LAUSD scores low in ranking based partly on parent, student feedback

studentsNiche, a company that researches and compiles information on schools, has released its 2016 rankings of the Best Public High Schools in the country, a list that includes charters and magnet schools.

Despite looking at more than 100,000 schools and ranking them in areas like academics, teachers, student culture, diversity, resources and facilities, not a single school from LA Unified, the second largest district in the nation, cracked the top 25. Nor did any school from California.

What makes the methodology of the rankings so unusual is that Niche also considers parent and student opinions in online reviews. So the list doesn’t necessarily mean California’s schools aren’t performing well, but it does indicate that Californians aren’t very happy with their schools.

“We believe that the quality of a school or district should be measured, at least in part, by the parents and students who actually go there,” Niche stated while explaining the methodology of the list.

Perhaps that California’s per-pupil spending is ranked 42nd in the nation or that its student-to-teacher ratio is dead last or that two-thirds of its students cannot meet basic standards in math accounts for why Californians are down on their schools.

Coming in at No. 26 on the list is LA Unified’s very own Granada Hills Charter High School. A handful of other California schools are in the top 100, but no others from LA Unified.

The company also released a list of Best School Districts, and making the top 100 from California was San Marino Unified, Palo Alto UnifiedPalos Verdes Peninsula UnifiedAcalanes Union High School DistrictPiedmont City Unified and Carmel Unified.

There are some other interesting lists also worth checking out, like Best TeachersBest Places to TeachCollege ReadinessMost Diverse and Safest School Districts.


Commentary: For LAUSD, maybe it’s not the time to hire an outsider

superintendent search LAUSDIt’s getting down to crunch time: Thanksgiving . . . Christmas . . . Last day on the job for LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

By next week, names for his replacement will begin to flow with a list of candidates that could include such well-regarded figures from across the county as Rudy Crew, a former Chancellor of New York City schools; Alberto M. Carvalho, Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools;  Valeria Silva, superintendent of St. Paul’s public schools; and Richard Carranza, superintendent of schools in San Francisco.

No doubt all of them have fine resumes.

But in thinking about what awaits the next occupant of Cortines’s 24th floor office, one might wonder if an outsider with little knowledge of the district would necessarily make the best choice for LA Unified, given the issues at hand. Never mind the larger question, why would anyone even want the job. Consider the current state of affairs:

  • An independent financial review panel just reported that the district is facing deficits that could reach $600 million within four years.
  • The district is hemorrhaging students, nearly three percent a year, costing hundreds of thousands in lost state and federal revenues.
  • Pressure is mounting on the district to reduce health care benefits and increase employee pension contribution, already triggering union opposition.
  • Academic performance across the district was abysmal, judging by the most recent statewide tests.
  • The charter war within the district is intensifying, with a plan by outsiders to create hundreds more charter schools to serve as many as half the district enrollment.
  • The seven members of the elected school board, who serve as the superintendent’s bosses, are hard-pressed to agree on what day it is, let alone on how to solve intractable problems.

No doubt, the winning candidate would convince all or most of the board members that the challenges are not insurmountable. Pay and benefits are not likely to be issues. The winner can expect a deal worth upwards of $300,000 a year with lots of perqs.

But here’s the thing. The learning curve to run a district of this size and complexity is long and steep even in normal times, with uncountable numbers of students, teachers, assistants, deputies, administrators, schools, labor leaders, political operatives, state officials —  and issues: Difficult, politically-charged, financially-challenged, board-polarizing issues.

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Shift in practices driving down suspension rates in California

Edsource logo

By Jane Meredith Adams

School suspension rates have fallen in California for students of every ethnicity in the last three years, a sign that a shift in discipline practices in many school districts is starting to have an effect, according to a study released Monday by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the UCLA Civil Rights Project.

The study includes a spreadsheet of the number of suspensions by ethnicity in 901 California school districts.

At the same time, lower rates of suspension were correlated with higher academic achievement for every racial group in the state, the study found. For African-American students, the correlation was the strongest. While some parents and educators expressed concern that suspending fewer students would lead to chaos and lower academic scores, the study found evidence of the opposite.

