While some education researchers may question the validity of the nation’s “STEM crisis,” it remains clear that California students continue to struggle in mathematics when compared with their peers across the nation.
“California students did make some modest improvements, but overall, scores are essentially flat when compared nationally over the past two years,” Suzanne Goldstein, Director of Policy and Development for the California STEM Learning Network, said in an email to LA School Report.
Taking notice of the test results, the California Department of Education is pushing the effort to link STEM programs with jobs in a new video. The STEM subjects are science, technology, engineering and math.
Two issues that have the drawn LA Unified school board into unanticipated controversy move into the spotlight tomorrow when the board convenes its regular meeting for November.
One is the public profile of Board President Richard Vladovic, as he awaits a consideration of a censure motion from Tamar Galatzan – the first motion of its kind in LA Unified board history. Vladovic has been accused of verbal and sexual harassment by former co-workers. He has publicly apologized for being abrasive toward colleagues but has denied all other charges.
The motion requires support from at least one other board member to move to a full vote, otherwise the resolution falls, and a similar measure cannot be brought forward for six months. So far, Galatzan has no co-sponsor.
The other big issue is the future of the billion dollar iPad program, with conflicting resolutions from the board’s two Monicas – Ratliff and Garcia – that could go a long way toward determining whether district’s Common Core technology project extends Phase 1 of the iPads with iPads or other digital devices.
A third approach has been offered for consideration by deputy superintendent Jaime Aquino.
Ratliff’s resolution aims to prolong the first phase of the tablet rollout through the end of the school year, while evaluators assess the usefulness of the devices and their impact on learning. It also urges the district to launch a new pilot program, distributing laptop computers to ninth graders while conducting studies on the use of other devices and software curriculum in the district.
With implementation of the Common Core standards and Next Generation Science Standards in full swing, a symposium in Sacramento next month will bring together teachers, administrators, students and industry professionals to discuss betters ways to develop robust science, technology, and mathematics programs in local schools.
LA Unified is scheduled to make a strong showing, with three featured presentations from district officials. In a joint presentation with NASA, they will highlight how to infuse after-school programs with the engineering and design process by engaging students with “Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles.” They will also discuss the district’s Advanced Placement Boost Program, which has raised district-wide AP testing participation and scores by 8.1 percent and 11.2 percent respectively.
Big Day today for LA Unified. Here’s the schedule although times are generally estimates:
11 am: A rally begins outside district headquarters. It’s sponsored by a group of community and educational groups that want to see Superintendent John Deasy remain in his job.
12:30 pm: The board meeting opens with a public comment period. This is a time when anybody can approach the microphone for any reason to comment about issues before the board, or in case of that guy who always reads a Biblical text, anything at all. Probable subjects for comment include the censure motion facing Board President Richard Vladovic and Deasy’s future as superintendent.
After Comments: The board introduces — or “notices” – Tamar Galatzan’s motion to censure Vladovic for conduct unbecoming a school district official.
After That: The board retreats to a closed door meeting in which Deasy is the prime subject. One of two outcomes is most likely: He stays or he goes.
After That: The board returns to open session to announce any decisions made in private. Deasy has promised to speak publically about events of the last several days.
The district is not providing a live video stream as it normally does for open board meetings.
It’s a big meeting day at LA Unified’s downtown headquarters, with three committees convening one after another starting this afternoon.
At 1 o’clock, it’s the Curriculum and Instruction Committee, chaired by Marguerite LaMotte; followed at 3 p.m. by the Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee, led by Bennett Kayser; and at 5:30 by the Common Core Technology Project Ad Hoc Committee, chaired by Monica Ratliff.
No telling how boisterous they might become during the public comment periods, given the number of hot-button issues unresolved, such as the district’s spending plan for the 2014-2015 academic year, Local Control Funding Formula issues and everybody’s current favorite pinata, the iPads, which now might cost an extra $100 each, according to a story in today’s LA Times. Members might also hear from some overwrought, overworked principals.
At 10:17 tomorrow morning, LA Unified students will join millions of people worldwide in the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill. Both LAUSD classrooms and offices will all participate in what the District describes as the largest earthquake drill in the nation, featuring a “drop, cover, and hold on!” procedure. Find more information on the district emergency protocol, here.
How should LA Unified spend the new influx of money flowing in from the state? As part of Prop 30, school districts are required to improve transparency in school spending decisions. Thus, LAUSD is sponsoring the final two town hall-style meetings this week to get feedback from the community about budget priorities: tomorrow night at Burroughs Middle School in Hancock Park, and on October 16, at Dymally High School, in south Los Angeles. Three other meetings have already taken place. For details on this week’s events click here.
A neat interactive mapping widget called “States in Motion” has just been posted on EdSource. The map visualizes data like teacher salaries, student to teacher ratios, growth in enrollments and scores and compares it to other states. It’s the creation of Jeff Camp, who works with a nonprofit volunteer organization called Full Circle Fund.
iPads are not the only technological gadget getting used inside LA Unified schools these days.
A smartphone application called LAUSD Service Calls is enabling teachers, administrators, even parents to summon district personnel to fix all sorts of problems, such as graffiti, water leaks and broken tiles. The app functions on an iPhone, Blackberry and Android mobile devices and allows users to send a GIS coded photo to the District, which will then seek to resolve the issue within 30 days.
Developed by City Sourced, the app is similar to others used in cities across the country for public safety, environmental issues and other purposes.
Robert Laughton, LA Unified’s Deputy Director of Maintenance & Operations, said the app has been used about 1,000 times since its introduction a few years ago, with his office now receiving as many as 15 service requests a day. On some days, he said, as many as 50 calls come in, for help with broken air-conditioning units, active beehives, exposed pipes on outdoor play fields, even backed-up toilets.
