‘Opt out’ of testing movement spreads across New York state

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By Elizabeth Harris and Ford Fessenden

It started with a speech in the fall, to parents who had gathered in the auditorium to learn what to expect during the nascent school year.

“I spoke at the open house and said, ‘We hope you’ll opt out of the tests,’ ” said Heather Roberts, vice president of the Bennett Intermediate School parent teacher association. Last year, 92 percent of eligible students in the Catskill Mountains district that includes Boiceville took their standardized English tests. “Jaws dropped.”

Soon there were forums, T-shirts with snappy slogans and fliers translated into Spanish. During pickups and play dates, in classrooms and at lunch, parents and students would ask one another: “Are you opting out?”

By the first day of testing in April, two of every three students in the district who were expected to take the exams were refusing to lift their pencils.

Across New York State, a small if vocal movement urging a rejection of standardized exams took off this year, maturing from scattered displays of disobedience into a widespread rebuke of state testing policies.

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Morning Read: Charters get a seat at LAUSD board table

L.A. school board seat is a pivotal win for charter school movement
The win gives the district’s 211 charter schools a key ally they never had before. Los Angeles Times

L.A. School Board wins/losss are like mirror images
Rarely do voters demand change while simultaneously reaffirming the status quo, but that’s exactly what happened in the May 19 LAUSD elections. Jewish Journal

Budget proposal is mixed for foster students
Although advocates for foster youth say they are disappointed that Gov. Brown did not increase funds to expand Foster Youth Services. Ed Source

Panel backs fee hike for teacher misconduct backlog
The Commission on Teacher Credentialing processes some 5,500 complaints each year about the actions of teachers and principals. SI&A Cabinet Report

It is Head Start’s 50th anniversary
The program was meant to attack poverty at its roots by helping to give disadvantaged kids some of same educational opportunities as affluent ones. Huffington Post

Editorial: Back to work at L.A. Unified
Voters — few though they were — sent some strong messages to the Los Angeles Unified school board Tuesday. Los Angeles Times

Galatzan’s loss? Blame it on iPads, anti-incumbency and Galatzan

Tamar Galtatzan

Tamar Galtatzan

Tamar Galatzan, now an out-going LA Unified board member for District 3,  congratulated the career school administrator who defeated her yesterday, Scott Schmerelson, issuing a statement in which she expressed “great respect for my colleagues on the school board and what we have been able to accomplish during difficult financial times.

“I’m grateful to them for their commitment and dedication in helping our students succeed,” she said.

But she was not available for any questions about the campaign, her board office said.

Of results in the three LA Unified board elections yesterday, Galatzan’s loss seemed the most unexpected. In the primary, she fended off five challengers and out-polled Schmerelson by 2-to-1. Yesterday, Schmerelson beat her with 55 percent of the low turnout vote —  they drew just 9.1 percent of District 3 voters to the polls.

Or maybe the outcome was foretold, after all.

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Mixed reactions to mixed results of LAUSD school board election

Supporters of Ref Rodriguez celebrate his victory in the LAUSD school board District 5 race. (Facebook)

Supporters of Ref Rodriguez celebrate his victory in the LAUSD school board District 5 race. (Facebook)

Anyone who is staunchly in the pro-reform or pro-union camp on LA Unified school board issues is probably feeling a little ambiguous today.

Despite two new faces coming to the board, the ideological balance of power remained the same, and reactions from the major players and supporters in the election has been mixed.

Here is a sampling of reactions:

  • From Students Matter: “Yesterday’s elections demonstrate once and for all that a ‘kids first’ agenda isn’t just smart policy, it’s also smart politics. We congratulate Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member-elect (Ref) Rodriguez and Board Member (Richard) Vladovic for their resounding victories in the LAUSD Board races.”
  • SEIU Local 99: “We are disappointed that Tamar Galatzan and Bennett Kayser will not continue their tenure on the school board. They have led the school district through difficult and changing times. We appreciate that their decisions were often made with an understanding that education extends beyond the walls of the classroom. We are hopeful that many of the issues they championed – including early education, technology, student nutrition, family wellness, and community outreach – will continue to be central and important issues addressed by the new board.””
  • Ama Nyamekye, executive director of Educators 4 Excellence: “The three seats on the LAUSD Board of Education up for election could lead to sweeping change in the nation’s second largest school district. The successors of this election will need to work together towards a collaborative, forward-looking agenda without being weighed down by past political battles.”
  • Ref Rodriguez: “This is a historic victory, as Los Angeles embraces positive change for our schools. The message of transforming middle schools and supporting innovation really resonated with voters. I am incredibly grateful for the support of so many parents, teachers, and students, who rallied to support our effort. This was a community effort and is a community victory.”
  •  Tamar Galatzan: I want to congratulate Scott Schmerelson on his successful campaign. The students and schools he will serve are among the best, brightest and most innovative in LAUSD, and I’m very proud to have represented them for the last eight years. I have great respect for my colleagues on the school board and what we have been able to accomplish during difficult financial times. I’m grateful to them for their commitment and dedication in helping our students succeed. Graduation rates and student achievement are improving, and our students are gaining the skills and knowledge to prepare them for college and the workforce.”
  • Gary Borden, executive director, CCSA Advocates: “In board district 5, we were proud to see the community, including so many charter school families, teachers and supporters, commit so much time and effort in this election. The community has clearly said they want a board member who understands all public school students and will work for all of them. It’s also clear that ideological extremism has no place on the school board. We’re confident that Ref Rodriguez will champion the rights and needs of students and families and will work tirelessly to improve the quality of all public schools – whether they’re charters, pilots, magnets, or traditional schools. In board district 3, we’re very disappointed to lose Tamar Galatzan, a trusted, highly respected, independent leader for schools in the San Fernando Valley and across the district. Given the particularly strong performance of charter schools in board district 3, we look forward to working with Mr. Schmerelson to ensure those schools continue to receive the support they need to keep excelling.”


Analysis: For the LAUSD board, changes in faces but not balance

Bennett Kayser LAUSD* UPDATED

Voters wanted change, but the changes came from opposite directions.

For the first time since 2009, two seats on the LA Unified school board turned over at the same time in elections yesterday that proved once again how little Angelinos care about the people setting policy for the 643,000 kids attending city public schools.

Two incumbents lost — Tamar Galatzan in District 3 and Bennett Kayser in District 5. But each winner hews more closely to the views of the incumbent who lost in the other race, making the day’s results a political wash.

Scott Schmerelson, the primary runner-up who won with 55 percent of the vote to beat Galatzan, is a career LAUSD school administrator who had heavy backing of the teachers union, UTLA

Ref Rodriguez, the primary winner who won with 54 percent of the vote to beat Kayser, is a charter school co-founder who had heavy backing from the state’s charter schools association and other reform interests.

The charters did everything they could to defeat Schmerelson. The teachers union did everything it could to defeat Rodriguez.

Where that leaves the board in terms of ideology is probably not much different than where it was on Monday, with Schmerelson replacing Kayser as the pro-union member and Rodriguez replacing Galatzan as the pro-reform member.

At the very least, the results brought the board its only Republican, in Schmerelson, and its only openly gay member, in Rodriguez.

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Vladovic breezes to a third term with largest margin of board races

LAUSD school board President Richard Vladovic

LAUSD school board President Richard Vladovic

LA Unified Board President Richard Vladovic successfully held his District 7 seat last night, winning a third term by the largest margin of the day’s three elections in a race with the lowest turn out.

He won with 56 percent of the vote to Lydia Gutierrez’s 44 percent.

Mike Trujillo, a campaign consultant to Vladovic, told LA School Report, that Vladovic’s appeal lies in his ability to strike the right balance on a range of issues.

“Dr. Vladovic’s educational career has always been about putting students, parents and teachers first, Trujillo saids. “His political career is much like that of Goldilocks where the porridge is never too hot, never too cold, always just right.”

Apparently, the mix also appealed to political action committees on the reform and union sides.  Vladovic was the only candidate in all three of the races to receive endorsements from pro-charter advocates, including the California Charters Schools Association PAC and labor groups UTLA and SEIU.

Gutierrez had no major endorsements and little campaign money throughout the election.

Despite that she made an impressive splash in the March primary race finishing only five percentage points behind Vladovic. And as recently as April, an internal poll of District 7 voters by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates and Great Public Schools: Los Angeles, showed Gutierrez, leading by 37 percent to 34 percent, with 29 percent undecided, in a statistical tie. The margin of error was 4.9 percent.

Last night’s defeat marks her fifth failed bid for public office since 2008. In her most recent before now, she came in third in a run for state superintendent last year against Tom Torlakson and Marshall Tuck.

Vladovic was first elected to the board in 2007 and became president in 2013. Over most of that time the board slashed billions from the district budget.

But with more than $700 million in extra revenue coming in next year, he says he wants now to focus on leading the district into more prosperous and efficient times through priorities that include proper distribution of money to schools that need it most, a MiSiS system that works, a teacher evaluation system that’s fair and a better use of best practices districtwide.

Buoyed by millions, Rodriguez beats Kayser for District 5 board seat

Ref Rodriguez

Ref Rodriguez

In the most of expensive and vitriolic of all three LA Unified board races, Bennett Kayser lost to Ref Rodriguez in the battle to represent District 5.

Shortly after polls closed Rodriguez cemented an early lead, and Kayser, who had hoped for a second term, was never able to catch up.

“This is a historic victory, as Los Angeles embraces positive change for our schools,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

“The message of transforming middle schools and supporting innovation really resonated with voters,” he wrote, adding words of gratitude for the “community victory.”

The win is a game changer for the California Charter Schools Association, which contributed several million dollars to Rodriguez’s campaign through its political action committee. The organization paid for television, radio and direct mail advertisements championing the charter school founder and railing against Kayser. It marks the first time the CCSA successfully turned over a pro-union seat.

But it is only a partial triumph for the education reform group which was counting on Tamar Galatzan to hold on to her seat in District 3. In that scenario, charter school supporters would have regained control of the board with a 4-3 majority.

That is not what happened.

Scott Schmerelson, a former teacher, counselor and school administrator beat Galatzan by more than 10 percentage points. And although, Schmerelson resists the pro-union label, he acknowledged that he couldn’t have won it without UTLA’s support.

While UTLA campaigned aggressively for Kayser in the March primary races, the teachers union changed strategies for the general election.

“It became a different kind of race at that point,” Marco Flores, a member of UTLA’s political action committee told LA School Report.

“We were just trying to fend off racist and toxic accusations,” he said, referring to the attack ads directed at Kayser. “If we had more money maybe we could have been more effective.”

Kayser is expected to release a statement later today, according to his campaign manager Susan Burnside, who spoke to LA School Report from Schmerelson’s party. Burnside also worked on his campaign.

Schmerelson stuns Galatzan to deny her third term on school board

Scott Schmerelson

Scott Schmerelson

In a stunning upset, Scott Schmerelson handily defeated two-term incumbent Tamar Galatzan in the race for LA Unified’s District 3 seat.

Schmerelson beat Galatzan with more than 3,000 votes, 55 percent to 45 percent.

“I am very happy, very excited, and I’m ready for my five-year term,” he told LA School Report late last night, referring to the extended term school board members will be serving following a voter approved measure aligning local elections with state and federal races.

While many observers predicted the outcome of the election in District 5 — between Bennett Kayser and Ref Rodriguez — would determine the future ideological balance of the seven member board, it is Schmerelson’s victory that ensures the so-called “reformers” will remain in the minority despite Kayser’s loss.

“I intend to be perfectly fair,” Schmerelson said, unwilling to describe himself as either pro-charter, pro-union, or pro-anything specific.

“I am not a vehement anti-charter person,” he explained, then launched into a lengthy speech about how many charters engage in deceitful practices dumping students with disciplinary problems or before important testing. His conclusion: “They really need to be closely monitored.”

The teachers union threw its support behind the veteran educator after the primary race in an effort to elect “anyone but Galatzan” according to UTLA PAC official, Marco Flores.

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Morning Read: CA ready to send out Common Core report cards

CA readies new student report cards on Common Core testing
State officials say they are moving forward with the new student report cards despite potential conflicts with the No Child Left Behind Act. SI&A Cabinet Report

San Pedro mother claims school police officer used excessive force on son
Andres Munoz, 11, said his wrist injury came as a result of being handcuffed by a school police officer. ABC7

School districts struggling to get reserves cap repealed
Last week, on a party-line vote, the majority Democrats on the Assembly Education Committee rejected Assembly Bill 1048. Ed Source

Girls via online petition stand up against ‘sexist’ school dress code
Students from New York to California have lodged similar protests against dress codes, which include bans on tight-fitting clothes. San Jose Mercury News

A vow to veto a schools bill in Minnesota
Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, had advocated universal prekindergarten for the state’s 4-year-olds. New York Times

Mobile program reaches students to help fill gaps in arts education
As arts programs have been cut back in some districts, nonprofits and community groups have stepped in to fill the gap in school arts education. KPCC

Additional $660 million may be available for California schools

California Gov. Jerry Brown reveals his revised budget

Gov. Jerry Brown reveals his revised budget

Gov. Jerry Brown‘s revised May budget has already received plenty of praise from school districts for showering California’s public education institutions with billions in additional funds.

But the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) yesterday delivered additional sunny news estimating that revenues would be $3.2 billion more than Brown’s budget predicts.

“Overall, we think the administration’s current estimates of 2014 taxable income are too low,” the LAO’s analysis report said. The office provides non-partisan budget advice and guidance to the state government.

From the additional funds, at least $660 million would be automatically guided toward public schools and community colleges, according to the Los Angeles Times. Due to LA Unified’s size as the state’s largest school district, it is expected to receive roughly 10-to-11 percent of the additional revenue, totaling around $72 million, which would be on top of the additional $638 million the revised budget is already setting aside for the district.

From the $3.2 billion, another $1.5 billion would be set aside for debt payments and a deposit in the state’s rainy-day fund, and $1.1 billion would be freed up to be spent however Brown and state Legislature like, according to the Times.

Some lawmakers are expected to want part or all of the additional $1.1 billion to go toward education programs.

“There is still a huge need for child care, for early care and education, for other aspects of our social safety net,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) told the Times.

Brown released his revised state budget last week that directed an additional $6.1 billion toward K-through-12 education, which was the result of higher than expected revenues that have come into the state since he revealed his proposed budget in January.

Hundreds of groups statewide show support for Common Core

common coreLest supporters of the Common Core State Standards were feeling any tremors of vocal opponents around the country, a group of 500 business, community, education and parents groups came together on Sunday to offer their unequivocal support for the new testing regime in California.

Under the banner of Children Now, a statewide advocacy group for the youngest among us, the groups put their names to a full-page ad in this past Sunday’s Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee.

“We support Common Core,” was the simple and overarching message.

Why the ad and why now?

“The presidential race is starting to heat up, and Common Core will be bandied about. We wanted to get ahead of it in the national conversation,” said Ted Lempert, a former state representative who is president of Children Now. “We wanted to say that all these groups are behind keeping the standards in place and addressing the implementation challenges.”

The ads are part of a larger campaign by Children Now to explain Common Core and its benefits to parents who might be wondering about them at a time Common Core opponents in other states are pushing back against using them.

California is one of 43 states that have adopted Common Core, a set of college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics.

Commentary: Transient kids becoming victims of ‘data abuse’


By Steven Singer | Gadflyonthewallblog

I was teaching my classes.

I was grading assignments.

I was procrastinating.

I should have been working on my class rosters.

My principals wanted me to calculate percentages for every student I had taught that year and submit them to the state.

How long had each student been in my grade book? What percentage of the year was each learner in my class before they took their standardized tests?

If I didn’t accurately calculate this in the next few days, the class list generated by the computer would become final, and my evaluation would be affected.

But it was in the heat of all this numerological chaos that I saw something in the numbers no one else seemed to be looking for.


Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: It’s election day (you knew that, right?)

LAUSD school board, City Council race highlight today’s election
Lacking a high profile race, such as a mayoral contest, the general municipal election is expected to draw less than 10 percent of registered voters. KPCC

Polls open: L.A. voters to decide one council, three school races
Three incumbents on the L.A. Board of Education are up for reelection. Los Angeles Times

Endorsements: Our L.A. City Council, school board recommendations
The Los Angeles News Group has made recommendations in all of the races based on interviews and other assessments of the candidates. Los Angeles Daily News

How PACs are impacting school board elections in LA
Political action committees are spending 15 times the cash they did six years ago ahead of the Los Angeles Unified school board election on Tuesday. KPCC

Gov. Brown calls for ‘balanced’ approach to testing and accountability
“Tests, metrics, measures, these are good,” Brown said in response to a question about whether the state has sufficient accountability measures in place. Ed Source