Deasy deputy expresses interest in serving as interim superintendent

Michelle King

Michelle King

While LA Unified board members are contemplating the continued employment of Superintendent John Deasy, one of his chief deputies has volunteered to serve as a short-term successor.

Michelle King, Senior Deputy Superintendent School Operations and one of the highest-ranking African-Americans in Deasy’s administration, today forwarded a letter to all seven board members, saying she would be willing to take the reins, should the board move to fire Deasy, according to three sources with knowledge of the letter.

The letter arrived on the same day board members met in closed session to discuss the parameters of Deasy’s performance review, which is scheduled for Oct. 21. Despite that scheduling, the board has the right to dismiss Deasy at any time.

A senior district official, who had not seen King’s letter, was taken aback by its unexpected delivery.

“It would be a logical choice considering, her experience and position; I’m just surprised this did not take place until after the board made its decision on Deasy’s future,” the official said. Sources said King’s overture had been unknown to Deasy.

A message sent to King, seeking comment, was not immediately returned.

King started off as an LA Unified teacher and is considered to be a district “lifer” by her colleagues. She has also served as Deputy Chief Instructional Officer, Assistant Superintendent of Health and Human Services, a high school principal and assistant principal.

As word of the letter circulated among officials inside and outside the district, several speculated that King may have been asked to throw her name into the ring at the suggestion of one or more board members as a means of ensuring a smooth transition while the board conducts a search for a new leader.

 

UTLA highlights contract demands on ‘Big Red Tuesday’

Big Red Tuesday UTLA

United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl speaks on “Big Red Tuesday” at Thomas Starr King Middle School

To commemorate “Big Red Tuesday,” United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) President Alex Caputo-Pearl used a sidewalk press conference at Thomas Starr King Middle School this morning to outline yet again the union’s contract demands from LA Unified.

UTLA encouraged teachers and supporters all around the district to wear red to campuses, and as he spoke, Caputo-Pearl was flanked by several dozen supporters wearing red clothing, including UTLA-issued garb, sweaters, button-down shirts and even an Anaheim Angels T-shirt. (See the embedded video below for highlights form the press conference.)

“All across the city today, our educators from Chatsworth to the harbor, from the beach to east LA, are in red in a show of unity behind the demands of the Schools LA Students Deserve,” Caputo-Pearl said.

Before turning the podium over to other speakers, Caputo-Pearl outlined the key items the union is seeking in a new contract and in its Schools LA Students Deserve campaign, which includes lower class sizes, more support staff like nurses and librarians and a pay increase for teachers. In his recent State of the Union speech, Caputo-Pearl said “Big Red Tuesday” would be the first of union actions meant to put pressure on the district and Superintendent John Deasy as the union looks to project unity during contract negotiations.

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Future of Deasy moves behind closed doors in board meeting

John Deasy

Superintendent John Deasy

Drama tonight. Or maybe not.

The LA Unified school board is convening a two-part session at 4 p.m. today — one open, the other closed, with Superintendent John Deasy the prime subject of conversation in the closed session.

Members have confirmed that they are using their privacy to determine what parameters to consider when Deasy comes up for his annual performance review in three weeks. That’s the headline for now, anyway. In fact, the board could do anything when it shuts out the public. The members could even vote to fire him — as they can at any time — although it’s not expected.

One certainty, as of this morning: Deasy confirmed he has not been invited to attend. He could if he wanted to but it’s unlikely.

At any rate, the closed session is expected to go long into the night, with each member getting a chance to vent on Deasy. They’ll reappear in public to announce any votes taken, then call for an official adjournment.

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Two groups urging LAUSD board to be objective, transparent

groups urging board to be transparent deasy evaluationWith all the uncertainty about how the LA Unified school board intends to evaluate Superintendent John Deasy in his next annual performance review, two new voices have entered the debate, urging the board to act with transparency, put student interests first and keep Deasy where he is.

In separate letters to the board today, both groups called for more objectivity in evaluating Deasy and more transparency in how they decide on the criteria used to judge him.

The board is planning to meet tomorrow in a private session to discuss what metrics to use when Deasy appears before the members next month — again, in private — for his annual job evaluation. Deasy has not been invited to tomorrow’s meeting.

In one letter, the LA Civic Alliance, which includes some of the city’s most influential philanthropists, real estate developers, bankers, lawyers and non-profit leaders, called into question board members’ “real motives” for tomorrow’s closed-door meeting, which many district insiders have speculated is clearing a path to remove Deasy from the helm next month.

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Brown signs bill limiting ‘willful defiance’ suspensions, expulsions

jerry brown

Gov. Jerry Brown

With the signing of AB 420, Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday made California the first state in the nation to limit suspensions and expulsions for the reason of “willful defiance,” a term critics call a catch-all phrase that can be hard to define but includes such categories as talking back, refusing assignments or violating the dress code.

The bill eliminates “willful defiance” suspensions and expulsions for the next 3 1/2 years for children in grades K-3 for disruptive behavior and eliminates expulsions for all students. The bill will have limited impact on LA Unified, which in 2013 became the first school district in the state to ban “willful defiance” as grounds for suspension, a groundbreaking move that paved the way for AB 420.

“This is the first step to restorative justice for all youth. We expect more from California and will keep fighting for more,” LA Unified Board Member Monica Garcia said in a statement. “Thank you to all of the community leaders, parents and students in Los Angeles and throughout the state who continue to fight to ensure that all youth stay in school and on track.”

The bill comes after new federal guidelines were issued this year aimed at helping schools in “administering discipline in a nondiscriminatory way and to provide alternatives to overly punitive school discipline practices.”

AB 420 was co-sponsored by Public Counsel, Children Now, Fight Crime Invest in Kids, and the ACLU of California.

Willful defiance “disproportionately affects students of color, LGBTQ students, and students with disabilities,” according to the ACLU’s website, which also noted that about 600 K-3 students are expelled and 10,000 are suspended each year in California under “willful defiance,” which could include something as minor as missing a homework assignment.

Willful defiance accounts for 43 percent of suspensions of California students and is the suspension offense category with the most significant racial disparities, according to Public Counsel.

“In just a few short years, school discipline reform has become an important education policy priority in California because the stakes are very high – research has shown that even one suspension can make it five times more likely that a child will drop out of school and significantly increase the odds they will get in trouble and head into our juvenile delinquency system,” Roger Dickinson, an Assembly member from Sacramento and author of AB 420, said in a statement.

LAUSD keeps no written records of Deasy performance reviews

Deasy comments on education politics

Superintendent John Deasy

As the LA Unified school board prepares to meet privately tomorrow to discuss how to evaluate Superintendent John Deasy in his performance review next month, it might be instructive to have a look at the board’s previous evaluations of him to understand what criteria they used.

Except for one thing: They don’t exist.

None of Deasy’s previous performance reviews has been codified, which is to say, there’s no record explain any vote cast.

A request to the district for past evaluations was answered quickly with one sentence from the legal department: “There are no documents that would respond to your request.”

The lack of written records of Deasy’s review is clearly a decision of this board and its president, Richard Vladovic, but it’s unclear, the department said, if previous boards have submitted them for other superintendents. (LA School Report has asked the district to do some digging.)

There is no law requiring the board to create a written or digital record of a superintendent’s evaluation. But the absence of a written report would suggest that no individual member could be held accountable for reasons voting for or against continued employment — a key measure for voters in considering school board election choices.

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LAUSD places 9 schools among top 25 in county ‘Challenge Index’

Los Angeles School for Enriched Studies challenge index

Los Angeles School for Enriched Studies

Washington Post education reporter Jay Mathews took an in-depth look at Los Angeles County this month when he applied his Challenge Index rankings and came up with a list of the top 75 private and public schools.

The results may surprise some, as Mathews noted that only six schools on the list are private, and the top school, LA Unified’s Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, is a public magnet school in which half the students are from low income families. Eight other schools from LA Unified were ranked in the top 25.

Mathews has been applying his Challenge Index to national rankings in the Washington Post and Newsweek for decades. The LA County rankings were published in the September issue of Los Angeles Magazine.

Mathews’ Challenge Index takes a non-traditional approach to ranking high schools, and while his methods are not without critics, they do provoke some interesting thoughts, as well as hope for the opportunities a public education can offer. In his explanation of the rankings, Mathews wrote that SAT, ACT, and state test scores don’t offer a one-to-one correlation with the schools that prepare the most students for college, so he ranks schools by participation in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses and tests.

Viewing schools with this different lens, Mathews said parents should not worry if they can’t afford a private school with high SAT scores.

“Stanford, Yale, and similar institutions pick only a few students from each school,” he wrote. “It’s hard to stand out in a class full of near-perfect SAT scores. Private schools may seem to do better at placing students in the Ivy League, but look carefully. Often they have more Ivy-graduate parents, whose children are given special consideration by their alma maters.”

The LA Unified schools ranked in the top 25 are: James A. Foshay Learning Center (No. 11), Harbor Teacher Preparation Acadamy (12), North Hollywood High (14), Eagle Rock High (15), King Drew Medical Magnet High School (16), Van Nuys Senior High (22), 32nd Street/USC Performing Arts Magnet (24) and Downtown Magnets High School (25).

See the full list here.

Trouble for the superintendent? It’s a pattern in LA Unified

John-Deasy-computer-glitch-problemsUncertainties surround LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy. He doesn’t see eye-to-eye with board members on a host of issues. Questions are swirling about whether he’ll quit or be fired.

That was last year.

But here he is again, weeks away from his next performance review, and not much has changed.

This time, Deasy finds himself at the center of a two major controversies. Questions about his involvement in securing a deal for iPad maker, Apple and software developer, Pearson, have lead to a renewed investigation by the district’s Inspector General, and the bungled launch of a district wide data system, have put Deasy’s “autocratic” management style in stark relief, according to his critics.

The troubled superintendent also has a potential teachers strike on his hands if the district and their union, UTLA, can’t reach an agreement on a new contract.

Whether Deasy can weather the latest storms — or whether he even wants to — remains unclear, but if his days are numbered, and the board votes him out after next month’s evaluation, he would hardly be the first superintendent to leave LA Unified after a tumultuous tenure.

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LAUSD’s Beyond the Bell program wins prestigious Air Force award

LAUSD Beyond the Bell ProgramLA Unified’s Beyond the Bell program received some national recognition last week when it was honored with the prestigious Hoyt S. Vandenberg Award from the Air Force Association.

The program was the first educational institution to receive the award, which for 66 years has recognized achievements by individuals or institutions in the U.S. Air Force, government, academia and the aerospace industry. Past honorees include generals, congressmen, the Air Force Institute of Technology, Ross Perot, Jr. and TV personality Arthur Godfrey.

Beyond the Bell, LA Unified’s before- and after-school academic program, was recognized for advancing more teams to the finals of CyberPatriot: The National Cyber Security Competition than any other school district in North America. North Hollywood High’s team won the CyberPatriot National Championship earlier this year, beating 620 other teams. The cyber defense competition tests students’ abilities to protect computers and networks from hackers.

Alvaro A. Cortés, Executive Director of Beyond the Bell Los Angeles, flew to Washington, DC last week to accept the award, according to a LA Unified press release.

“It is such an honor to receive this Award,” Cortés said in a statement. “We firmly believe that providing education for students interested in careers in cyber security is of the utmost importance.”

Over 178,000 students participate in Beyond the Bell each day in over 600 schools, according the district’s website. The program provides academic, recreational and enrichment programs for students.

News of the award comes as some 300 Beyond the Bell students are preparing to attend tomorrow’s CyberDay LA at Cal Poly Pomona, which kicks off this school year’s CyberPatriot competition, according to the release. General George Muellner, Chair of the Air Force Association, is scheduled to deliver the keynote address to the students.

Report on Hispanic children finds ‘complex picture’

Hispanic children LAUSDA new report from Child Trends took a close look at Hispanic children in America and found a “complex picture.” The 35-page report examined all facets of the lives of Hispanic children, including education, and said some of its findings are “familiar while others are less well-known.”

Overall, while Hispanic students have made significant gains over the last few decades, they are behind their white peers in academic achievement and are more likely to live in poverty, the report found.

While the report is not broken down geographically, it does note that 52 percent of all children in California are Hispanic, the second highest in the nation. Among the highlights in the report’s findings in regard to education are:

  • Hispanics are the largest minority group in public schools as well as the fastest-growing. One U.S. child in four is Hispanic.
  • Hispanics increasingly are showing up in preschool programs, have made significant gains on national math tests, and are posting record high school graduation rates.
  • Dropout rates have fallen to an all-time low of 12.7 percent, but Hispanics still have the highest dropout rates of any race.
  • Participation by Hispanic children in early education programs has increased by a third since 2007.
  • Hispanic children start school less likely than their white peers to know their alphabet or numbers, write their names, or read written words, but enter kindergarten with social-emotional skills that are well-developed and sometimes ahead of other children’s.
  • Hispanic children make up the majority of dual language learners in schools.
  • Hispanic children are substantially less likely than their white peers to participate in after-school sports, clubs and organizations.

Read the full report here: America’s Hispanic Children: Gaining Ground, Looking Forward

LA Unified receives $13 million to help expose students to college

LA UnifiedLAUSD exposing student to college has won a $13 million federal grant intended to expose low-income students to college. The grant will span over seven years and benefit 2,000 students currently in the sixth- and seventh-grades, according to City News Service.

The schools involved in the grant are Berendo Middle School, the Helen Bernstein Complex, Le Conte Middle School, the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools Complex, West Adams Preparatory High School and Young Oak Kim Academy.

The grant comes from the Department of Education’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), which will provide the students with tutoring, counseling, financial aid and campus visits, and track them through their first year of college, according to the story.

“Preparing our students for college is a priority for this district,” LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy told City News Service. “The GEAR UP program targets youngsters from low-income families who would be the first-generation college graduates.”

This is the second GEAR UP grant to LA Unified, which was also awarded $21 million to benefit 4,000 students in 2011.

Closed LAUSD board session grew out of request by Ratliff

Monica Ratliff LAUSD School board

Monica Ratliff, LA Unified board member representing district 6

The LA Unified school board’s sudden decision to hold a closed door session next week grew out of a Sept. 17 email request from Monica Ratliff to Board President Richard Vladovic, in which she expressed her desire to “discuss the current personell (sic) matter.”

The reference was to Superintendent John Deasy, whose performance evaluation is scheduled for Oct. 21. The purpose of a closed meeting is to give members the opportunity to debate what issues are fair game for the annual review.

“My interest is simply that it happens soon — with all of us able to ask any questions, receive information, and discuss information as a Board, as allowed by law,” said the email, which was read to LA School Report by someone with access to a copy of it.

Repeated efforts to reach Ratliff for comment were unsuccessful.

Next month will afford Ratliff her second opportunity to cast a vote on Deasy’s performance. Last year, her first on the board, the members voted 5-1, to give him a satisfactory review, with the late Marguerite LaMotte casting the dissent and Ratliff abstaining, for reasons she never explained publicly.

With a positive review, Deasy’s current contract would extended a year, to 2017. Without one, it would remain in effect until 2016 unless the members then decided to vote to dismiss him. They have the right to fire him at any time.

By terms of his contract, Deasy can be evaluated on such criteria as graduation rate, attendance and academic performance but there is nothing to prevent the board from also using more subjective measures based on the board’s confidence in him, his compatibility with board members and their level of satisfaction with his leadership.

While many of the more objective metrics would show positive gains for the district’s 650,000 students, it remains to be determined how much weight the members would place on his handing of the iPad program and the student-tracking computer system, both of which had endured considerable challenges in their rollouts.

Previous Posts: LAUSD Board calls closed-door meeting to discuss Deasy; In State of the Union, Caputo-Pearl hints at strike, targets Deasy; Deasy on his critics: Constant attacks are ‘politically motivated’

4 LAUSD elementary schools in pilot to improve safety for kids

City Attorney Mike Feuer

City Attorney Mike Feuer

Getting safely to and from school can be tricky in a rough neighborhood. To make it easier, City Attorney Mike Feuer launched a pilot program earlier this month at four LA Unified elementary schools, aimed at keeping kids safe.

The Neighborhood School Safety Program targets schools in areas with high “quality of life” crimes, including graffiti, vandalism, prostitution and illegal dumping.

The pilot schools are Vista Middle School in Panorama City; Barack Obama Global Preparation Academy in Chesterfield Square; Le Conte Middle School in Hollywood; and John H. Liechty Middle School in MacArthur Park.

The City Attorney’s office has partnered with LA Unified and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Providing safe passage on the journey to school is one key component of the program that will start later this fall, Sharee Sanders Gordon, Deputy City Attorney told LA School Report. Volunteer parents armed with walkie-talkies and bright colored vests will be stationed throughout neighborhood streets leading to the schools.

“It seems simple — just walking to school — but it’s not. It can be a very scary, and sometimes dangerous thing,” she said.

A multi-agency School Toxics Task Force has been set up to identify potential polluters within one mile of a school. Local police will conduct semi-regular gun sweeps and the City Attorney’s office will coordinate compliance checks on probationers, parolees and registered sex offenders who reside near school campuses to assure that none are in violation of any law.

Ultimately, the program can be expanded to other areas of the district where children are living in similar circumstances, Sanders Gordon said.

“This could really change their lives,” she said.

UTLA plans ‘Big Red Tuesday’ and monthly ‘escalating actions’

UTLA big red tuesdayAs part of a plan to increase pressure on LA Unified as it negotiates for a new contract, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) is planning monthly “actions” to take place on campuses around the district.

In preparation for the actions, which are to begin in October, UTLA is dubbing Tuesday, Sept. 30 as “Big Red Tuesday,” when union members are all being encouraged to wear red clothing as a sign of unity.

In his recent State of the Union speech, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl outlined the idea behind Big Red Tuesday.

“It seems small, but [LA Unified Superintendent John] Deasy will ask his administrators — you best believe he will — to count the shirts to measure our resolve. And when they see them from the harbor to Chatsworth, and East LA to the beach, it’s going to send a message to our networks of communication and our resolve across the city,” Caputo-Pearl said.

Sept. 30 also happens to be the same day the school board is meeting in a closed-door session to discuss Deasy’s upcoming annual review.

Red is one of the official colors of UTLA and many of its T-shirts are printed in red. The organization has often encouraged members to wear red when taking part in a protest or gathering, as it did in 2010 when members staged a protest outside of the Los Angeles Times.

Caputo-Pearl also told the crowd to “[k]eep your eye out for the first of a series of monthly escalating actions starting in October at school sites.”

Details on what the October action might entail have not been released by UTLA. Earlier this week, the union issued a press release that covered Big Red Tuesday and the October action but gave no more details than the hints Caputo-Pearl dropped in his speech. The release did encourage parents and community members to wear red on Sept. 30 to “show Deasy and LAUSD that we are united in our fight for Schools LA Students Deserve.”

UTLA and LA Unified are meeting periodically over a new contract, but the two sides remain far apart.

 

LAUSD Board calls closed-door meeting to discuss Deasy

John Deasy

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy

The LA Unified school board has scheduled a last-minute closed-door meeting next week to discuss its top employee, superintendent John Deasy. Sources tell LA School Report that the meeting was called to give the seven school board members a chance to discuss what criteria they would like to include in the superintendent’s upcoming annual performance review, scheduled for Oct. 21.

The closed session, as well as a “special” open meeting were added to the board schedule late yesterday — the closed session reportedly at the request of board member Monica Ratliff, one of Deasy’s more vocal critics. Both meetings are set for September 30, starting at 4 pm.

According to people familiar with the closed session agenda, board members will have the opportunity to discuss what they consider fair game for Deasy’s annual performance evaluation. Under no circumstances, said one of the sources, would a vote be held to determine Deasy’s employment. According to that source, Deasy has the right to attend, but because it is not his official performance review, he isn’t required to.

When reached by LA School Report, the superintendent declined to comment. School board members did not return messages seeking comment.

While the board is bound by no legal requirements to cite any reason for dismissing Deasy — he is essentially an at-will employee whose contract with the district allows the board to fire him at any time — his contract has the unusual stipulation made at his behest that requires the board to evaluate his performance annually based on broad goals, such as graduation rates, student proficiency, attendance, parent engagement and school safety.

To renew his tenure, four of the seven board members must find his performance  “satisfactory.”

Three sources who discussed the newly schedule meeting with LA School Report said at this juncture there are not enough votes to fire Deasy, who was hired in 2011 to take over from Ramon Cortines under a friendlier school board.

But that, of course, could change.. Despite academic gains and lower dropout rates districtwide under Deasy’s leadership, he has also generated widespread criticism for any number of issues, including fallout for the iPad program, the continuing problems with the student-tracking system known as MiSiS and his strong-willed leadership style.

How much those factors and others, the good and the bad, should count in a review will be determined in the closed session — and likely divide the members between those who would keep him and those who would vote him out.

Previous Posts: What’s next *if* Deasy is out? Speculation abounds; Deasy on his critics: Constant attacks are ‘politically motivated’; Teachers union changes tactics, urges board to ‘evaluate’ Deasy*

Study finds online literacy gap reflects family income

Online Literacy family income gapA new study confirms conventional thinking, that an online literacy gap is emerging among students in America, with lower-income students lagging behind their more affluent peers in the ability to navigate the Internet and use it to enhance their studies.

According to the New York Times, the study, led by Donald J. Leu at the University of Connecticut, tested students’ abilities to search for and evaluate academic information online and found that students from a community with a median family income of more than $100,000 “demonstrated slightly more than one extra school year’s worth of online reading ability compared with students from a community where the median family income was close to $60,000.”

“This is more likely a comparison between a wealthier district and a middle-class district,” Leu told the newspaper. “So the gap that we found, we would expect it to be greater if the economic differences were greater.”

The Times noted that the study also found a general lack of online skills for all students, and that few teachers are focusing on digital literacy in their classrooms.

The study comes just weeks after LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy suspended the district’s controversial $1.3 billion iPad program, aimed at getting an iPad into the hands of every student and teacher in the district.

Deasy long hailed the iPad program as a way to close the technology gap for low-income students, but halted it in late August in the face of mounting criticism that he and a former deputy may have influenced the bidding process that gave the deal to Apple and Pearson. Deasy has said that a new bid process will begin soon.

LA’s first ‘Summer of Learning’ touted as success

summer of learning LAUSDWith around 50,000 students participating, the first Los Angeles Summer of Learning is being hailed as a success by officials involved with the program.

Modeled after a similar program launched last year in Chicago, Summer of Learning provided access for LA Unified students to 100 learning opportunities, online and in person, at LA parks, libraries, schools, museums and cultural institutions. The program was a partnership between the city, LA Unified and several private groups.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti touted Summer of Learning as a success during an event last Friday at City Hall to celebrate the launch of AmeriCorps’ City Year Los Angeles program.

“The success of our students isn’t just the responsibility of a school district, it’s the responsibility of a city. That’s why we had 10,000 youth jobs this summer, 50,000 digital badges given out through the first Summer of Learning hand-in-hand with our school district — an education agenda that says you matter, we’ll find what your passion and purpose is, and we’re going to get you not only to stay in school, but to leapfrog ahead in the summertime.”

Charles Taylor Kerchner, a research professor in the School Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University, wrote that the program was actually “more sophisticated and coherent” than the Chicago program because it “was much more integrated with the school system than was its counterpart in Chicago. LAUSD was the primary organizer of the project. In Chicago, the city and the non-profits drove the program,” Kercher wrote on edweek.org.

Kercher added, “LAUSD has tackled the difficult problem of linking Summer of Learning achievements with a student’s school record so that a teacher can see what his or her students did over the summer.” 

In total, about 52 community organizations participated in the program that offered some 131 digital badges, according to edweek.org.

The program is a partnership of public, private, and non-profit partners, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., The California Endowment, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The California Endowment donated $200,000 and JPMorgan Chase contributed $500,000.

Previous Posts:City, LAUSD announce an LA-wide summer learning program

As work on MiSiS continues, LAUSD is creating MiSiS 2.0

Ron Chandler, LAUSD Chief information officer

Ron Chandler, LAUSD’s Chief information officer

While LA Unified is still wrestling with the final kinks in MiSiS, it is already developing MiSiS 2.0.

“This time we’re involving users in the conversation early on,” Ron Chandler, the district’s Chief Information Officer, told the school board’s Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee yesterday.

As for the current system, which tracks student progress and whereabouts, the district is still working on several components.

Gradebook, the program used to track student grades and attendance, will be available for elementary school teachers in November, but other teachers will have to wait until January, he said. Scheduling students remains challenging, leaving incomplete the “norming” process wherein a school makes final teacher hiring decisions based on the number of students in each class.

The parent portal, which parents use to access their child’s records, is only partially accessible. And printing student transcripts, an increasingly important task as high school seniors apply for colleges, is also proving problematic.

Chandler did not tell members when the problems would be resolved, only that work continues to overcome all the issues.

“Any time you’re changing a (computer system), it’s like a heart transplant,” he said. “You’re literally pulling out the most important parts.”

As for MiSiS 2.0, the plan is to complete the blueprinting phase by the end of the year and have the new system up and running by Fall 2015. Teams developing the upgraded student data management system will include principals, administrators and teachers. Throughout the process new elements will be tested by face-to-face and online focus groups, and users, which Chandler called “our customers,” will have the opportunity to participate in summer institutes.

The new version of MiSiS will include a number of enhancements, particularly for secondary school users who have complained that the current system doesn’t do as much as the previous one. But Chandler didn’t delve into many details about what they are, saying only, “The users will determine the next best thing, the way it behaves.”

Updating school site technology will be imperative to launching the improved software next year.

“It was one of our biggest miscalculations,” Chandler admitted. “We didn’t have a good enough understanding of how out of date the systems at the school are…Many computers are eight to 10 years old and they just don’t work well with MiSiS.”

Previous Posts: LAUSD Title I money in jeopardy over enduring MiSiS glitches; LAUSD outlines backup plans as MiSiS work continues; LAUSD aiming to resolve MiSiS issues as ‘Norm Day’ approaches

Winding path to teaching leads Garfield teacher to Yale award

Kevin Murchie

Garfield Senior High School teacher Kevin Murchie

As a boy, Kevin Murchie saw the award-winning film “Stand and Deliver,” the true story of Jaime Escalante, the Garfield Senior High math teacher who inspired his Latino students to overcome gang violence and poverty in east Los Angeles.

A Caucasian boy growing up in the upper class community of La Cañada Flintridge, Murchie said there was no way he ever thought he would one day become a teacher, and certainly “no way did I ever think I would be teaching at that school someday.”

But some life changing events led Murchie to realize in his mid-20s that he wanted to teach, and after 11 years at Garfield, his dedication recently earned him some national recognition when he became one of only 53 teachers to receive the prestigious 2014 Yale Educator Award.

A former Garfield student, Janet Juarez, a freshman at Yale who credited Murchie with inspiring her as a student, nominated him. Since receiving the award, and since LA School Report posted a story about it last week, Murchie said he has been inundated with messages from former students.

“I don’t think I ever really understood the power of social networking until that article came out,” Murchie told LA School Report during a phone interview. “In a two-day period I heard from more students over my career than I ever had. I mean, I didn’t even realize they remembered who I was. But I got emails, texts, all kinds of things. It was quite amazing.”

Murchie taught Juarez in Advanced Placement English and was also the faculty advisor for the student-run paper, The Scuttlebutt, which Juarez served as editor in her senior year.

“Besides increasing our societal awareness, Mr. Murchie helped many students, myself included, appreciate writing,” Juarez said in a press release. (Efforts to reach her for this story were unsuccessful.)

Murchie came to teaching through a circuitous route. After attending La Cañada High School, he went to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, first majoring in hotel management, then business.

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LIVESTREAM of the Curriculum and Instruction meeting today

livestreamGrafix250The LAUSD Curriculum and Instruction committee will meet today at 4:00 p.m. In addition to a variety of items on the agenda and in the supporting committee materials, an update on the MiSiS project will be presented.

For the meeting agenda, click here.

There are five supporting materials for the meeting: California Emerging Technology fund – click here, and here; Summer Program – click here; Comcast documents – click here; TImes editorial – click here.

For the LIVESTREAM, click here.