A new state rule asking school districts to verify students eligible for the Free and Reduced Price Meal program is causing alarm within LA Unified, which must document the status of more than 138,000 students or risk losing $200 million in state funding.
The rule affects students at nearly 400 high-poverty campuses, all of whom automatically qualify for subsidized lunches under federal rules that require parents to fill out paperwork only once every four years. By the new state rules, a district must submit written verification for each student each year.
While the district said in a press release today that the state requirement conflicts with federal regulations, district officials are nonetheless scrambling to collect the paper applications required by the state.
A 26-year old candidate with more experience in policy than politics is heading into tomorrow’s special election for a westside state Assembly seat with something few candidates can claim: support from both sides of the education reform debate.
Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, son of County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, has proved to be both a prolific fundraiser and endorsement magnet in his race for the open seat in Assembly District 54.
United Teachers of Los Angeles voted to endorse Ridley-Thomas on Nov. 20th and was planning to circulate a letter of support to its members in District 54 today. In it the union says:
“Ridley-Thomas will advocate for jobs creation, improved traffic, health care access, increased public safety, education funding, and getting our fair share from Sacramento.” The letter is signed by UTLA President Warren Fletcher and Mary Jan Roberts, the UTLA political officer.
The social welfare arm of the California Charter School Association is also backing the young candidate.
“We are really excited about the energy Sebastian will bring to the legislature and the continued accessibility that he will provide to all stake holders in the education community,” CCSA Advocates political director, Carlos Marquez, told LA School Report. “He shares a strong commitment to making sure that our schools are producing quality programs for our students and being held accountable to very high standards.”
Brent Smiley, an officer of UTLA’s political action committee, known as PACE, told LA School Report, Ridley-Thomas is “a real stand-up guy as far as education, and he’d be a great representative in Sacramento.”
NY Mayor-elect Bill DiBlasio
Via The New York Times | Editorial Board
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will take office facing the need to forge new labor agreements with the unions that represent nearly all of New York City’s 300,000 municipal workers. The largest of these, the United Federation of Teachers, is in a particularly sour mood. Representing 40 percent of the city’s work force, the union has been without a contract since 2009.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed, starting in 2010, that all new union contracts get a three-year freeze in base pay, to be followed by two years of raises at 1.25 percent each. During his campaign, Mr. de Blasio said that a retroactive pay raise — dating back to the expiration of the last contract — would be possible only if offset by cost savings. That’s a good start. But any sort of raise will require concessions in exchange. He will need to press the union to loosen work rules that stifle innovation and favor senior teachers over younger ones who may in fact be more talented. The union must also let go of the unspoken presumption that every teacher is entitled to a job for life.
Read the full editorial here.
The LA Times has another iPad story today, pointing to surveys by the administrators and teachers unions that found the entirely-not-surprising results that some people like the iPads, some people don’t.
What is surprising is what the story doesn’t say, such as when the surveys were conducted. LA School Report published reports on the administrators survey on November 1 (LA Unified Principals Review the iPad Rollout: Not so Bad) and the union survey on November 7 (Teacher Union Survey Shows Mixed Support for iPads). The LAT story also fails to mention how few people participated in each survey — 24 principals and assistants in one and 225 teachers in the other.
The LA Unified school board has already taken the survey results into account in slowing down the distribution and looking at laptops, rather than iPads, for high school students. That happened at a board meeting on November 12.
Dozens of LA Unified schools lack staff needed to run libraries
As many as 145 schools across L.A. Unified may have closed their libraries, according to staffing numbers provided to KPCC this week. The district said it does not have a tally of shuttered libraries, but figures show schools and the district have hired only a fraction of the library aides needed to operate libraries in every public school. KPCC
Legislative leaders raise concerns about school-funding regulations
Top Democrats in the Legislature have poured cold water on proposed regulations to carry out the landmark overhaul of how California allocates money to schools. Suggesting that the draft rules are “inconsistent with the intent and letter” of the Local Control Funding Formula legislation enacted in June, Monday’s letter to Board of Education President Michael Kirst and his colleagues calls for changes that would preserve “local autonomy. Sacramento Bee
State unions at war with basic math
It’s been more than four years since the chief actuary for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System declared CalPERS faced an “unsustainable” future. Ron Seeling’s candor acknowledged the vast unfunded liabilities facing the nation’s largest pension system then and to this day. U-T San Diego
LA Unified police force will stop ticketing students under 13
Responding to demand for reforms, the nation’s largest school police force — in Los Angeles — will stop issuing tickets to students 12-years-old or younger for minor infractions allegedly committed on or near campuses during school hours. EdSource
We talk about their success stories, the kids who text them from college, invite them to their weddings, grow up and become teachers themselves. We talk about their heartbreaks, the kids who for one reason or another don’t make it, who drop out, who disappear. We talk about their frustrations, the kids with behavior issues, the bureaucracy, the testing. Here’s what we never talk about: money.
I’ve spent the last three months talking to teachers across Los Angeles about their jobs. They’ve met with me as they swilled coffee getting ready for an early-morning class, as they spooned up a lunch of peanut butter from a jar while helping a kid study for an exam, as they sipped coffee re-heated in the microwave late in the day over papers they were grading. Not one teacher has ever complained to me about making too little money, which is astonishing especially because, as we all know, teachers do not make anywhere near enough.
The median national salary for a teacher is $52,270, which puts them below almost anyone else with a post-college professional degree: lawyers, doctors, college professors, psychologists, computer systems analysts, nurses, speech pathologists, pharmacists, loan officers and dental hygienists. There are people with a job called “compliance officers” who, whatever frightening thing they do, are making more than teachers.
Via Ed Source | By John Fensterwald
In a letter on Monday, leaders of the state Senate and Assembly criticized proposed regulations on state funding for the state’s neediest students as inconsistent with the intent of the new school finance law.
Their letter to the State Board of Education, which must adopt the regulations in January, adds an exclamation point to similar criticisms from organizations representing low-income students, foster youth and English learners. Legislators and advocates are arguing that the proposed regulations for the Local Control Funding Formula or LCFF would give districts too much flexibility to decide how to spend money targeted for high-needs students.
The three-page letter suggests nine changes to the regulations and the proposed template for the Local Control and Accountability Plan or LCAP, which the State Board also is considering.
Read the full story here.
California using $2-million arts grant windfall for new programs
The California Arts Council, the agency behind state government’s arts grants, is putting down most of its chips from a one-time, $2-million funding windfall on several new bets involving arts education and community improvement through the arts. The nearly $1.6 million allocated at the panel’s most recent meeting is primarily aimed at two audiences: citizens and public school students. LA Times
Draft spending guidelines on energy funds readied
Even as school districts this week are receiving the first round of state funding to make facilities more energy-efficient, the agency overseeing the program is preparing proposed guidelines for regulating how the money can be used. SI&A Cabinet Report
Rocketship charter schools singled out in CA as Race to the Top finalist
Rocketship Education, with eight K-5 charter schools in San Jose, one in Milwaukee and invitations to expand into urban districts in other states, is the sole finalist from California competing for $120 million in the second district Race to the Top competition. EdSource
From truant slacker to straight-A student, an LAUSD success story
With LAUSD in the midst of a Thanksgiving week off, students and parents are being warned about tacking on extra days to their school vacations. Under the state’s education code, a student is considered truant after three unexcused absences, a habitual truant after five unexcused absences. LA Daily News
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.
According to the recently released Report Card from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), California fourth and eighth graders ranked 47th and 45th, respectively, in mathematics proficiency.
“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.
It’s that time of year again, and naturally, thoughts turn to LA Unified school board committees.
Well, probably not, but it is worth noting that what’s old is new again, as the deliberative process has returned, echoes of a bygone, pre-Monica Garcia as president time.
Back then, in the middle of the last decade, as many as 10 committees met often, some of them monthly and some of them even more. Who could forget the Committee on the Modified Chanda Smith Consent Decree Committee, which convened during the committee high-mark years of 2005 and 2006, when Board President Marlene Canter had 10 and 9 committees at hand.
When Garcia became president in 2006, the committee system waned, only for a rebirth under Richard Vladovic, who succeeded Garcia as president this year. After Garcia cancelled committees, Vladovic created them. Now there are 7, the most since 2007.
LA Times Photo: New Open World Academy first grade teacher Bianca Sanchez
Via the LA Times | By Stephen Ceasar
When Carmina Rosas visited her son’s first-grade classroom, she got a lesson of her own.
She learned that her 6-year-old, who attends New Open World Academy in Koreatown, could read 59 of the 96 “high-frequency” words he should have known by that time in the school year.
She found out that to remain at grade level, her boy would need to know nearly three times as many words by the end of the year. To help him stay on track, Rosas was taught reading games they could play together. And, she received a personal homework assignment: to help her son reach 160 words in the next couple of months.
This was no ordinary parent-teacher conference. For one thing, the 20 or so parents met as a group with teacher Bianca Sanchez. For another, Sanchez discussed students’ performance data and then taught the parents skills to help their children at home. It’s called Academic Parent Teacher Teams, a program aimed at helping parents take a more active role in their children’s education.
Read the full story here.
L.A. Unified’s local food push is healthy for area economy too
The savory smell of nutmeg and cinnamon wafts through the Azusa bakery, where dozens of workers in blue gloves and hairnets cook up L.A. Unified’s newest star product. The “Glorious Morning” muffin is chewy and moist, packed with whole wheat, raisins and carrots — along with flaxseed for heart health and brain development. LA Times
iPad debate overshadows learning revolution in LAUSD classrooms
Last week, as Los Angeles Unified officials debated and complained about the speed, cost and logistics of the troubled iPad rollout, students around the sprawling district were putting the tablet computers to good use. Fifth-graders at Western Avenue Elementary in South LA were downloading apps and creating multimedia presentations. LA Daily News
California switches testing plans, but may still lose $3.5 billion
California, threatened with the loss of $3.5 billion in federal funds for suspending high-stakes testing next spring, has tweaked its exam plan. But it’s not certain that the change, which was not cleared first with U.S. officials, will ease the threat to take away funds. San Jose Mercury
CA districts are giving their report cards a facelift for Common Core
School districts across California are rewriting elementary school report cards to reflect new learning standards known as the Common Core. Because the change is not dictated by the state, it’s unclear how many schools are switching. But several superintendents in Southern California said they were in the process. KPCC
In a growing national effort to reduce harsh discipline tactics that push children into a school-to-prison pipeline, the police chief of LA Unified schools has issued a new procedure that could spare middle and elementary school students from being criminalized for common misbehavior.
No longer will students under the age of 13 be subject to school police citations and court appearances for offenses such as fighting, writing on desks and walls, and underage drinking, which some schools throughout the district are more likely to handle internally.
The new policy does not, however, apply to the Los Angeles Police Department or L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
Effective Dec. 1, LAUSD police officers are to refrain from issuing tickets to these younger students for offenses that could just as easily be handled as “teachable moments,” Police Chief Steven Zipperman wrote in an interdepartmental memo to the LA School Police Department.
If the “learning objective cannot be accomplished,” he instructed, police officers should have an articulated reason – and permission from a supervisor – before issuing a citation.
As LA Unified debates when to buy keyboards to go along with the district’s new iPads, experts say typing skills and accuracy are essential to student success on Common Core testing.
The new Smarter Balanced standardized tests in California will be taken on computers by all students, even at the elementary school level. The language arts section of the test requires third grade students to write three short pieces, while fourth-graders are expected to write a full page in one sitting.
“So if you have students pecking at a keyboard, one key at a time, they are not going to do very well,” Jeremy Davis, Director of Education Technology of Capistrano Unified School District told LA School Report.
LA Unified’s plans for keyboards remain uncertain. A committee that oversees the spending on the district’s digital technology program told officials this week to provide the panel a price for keyboards that could be used with the 49,000 iPads that have already been distributed.
District students are taught to use a keyboard if teachers see a need for it, Shannon Haver, an LA Unified spokeswoman said, adding that students are expected to learn the necessary keyboarding techniques as part of learning each application.
Photo: SF Examiner
State Superintendent of Public Education Tom Torlakson
Under pressure from the federal government, California is expanding a field test of computer-based assessments to test students in both math and English language arts, rather than just one subject area. A law recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, AB 484, (see story here) requires testing in only one subject.
The change, announced yesterday by State Education chief Tom Torlakson, came in response to concerns that the US Department of Education would withhold as much as $45 million dollars in funding, as well as additional Title I funds if the state did not comply with long standing federal rules that students in grades three and eleven be tested annually in both subjects.
The news was welcomed by LA Unified, which had planned to test in both subject areas anyway, at a cost of $2 million. In applauding the decision, Superintendent John Deasy said in a statement it “brings more equity to the assessment transition process” as the state shifts to the Common Core State Standards curriculum. The cost of administering the added test will be paid for by the state.
“We are glad that this decision will relieve us of the obligation to pay for the second test, saving us vital funds,” Deasy said. “We continue to prepare for the transition to Common Core State Standards in instruction and testing, which is why we are working to ensure there are adequate computers or tablets on every campus so students can access the computer adaptive Smarter Balanced assessments.”