“We’re going to continue outreach to school administrators and different groups to encourage more usage,” he said.
Area business leaders have another opportunity next week to learn what it’s like to lead a public school.
The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and LAUSD are accepting applications for the 15th annual Principal for a Day program, which is designed to facilitate an exchange of ideas, resources and a sense of responsibility between business leaders and educators. The program, now underway in almost 20 cities, invites a business person to shadow a principal, administrator, or teacher and interact with students who aspire to enter the profession or industry of the guest.
Business leaders can register on the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce website, here; LAUSD educators who want to participate can register here.
“We The Parents” chronicles the story of parents in Compton, who, in the face of a failing elementary school, used California’s fledgling “Parent Trigger” law to make major changes at McKinley Elementary School. Director James Takata is appearing at the film’s last screening in Los Angeles to take questions from the audience – click here for details.
The teachers union is asking members to take yet another online survey — this one focusing on efforts by LA Unified to acclimate teachers to the challenges of the new Common Core curriculum.
The introduction to the survey appears to reflect skepticism by union leadership about how the district is going about it, questioning why $44 million has been allocated for “out-of-classroom positions.” As an example: “$160,000 for an Organization Change Management Position. What?”
But if the UTLA leadership is dubious of the Common Core budget, some union members are dubious of the survey, which ask teachers about their familiarity and comfort with the Common Core curriculum, including how much “professional development” they have received and whether they feel prepared to teach it. One question asks: “How prepared do you think your students are to master the Common Core State Standards?”
Several teachers took to the message board for Progressive Educators for Action took to its message board to express their concerns.* PEAC is a group that strongly opposes the spread of charter schools and the use of public school choice to upend district schools.
The beleaguered Ramon C. Cortines School for the Visual and Performing Arts has a new principal. As Los Angeles Downtown News reports, the $232 million school will be helmed by Kim Bruno, the former principal of New York City’s LaGuardia High School of Music, Art and Performing Arts, which provided the inspiration for the musical Fame.
As the Downtown News’ Ryan Vaillancourt writes, this is “not the first time Bruno has been offered the job. She was originally courted in 2009, though after verbally committing, she cancelled plans to take the job, citing ‘professional reasons.’ She was targeted again in 2011, though she again declined the district’s offer.”
Bruno will be the Cortines School’s fifth principal since it opened in 2009. When he left two weeks ago, the most recent principal, Norman Isaacs, told the LA Times, “No one has found a way to fund any of the programs that are ongoing… We have a $65-million theater and no money to run it.”
Remember former School Board member Nury Martinez? She’s locked in a tough runoff with Cindy Montanez for the last open City Council seat. Whoever wins will be the only woman on the 15-member body.
Montanez, who finished 19 points ahead of Martinez in the May primary, stepped up her attacks on Martinez this week, sending out a campaign mailer accusing Martinez and the rest of the school board of hiding “the existence and arrest of a serial child molester from parents and teachers at Telfair Elementary School.” That was the school where third-grade teacher Paul Chapel molested 13 former students. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Martinez then came forward with a startling revelation: she “was repeatedly sexually abused as a child,” according to the LA Times, which said she was going public about it now “to counter attack ads being circulated by her opponent” in the run-up to the July 23 special election to fill an open council seat.
“She is accusing me of covering these things up. That’s where I draw the line,” said Martinez, who denied any knowledge of the Chapel case before the Daily News broke the story more than 18 months ago.
“Included in his comments are some words we haven’t seen on a Congressional document in years, like “evidence,” as well as an awesome invitation to “come by my office” if “you don’t understand the bill.”
Rep. Takano also has a snarky Tumblr, There Will Be Charts, which looks like the place where the graded Republican papers first appeared online.
Hobart Elementary Teacher Rafe Esquith, via the Clarion Ledger
Rafe Esquith may or may not be LAUSD’s best classroom teacher, but he’s certainly one of the most well-known — at least outside of LA.
His familiarity comes largely thanks to his own writing (including a new book coming out this year) and others like Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews writing about him as he does again for the second time in a week.
According to Mathews, Esquith is “the most imaginative and productive classroom teacher I know,” tireless and dedicated to current and former teachers alike. But he’s also critical of the coming Common Core push towards nonfiction, imagination-killing directives from administrators in the central office, and after 29 years in the classroom he’s increasingly aware of the dangers of burnout.
If you haven’t listened to it already, check out this NPR interview with LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy from last week — taped at the Aspen Ideas Festival just before the LAUSD School Board meeting. [Or, you can read the transcript here.]:
In the interview, Deasy addresses criticism of his work and acknowledges the many stress his initiatives have caused for adults in the school district, but suggests that the stresses poor kids and families face is far more extreme (and implicitly more deserving).
The LA Times‘s Howard Blume reports this morning that newly elected School Board President Richard Vladovic has been “cleared of wrongdoing after an internal investigation into whether he acted improperly in connection with sexual misconduct allegations against a teacher at a Wilmington school.”
That would be Robert Pimentel, the 57-year-old teacher at De La Torre Elementary charged with molesting 12 female students, all under the age of 14. He has pled not guilty; bail was set at $14 million.
Vladovic’s former chief of staff, David Kooper, has also been exonerated, and “has returned to his current job as principal at Gulf Elementary.”
But one investigation is still going on – the one into claims that Vladovic verbally abused at least two employees. That investigation is still in the early stages.
Here’s Mayor Garcetti talking about his support for the launch of LA’s Promise Neighborhoods, a new $30 million federally-funded program to provide “wraparound” (comprehensive) social services to needy families in Hollywood and Pacoima: