Hudson (from the first “Ghostbusters” movie who also has a cameo in the latest one), and teacher and author Kelly Gallagher, who teaches on literacy education, has written six books for teachers and received the Award for Classroom Excellence from the California Association of Teachers of English, the state’s highest honor for English teachers. Hudson was also in The CrowLaw and Order and is on Netflix’s Grace and Frankie and FOX’s new series A.P.B. this fall.

This time around, “Better Together: California Teachers Summit” is focusing on the new statewide California standards and the Next Generation Science standards being used in the classrooms. Geared toward pre-K to 12th-grade teachers as well as teacher candidates and school administrators, the day also includes TED-style talks presented by local teachers and Edcamp discussions led by teachers for teachers.

The event is sponsored by the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, the California State University and New Teacher Center with the idea of reaching educators at every stage in their development.

“As California embraces new ways of teaching and learning, teachers want more opportunities to connect with and learn from their peers,” Ellen Moir, founder and CEO of New Teacher Center, said in a statement. “New Teacher Center supports new and veteran teachers. We’re thrilled summit attendees will join a growing network of teachers teaching teachers.”

Kristen Soares, president of the AICCU, said the concern over a teacher shortage is another reason for having the summit. “In light of California’s teacher shortage, we must do more to celebrate and support teachers,” Soares said. “Teaching is a uniquely challenging yet rewarding profession that requires teachers to be lifelong learners. The summit is a unique opportunity for teachers, teaching and teacher education to come together to collaborate and re-energize ahead of the new school year.”

More information, a list of event locations and online registration is available at CATeachersSummit.com.

Sold-out crowd expected at King’s best-practices sharing session on Saturday

Michelle King LAUSD

A groundbreaking summit that plans to share best practices between LA Unified traditional school and charter school educators is at capacity with more than 350 people signed up for the Saturday event planned by Superintendent Michelle King.

From the moment she was appointed to the position in January, King said she planned to find ways to share best practices between educators at magnet, charter, pilot and traditional schools resulting in this Promising Practices Forum scheduled all day at the Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academies in Cypress Park. But don’t expect to just drop in to attend.

Although the event was free and open to the public for registration of 350 seats in early June, the registration closed on July 8. According to district spokesperson Monica Carazo, “We are at capacity and cannot accommodate any other participants.”

The event will kick off with school leaders such as King, school board President Steve Zimmer, board members Ref Rodriguez and Monica Ratliff as well as Local District South Superintendent Christopher Downing and Local District Northwest Superintendent Vivian Ekchian. They also expect Antonia Hernandez, president of the California Community Foundation, 
Yvette King-Berg, executive director of the Youth Policy Institute, and other LA Unified and charter school leaders.

Rodriguez and King plan to lead a panel discussion at the beginning of the event. Rodriguez spearheaded a resolution recently asking the superintendent to report back to the board after identifying successful programs and potential funding sources.

The forum is a culmination of King’s seven-month “listen and learn” tour as superintendent, and she is well aware of the divisiveness and conflicts that have occurred between traditional and charter schools with issues involving student safety, school choice, charter co-locations, teaching assessments, equitable funding, union disputes and general distrust among parents.

The forum will feature more than two dozen breakout sessions where school experts plan to share ideas and successful strategies for improving learning, parent engagement and school climate.

Results from this and other meetings will form the basis of King’s three-year plan for the district.

“We are all LA Unified school students,” King said at a previous forum with parents when asked about what she thought of charter schools. “It is unfortunate we have labels, saying that this one is better than that one. It’s not us versus them.”

Flashback: That time Arne Duncan, Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton traveled the country talking about education

#EDlection2016By Peter Cunningham 

In the spring of 2009, newly-elected President Barack Obama took a meeting in the Oval Office with civil rights leader Al Sharpton. Reverend Sharpton told the White House he wanted to talk about education so Education Secretary Arne Duncan also attended. Sharpton also brought along an unlikely guest: former House Speaker and GOP firebrand Newt Gingrich.

By all accounts the meeting went well but towards the end, according to Secretary Duncan, the President suddenly suggested that the three of them go on the road together to talk about education. “You’ll get tons of media,” he said.

Duncan was somewhat flabbergasted by the idea but nodded. When he got back to the department, he stuck his head in my office and said, “You won’t believe what just happened.”

• Read more on the live blog: The 74 and Bellwether Education Partners are partnering to cover both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

As the Assistant Secretary for Communications at the U.S. Department of Education, I had the delicate task of organizing school visits with Reverend Sharpton, Speaker Gingrich and Secretary Duncan. Reverend Sharpton wanted to see schools serving low-income kids of color. Speaker Gingrich wanted to see charters. Turns out they are mostly the same.

As a lifelong Democrat and strong supporter of President Clinton, the notion of spending quality time with his nemesis Newt Gingrich was not high on my bucket list. Nevertheless, I became friendly with one of his top staffers and the Speaker himself turned out to be pretty agreeable. A few months later, at my request, Speaker Gingrich even came to the administration’s defense in social media over a little dust-up involving the president’s back to school speech.

The Sharpton-Gingrich tour visited schools in Philadelphia, Baltimore and D.C., where we chatted with teachers and kids. Before talking to the media, we typically spent a few minutes together in a holding room collecting ourselves.

“Who wants to go first,” I asked. Everyone pointed to the others.

“What do you want to say?” I asked.

“The kids are learning,” said Sharpton.

“Charters are working,” said Gingrich.

“This is amazing when people come together around education,” said Duncan.

“Let’s do it,” said I.

And we did – just a few times before scheduling more visits became difficult. The episode was one of the more surreal experiences I had in Washington.

In today’s polarized political environment, it’s hard to imagine Newt Gingrich, Al Sharpton and a Democratic cabinet member on the road together. Hard to imagine perhaps, but more needed than ever.

Newt Gingrich is scheduled to speak tonight at the Republican National Convention, where the theme is “Make America First Again.” Who knows, maybe he’ll bring up his visits to some of America’s best schools.

This article was published in partnership with The74Million.org.

New video: Gov. Scott Walker talks education and school choice outside the RNC

Scott Walker

(Photo credit: Twitter)

(Cleveland, Ohio) — During a special forum organized around the Republican National Convention, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker offered some unexpected advice on the best way to sell school choice measures – talk about improving traditional schools too.

“People who truly believe in education, they recognize greatness whether it’s coming from a charter school, a choice school or a traditional public school, and they want as many good options as possible. They want schools to succeed no matter what, and that’s really got to be your core point,” Walker said at a Cleveland event hosted by the American Federation for Children and moderated by 74 Editor-in-Chief Campbell Brown.

Back in Wisconsin, Walker has expanded Milwaukee’s voucher program, the first in the country, and pushed to create a statewide program for low-income families. But he also worked to overhaul teacher tenure, layoff, and compensation laws, moves he said helped improve traditional public schools.

Placing an emphasis on improving all schools helps counter opposition arguments that school choice programs only help a select group of students, Walker said.

“It’s really important, not just politically, but it’s the right thing to do, to make that argument that you’re not just looking out for one sliver of students, we’re looking out for all students,” he said.

• Read more on the live blog: The 74 and Bellwether Education Partners are partnering to cover both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

Ultimately Walker says he feels both an economic and moral urgency to support school choice – as governor, he needs better schools training a more prepared and productive workforce, and he considers it a core obligation of society to ensure that every child has access to a great school, regardless of the circumstances of their life.

“You’ve got to make it about the children. You’ve got to make it about the students, and you can’t make it about pitting one against the other,” Walker said.

He pointed out the educational backgrounds of his own sons – Matt just graduated from Marquette, a private Jesuit college, while Alex will be a senior at the public University of Wisconsin. No one flinches at the idea that siblings in the same family could simultaneously be attending public and private colleges, he said, and it shouldn’t be a surprise when that happens in K-12 schools, either.

Walker, who spoke late Tuesday afternoon en route to the convention floor where he was set to cast Wisconsin’s votes for president, also complimented GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, who Walker said had done an excellent job promoting school choice.

Walker, of course, also attempted his own run for the White House this year: “Was Donald Trump my first choice? No, I was my first choice,” he joked.

Flashback: Walker goes in-depth on U.S. schools at the New Hampshire Education Summit

This article was published in partnership with The74Million.org.

Morning Read: Survey of 11th graders shows one-third have felt chronically sad

 Kids in crisis: One-third of California 11th-graders surveyed say they are chronically sad

In a potential crisis crossing demographic lines, one-third of California’s 11th-graders and one-quarter of seventh-graders reported feeling chronically sad or hopeless over the past 12 months, a survey showed. The California Healthy Kids Survey also found that about 19 percent of both ninth-graders and 11th-graders seriously considered attempting suicide. By Sharon NoguchiMercury News

Morning Read: High-poverty neighborhoods short on children’s books

Where books are all but nonexistent
Forty-five million. That’s how many words a typical child in a white-collar family will hear before age 4. The number is striking, not because it’s a lot of words for such a small human—the vast majority of a person’s neural connections, after all, are formed by age 3—but because of how it stacks up against a poor kid’s exposure to vocabulary. By the time she’s 4, a child on welfare might only have heard 13 million words. In high-poverty neighborhoods, books—the very things that could supply so many of those 30 million-plus words—are hard to come by. In many poor homes, they’re nonexistent. By Alia Wong, The Atlantic

5 things the Pence pick could mean for the future of federal education policy

Trump-Pence on '60 Minutes'

Donald Trump and Mike Pence talk to “60 Minutes.” (Photo: CBS News)

By Max Marchitello

The Veep-stakes are over! The pick is in. Mike Pence, the sitting governor of Indiana, will run as Donald Trump’s vice president.

Although he has only been governor for a few years, Pence also served in the U.S. House of Representatives. Putting those records together, Bellwether Education Partners’ Max Marchitello takes stock of what the Pence pick could possibly mean for the future of public education.

• Read more on the live blog: The 74 and Bellwether Education Partners are partnering to cover both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

1. Tough sledding for civil rights: Pence’s stance on equal rights is pretty clear. Everyone remembers the law he signed permitting individuals and businesses to discriminate against LGBT people. So, many federal student protections could be in jeopardy, including President Obama’s executive action on bathroom use for transgender students. In a similar vein, Pence strongly supports states’ rights and local control. He likely would advocate for reducing (perhaps even further) the federal footprint in education. This is bad news for low-income students and students of color who frequently receive low-quality educations and depend on federal support.

2. Funding redistribution (but not to support low-income students): If his most recent budget in Indiana is any indication, Pence certainly feels that something needs to be done to improve school funding in this country. Unfortunately, however, he seems to think wealthier districts need an even bigger slice of the school funding pie.

3. Charter school expansion: In addition to increasing funding for charters broadly, Pence also supported the so-called “Freedom to Teach” bill. The idea is to help provide teachers with the flexibility they need to innovate in their classrooms. Some teachers and union representatives argue that they already have that freedom. Instead, they believe that the bill is designed to limit union power and invite private entities to run public schools.

4. Vouchers, vouchers, vouchers: For years Pence has been a vocal proponent of school vouchers and expanding the use of public funds to pay for private education. Last year he helped to shepherd a bill to raise the voucher limit on funds available for elementary school students. A Trump/Pence White House may provide the strongest support for expanding voucher programs in decades.

5. Preschool a priority (kind of): It’s a far cry from universal pre-K, but Pence was able to expand Indiana’s preschool program. He also recently committed to expanding the program further with or without federal support. It is important to note, however, that Pence previously refused millions of dollars of federal support, and only seemed interested in them now that he is up for reelection.

In education policy, Pence sticks to the party line. For that reason, his selection should make many conservatives happy. But students and teachers should be on high alert. In a Trump/Pence White House, it would take a watchful eye and strong advocacy to preserve critical federal protections for vulnerable students, ensure low-income students get their fair share of funding, and prioritize students’ needs over states’ rights.

This article was published in partnership with The74Million.org.

Morning Read: UTLA, charter school agree on wanting LAUSD to pay retiree benefits for teachers

Charter, union unite on wanting LA Unified to pay retiree benefits for charter teachers
The local teachers union has made rare common cause with a charter school: They are pressing to have the Los Angeles school district — not the charter — pay for costly retiree benefits that are due to teachers who worked at El Camino Real Charter High School. By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Exclusive: Amendment adds imaginary testing standard to Democratic education platform

Randi Weingarten

(Photo: C-SPAN)

Democrats added a misleading reference to standardized tests to the party platform over the weekend, requiring they meet a reliability standard that doesn’t actually exist.

“[W]e believe that standardized tests must meet American Statistical Association standards for reliability and validity,” the amendment reads, saying this would “strike a better balance on testing, so that it informs, but does not drive, instruction.”

To most people this would seem like common sense; of course tests should follow statistical best practices and who could sound more authoritative on the controversial subject than the American Statistical Association.

But there’s a problem: The American Statistical Association (ASA) has never published guidelines pertaining to the reliability and validity of standardized tests.

“There are no such standards,” said Jill Talley, a spokesperson for the ASA.

The language referring to the imaginary ASA standards was adopted Saturday as an amendment by the Democratic platform committee meeting in Orlando, Fla., according to a C-SPAN video (transcribed by Democrats for Education Reform) and an American Federation of Teachers press release. AFT President Randi Weingarten advocated for the amendment, saying it would help make testing “more fulsome” and schools “places of joy for children again.” An AFT spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It was one of several changes to the platform pertaining to standardized tests and charter schools that have created a flurry of recent discussion: sharp criticism by some and cheers of support by others.

• Read more: Democrats rewrite education platform behind closed doors, abandon core party values

The draft platform on the Democratic National Convention (DNC) website and scheduled to be voted on during the July 25-28 convention in Philadelphia doesn’t yet reflect such amendments. DNC spokeswoman Dana Vickers Shelley would not comment on the apparently mistaken reference to ASA testing standards.

“At this point we’re not speaking on specific language because the document is being updated to reflect the amendments and changes approved by the platform committee,” she said.

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GOP sets the stage for Cleveland convention: Here’s where 18 RNC elites stand on education

Ryan panel

(Photos: Getty Images)

It’s no secret that Donald Trump’s views on education (and, to be fair, many other policy areas) remain a mystery.

But he won’t be the only one on display at next week’s convention proceedings in Cleveland. (Bookmark our coverage of the RNC over at our #EDlection2016 live blog)

Along with vice-presidential pick Mike Pence, several of the announced speakers have extensive records on the subject, some stretching over decades. Their ideas range from curriculum quality to school choice, preschool to janitorial qualifications.

What follows is a review of the positions of Indiana Gov. Pence and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who also had been considered a finalist for vice president, followed by thumbnail summaries of other Republicans, big names and up-and-comers both, who have been given speaking slots.

(Check back Monday morning for a roundup of the education views of Dr. Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who will play a prominent role at the convention, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was also discussed as a VP finalist.)


The Indiana governor has left a conservative imprint on Hoosier education policy in his first term (he is reportedly withdrawing from the race for a second term to join Trump on the presidential ticket).

Under Pence, Indiana first left the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) testing coalition and then dropped the Common Core State Standards altogether. It was the first state to abandon the standards. The changes left state leaders in a bind when it came to testing, and the replacement ISTEP test was plagued with problems.

Pence’s 2012 election coincided with the surprise defeat of reformer state schools chief Tony Bennett. Pence has feuded with Glenda Ritz, who defeated Bennett, throughout much of the last four years, including over the state’s new tests.

He’s also been an outspoken proponent of school choice.

Indiana has one of the most robust voucher programs in the country — about 60 percent of children statewide are eligible, and more than 32,000 children used them in 2015-2016, according to the Friedman Foundation, which supports vouchers and other choice programs. At Pence’s urging, state lawmakers in 2015 removed a $4,800 cap on the maximum tuition benefits for elementary and middle school voucher users.

He also pushed for more supports for charter schools. Although legislators didn’t agree to Pence’s proposed funding increase to charters of $1,500 per pupil for out-of-classroom costs, they did set aside a smaller amount, $500 per pupil — but only for top-rated charters.

Pence has also advocated for public preschool — sort of. He urged state leaders to create a small state pre-K program in 2014 but chose not to apply for federal grants designed to encourage the expansion of state pre-K plans.

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Morning Read: Belmont High students, alone and from Central America, face challenges outside classroom

Nearly 1 in 4 students at this LA high school migrated from Central America — many without their parents

At Belmont High, nearly 1 in 4 of its 1,000 students came from Central America, many as unaccompanied minors. They are part of several waves of more than 100,000 who arrived in the U.S. as children, some seeking refuge from violence. While some crossed the border to reunite with mothers and fathers, others have no family in the U.S. By Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times



Demolition of long-closed West Valley schools to begin Monday, leaving empty lots

The Highlander Road Elementary School campus in West Hills has been closed since 1982 and fallen into disrepair.

The Highlander Road Elementary School campus in West Hills has been closed since 1982. Demolition is slated to start next month and at Oso Avenue next week.


LA Unified will begin demolition Monday at the first of two schools to be razed in the West San Fernando Valley. But no new construction is planned, leaving empty lots in residential neighborhoods.

The Oso Avenue and Highlander Road elementary schools have sat mostly empty for more than 30 years, becoming eyesores and a source of conflict between their neighbors and the district.

The district is exploring the option of building new schools on the sites, but no solid plans are in place and the school board has yet to approve any new construction, said LA Unified Chief Facilities Executive Mark Hovatter. The current plan is to raze the schools but leave the concrete slab foundations which could be used as part of any new construction, he said.

“(Neighbors) have had to live with staring at old dilapidated buildings long enough,” Hovatter said. “I want to make it as amenable as possible to the local neighborhoods and I’m working with the local councils to make sure that what I’m doing is reflective of what they want us to do.”

Demolition at Oso is scheduled to begin Monday and at Highlander on Aug. 20, Hovatter said, at a total cost of $2,337,303.

The schools were closed in the early 1980s as West Valley enrollment declined. In total, 18 schools in the West Valley closed in the late 1970s and early ’80s and six schools have re-opened, according to LA Unified, and others are still in use for other purposes. One is in use as administrative buildings, one was swapped with nearby California State University, Northridge and other was sold. In total, five school buildings remain vacant. Highlander had been rented by a private school for several years in the 1990s and occasionally used for filming.

Hovatter said the district began informing neighbors around Oso about the demolition on Saturday by handing out flyers door to door but has not yet started outreach around Highlander.

Several neighbors of Highlander contacted by LA School Report were unaware the district had plans to tear down the school, which the board approved in May, and were not happy about it.

“This is the first I’ve heard of them tearing it down. I had no idea and I’ve lived across the street from it for 30 years,” said Bonnie Johnson. “It’s kind of hard to say if I like the idea of an empty lot. Right now it is really derelict. It is a fire hazard. It looks like homeless people sleep there. Every now and then someone vandalizes it. It has been a real eyesore. I don’t know how people will feel about an open vacant lot.”

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Stamp honoring famed East LA teacher Jaime Escalante is unveiled

Forever stamp honoring famed East Los Angeles teacher Jaime Escalante. (courtesy).

Forever stamp honoring East Los Angeles teacher Jaime Escalante.

Garfield High School will forever remember its revered math teacher Jaime Escalante and now so will the U.S. post office.

The U.S. Postal Service on Thursday unveiled its new forever stamp honoring the late East Los Angeles math teacher.

A Bolivian immigrant, Escalante taught calculus at Garfield High from 1974 to 1991. He was recognized for building a high-level math program at the school.

He earned national attention in 1982, when a testing service accused his 14 students who passed the AP calculus exam of cheating. Escalante accused the testing service of singling out his students because they were Mexican-American immigrants from a low-income area of Los Angeles.

Twelve the 14 students took another test and all passed.

The event became the subject of the 1988 movie “Stand and Deliver,” starring Edward James Olmos as Escalante.

Olmos attended the stamp dedication ceremony that was held during the League of United Latin American Citizens’ 87th annual convention in Washington, D.C. U.S. Education Secretary John King Jr., LULAC National President Roger Rocha Jr. and Escalante’s son, Jaime Escalante II, also attended the event, according to the USPS.

The stamp depicts Escalante in his signature flat cap in front of a chalk board on which calculus symbols are visible.

Read more: Garfield High opens doors to new Jaime Escalante Auditorium and Winding path to teaching leads Garfield teacher to Yale award

In 1999, Escalante was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame.

A special dedication ceremony will also be held on Saturday at Garfield High, according to USPS.

Customers can purchase the stamp online at usps.com/stamps, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724) or at post office locations nationwide.