Educators weigh iPad’s dominance of tablet market
Keith A. Bockwoldt is not an Apple salesman, but sometimes he feels frustrated that this might be the impact he has on educators. As the director of technology services for Illinois’ second-largest high school district, Mr. Bockwoldt has hosted a steady stream of more than 1,000 visitors who want to learn how Township High School District 214—25 miles northwest of Chicago—developed its 1-to-1 computing initiative, which ultimately chose iPads, and the positive impact that device decision is having. Ed Week
Teaching the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination
This Friday, Nov. 22, marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Because Kennedy’s life and death remain such a deep source of public fascination—and because he was such a central figure in 20th-century political history—many educators are viewing this as a significant teaching moment. ”Sometimes these opportunities are moments that can suddenly spark a student’s deep interest in learning about the historical past,” Gorman Lee, the social studies director in the Braintree, Mass., school district, told a local news service. Ed Week
New entity to oversee, support LCFF accountability
Support, not punishment, is the guiding mantra for state education officials in the early stages of planning an entity that will ultimately be responsible for helping districts meet new goals under Gov. Jerry Brown’s sweeping school finance reform. Sitting in the shadows of the regulatory work currently underway around the Local Control Funding Formula and its associated accountability plans is the mandate to create the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence – a governmental body envisioned to provide comprehensive technical assistance to districts tasked with meeting new student accountability goals. Cabinet Report
Larger classes with effective teachers improves achievement
A new study released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found that placing more students in the classrooms of highly effective teachers can improve student achievement. The study, by Michael Hansen of the American Institutes for Research, simulates the impact on student achievement if schools were to purposely assign larger classes to the strongest teachers and smaller classes to the weakest. Education News
In jazz-loving Culver City, music starts in kindergarten
Kindergarten students at El Rincon Elementary school in Culver City know something most kids their age don’t: how to read music. They know the difference between whole notes and a half note and during a recent morning, expertly clapped and counted out a few measures. ”It felt like I was on a stage and singing,” said five-year-old Allisson Rastelli, who wants to be a singer when she grows up. The success of these public school students at a time when most of their peers are still mastering the alphabet can be largely credited to the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra. KPCC
Against a backdrop of “Let them eat iPads” from UTLA demonstrators and headlines like “The LA schools’ iPad adventure keeps getting worse,” it’s not surprising that LA Unified is seeking to offset what board member Tamar Galatzan calls a “blizzard of negative stories.”
At 6 o’clock tonight on KLCS, the district is airing an hour-long iPad special, part of the “Technology in the Classroom” series sponsored by the Common Core Technology Project and featuring students with special needs from the Chavez Arts, Theater, Entertainment School. The District is encouraging viewers to call, email, or tweet questions before and during the live telecast.
“The series is part of our ongoing communications efforts to show how iPads can offer a richer educational experience,” district spokeswoman Shannon Haber told LA School Report. “It helps to let people into the classroom and to see how exactly students are using these devices.”
The show follows yet another sobering iPad development: The district Bond Oversight Committee yesterday approved the board’s request to expand the technology program to 45 more schools, but rejected plans to spend $90 million on tablets for every district principal and teacher.
Previous Posts: LA Unified Board Votes to Reshape iPad Program; Ratliff is seeking alternatives to using iPads in LA Unified’s future.
Board Member Monica Ratliff: No vote
The LA Unified board’s recent 5-1 vote on Superintendent John Deasy’s performance evaluation, released by the district on Tuesday after requests from several media outlets, cast a curious light on board member sentiments during a period of enormous challenge and contentiousness.
Two of the five votes were entirely expected: Monica Garcia and Tamar Galatzan are consistently supportive of Deasy in words and votes.
The three other votes to approve came from frequent critics – President Richard Vladovic, Steve Zimmer and Bennett Kayser – whose support seemed to signal at least a temporary Kumbaya moment, that they are willing to work with Deasy for the time being even if they disagree on one policy issue or another.
Those five kept him in office, with a contract extension through mid-2016.
Marguerite LaMotte was the lone dissenter, which was not considered a surprise. With close ties to the teachers union, UTLA, she is a strong opponent of Deasy-style reform, and as an aide to one board member said, “The shock would have been if she had voted for him.”
LaMotte’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
The real head scratcher was the board’s newest member, Monica Ratliff. She abstained.
*Update: The district just postponed the event due to weather concerns. A new date has not been set.
Nearly 400 special needs students at two dozen San Fernando Valley schools will finish up six weeks of athletic training tomorrow by competing in a day of soccer games hosted by LA Unified and the Special Olympics.
The event, called School Games, is part of a school-based program funded by the Special Olympics that puts together sports teams for special needs students.
LAUSD was one of the first districts in the country to be approached by the Special Olympics to participate in the program, in 2006. Since then, nearly 200 schools and almost 1,000 students district-wide have gotten involved.
In addition to playing soccer in the fall, kids in the program run track and field in the spring. They can also sign up for collaborative teams, in which special needs students play alongside the general population of children.
Valarie Payne, an adapted physical education teacher at LA Unified and the chair of School Games, says that participating in team sports helps kids become physically active and learn social skills for everyday life.