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: Racism lawsuit against LAUSD teacher dropped

Suit accusing popular LAUSD teacher of racism dropped
A student had sued her teacher, alleging he made racially charged remarks during a history lesson on civil rights.
City News Service

Commentary: L.A. new front in education war
A big and perhaps decisive charter school battle is brewing in the state’s largest – and in many ways, most troubled – school district, Los Angeles Unified.
Fresno Bee, by Dan Walters

How turning math into a maker workshop can bring calculations to life
By the end of the school year, all of Elizabeth Little’s her math students, not just those needing extra support, were clamoring for more math.
KQED, by Linda Flanagan

Urban charter schools often succeed. Suburban ones often don’t.
Not all charter schools are outstanding: In the suburbs, for example, the evidence is that they do no better than traditional public schools.
New York Times, by Susan Dynarski

The fight over K-12 education appears headed back to the states
Congress is poised to pass a law that would shift power over K-12 public school policy from the federal government back to the states.
Washington Post, by Lyndsey Layton

Massachusetts’s rejection of Common Core test signals shift in U.S.
Across the country, what was once bipartisan consensus around national standards has collapsed into acrimony about the Common Core.
New York Times, by Kate Zernike

LA Unified in final preparations for approaching El Niño

ElNinoSchoolFloodAnd now for the weather forecast:

More than $17 million in roof repairs still need to be completed at LAUSD schools before El Niño arrives in January.

The district also needs to replace aging equipment at the Emergency Operations Center at a cost of $225,000 a year, and it will cost about $5 per student to keep emergency supplies in good condition each year—that’s another $3.5 million.

A simple one-time spend of $56,000 could get a weather alert radio for every school.

Those wether-related needs all came from the district’s Emergency Services and Facilities Services divisions in a presentation this week to the Successful School Climate Committee. Officials said they expect the second worst storm system to hit the area since they tracked El Niño storms.

Deputy superintendent Michelle King introduced the report to the committee as a “timely presentation about El Niño, what it is, and why we should be worried.” After hearing some of the plans and what needed to be done, she suggested that one of the top priorities would be to get the weather alert radios in every school.

Jill Barnes, of LA Unified’s school operations emergency services, said, “It’s hard to imagine in a few months we will be in large deluge of rain. We know that it’s on track to be second largest since recording them in 1950.”

The district has already identified schools that may encounter problems because they are near potential landslide areas or in areas that flood easily. Plans are underway to move some schools to different locations in severe weather.

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Report: With cost of living, CA ranks 42nd in per-pupil spending

California Budget & Policy CenterA new report from the California Budget & Policy Center found that when adjustments are made for cost of living, California ranked 42nd in the nation in per-pupil spending for the 2014-15 school year. The low ranking comes even after a surge in education spending in the state has brought billions more into the K-12 budget.

Without the cost of living adjustment, California ranked 29th in spending, at $10,139 per K-12 student, $1,900 less than the $12,040 national average.

The report found little for the state to celebrate, with California ranked:

  • 36th among all states in K-12 spending as a share of the state economy in 2014-15.
  • Last in the nation in the number of K-12 students per teacher in 2014-15. California’s student-to-teacher ratio was greater than 22-to-1, more than 40 percent higher than the national ratio of 15.5 students per teacher.
  • Last or close to last in the number of students per staff. California’s student-to-librarian ratio was more than 7,500-to-1 (ranking 51st), its student-to-guidance-counselor ratio was 785-to-1 (51st), and its student-to-administrator ratio was 312-to-1 (47th) in 2011-12, the most recent year for which data are available.

The report also noted that since California has the most students in the nation who are English learners and a high level of students from low-income families, and research shows that educating English learners and students from low-income families requires even greater investment.

“California should be spending more per student than other states to allow all of its students to reach state and national academic standards,” the report said.

The report also rings the alarm bell about Prop 30, a tax increase approved by voters that is responsible for the big increase in education spending.

The increases will decline after the 2015-16 school year, with the report pointing out, “This means that unless California voters extend Proposition 30’s tax increases or approve an alternative tax measure, the state’s schools will most likely receive relatively fewer dollars in the years ahead, raising the prospect that California’s school spending would fall even further behind the nation.”

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City Year seeking help to halt proposed cuts to AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps* UPDATED

A week ago, the U.S. Senate proposed cutting 20,000 AmeriCorps positions that provide help to schools in unprivileged communities. Now, City Year, which has 309 AmeriCorps members in Los Angeles, is calling on the public to help stop the proposed cuts before decisions are made in the next week.

The measure could result in the loss of AmeriCorps members now assigned to 26 LAUSD schools in Watts, south Los Angeles, Boyle Heights and Koreatown, said local City Year program head Andrew Glazier.

Since its founding nine years ago, City Year Los Angeles has supported 100,000 students through initiatives such as after-school programs and school-wide events and has worked with students as part of national efforts to increase high school graduation, he said.

“These are really devastating cuts for school districts across the country, certainly in Los Angeles,” said AnnMaura Connolly, City Year’s chief strategy officer and president of Voices for National Service. “This is cost-effective work in supporting schools in low income pockets, and we provide individualized attention to at-risk students.”

Michael Brown, co-founder of City Year, said the cuts could result in 52,000 students in 80 high poverty schools losing the academic and social-emotional school support. It would have negative ramifications for Teach for America and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s educational initiatives such as the Promise Zone, which has AmeriCorps members support from the Youth Policy Institute and the city.

“City Year AmeriCorps members serve as full-time tutors, mentors and role models in many of the highest-need elementary, middle and high schools in the nation,” Brown said. “Students would lose more than 1.4 million hours of school-based services.”

Brown added, “A bi-partisan initiative since its founding in 1993, AmeriCorps helps build our workforce and maintain our competitive edge globally.”

Connolly said City Year is urging supporters to contract Congress and the White House to stop the elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps.

“We have also seen that social media has a big impact on Congress,” Connolly said. “They want to get these matters settled before the Thanksgiving holiday break so the backroom horse-trading is going on right now.”

* Updated to correct the number of AmeriCorps members in Los Angeles.

LAUSD adult ed school caught in the middle of charter wars


By Erin Aubry Kaplan

The long-running battle between charter schools and traditional public schools has heated up nearly to a boiling point, with business magnate Eli Broad recently unveiling a campaign to charter-ize public ed in L.A. once and for all.

The drama is happening mostly at the top between the Broad camp and public school advocates–notably the teacher’s union, which has stepped up protests and criticism of Broad and his so-called reforms.

But beneath the drama is the story of one campus’s attempt to resist the takeover of a charter school, a story that illustrates the political complexity of the battle–the limitations of both sides, and how what almost always gets sacrificed in the struggle is what’s best for students.

The campus is Emerson Adult Learning Center, a dedicated adult-school campus that sits at a dead end of a leafy block off of Manchester Boulevard in Westchester.

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: Looks like another good year for K-12 funding

Analyst predicts another good year for school funding
The Legislative Analyst’s Office is projecting another healthy year for K-12 schools, with an average increase of about $530 per student in 2016-17.
EdSource, by John Fensterwald

Negotiators come to agreement on revising No Child Left Behind law
A conference committee of members from the House and the Senate voted, 39 to 1, to approve the agreement on Thursday.
New York Times, by Motoko Rich

How does your state rank for school Internet access? 
A $20 million Zuckerberg gift may help improve it.
Hechinger Report, by Nichole Dobo

Teachers union allies demand Kevin Johnson resign over sex allegations
A Los Angeles-based organization and local activists want Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to resign in light of resurfaced allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
Sacramento Bee, by Ryan Lillis

State Supreme Court says no — again — to Washington charter schools
The court ruled Sept. 4 that the state’s voter-approved charter school law is unconstitutional
News Tribune, by Debbie Cafazzo and Melissa Santos

Survey: What students and teachers really think about computer science 
Teachers at poor schools are more likely to think that computer science is vital to their students’ futures, but are less likely to think their school boards agree.
Huffington Post, by Rebecca Klein

Court monitor attacks LAUSD’s efforts to comply with ADA

SpecialEdA court-appointed monitor of LA Unified’s special education has harshly criticized the district for a failure to bring its facilities into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

In the latest annual report, Independent Monitor David Rostetter accused LA Unified and its Facilities Services Division of mismanagement, a lack of clear direction, inaction, failing to act in good faith, withholding information and expending energy on circumventing its legal obligations.

“This behavior is unconscionable,” Rostetter wrote. “The lack of accountability for this performance and complete disregard for providing accessibility at its schools, programs, and services can no longer be overlooked.”

He added, “The approach senior leadership have taken to comply with (the ADA) lacks consideration and regard for the civil rights of individuals with disabilities.”

While Rostetter praised the district for progress in other areas, his blistering critique suggested that the district has a long way to go toward meeting the requirements of the ADA.

The district’s Chief Facilities Executive, Mark Hovatter, did not respond directly to the report’s criticisms.

“I can’t really speak to that,” he told LA School Report. “What I can say is the laws of compliance are very complex and specialized and some people misinterpret them or just don’t understand them. We’re all getting much smarter to comply with it.”

LA Unified has been under federal court oversight since 1996 as a result of a class action lawsuit that accused it of non-compliance with special education laws. As part of the settlement, an independent monitor was appointed in 2003 to oversee the district’s compliance with what is known as the Modified Consent Decree (MCD).

The original deadline set for the district to meet its obligations and be disengaged from court oversight was 2006.

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Report praises LAUSD’s special ed integration, MiSiS progress

special edThe latest annual report from a court-appointed monitor of LA Unified’s special education programs had praise for much of the district’s progress over the last year integrating its disabled students into general education classes. It also gave high marks for Superintendent Ramon Cortines‘ efforts to stabilize the troubled $133 million MiSiS computer system.

However, the report was far from universally positive, as it found severe problems with the district’s failure to update it facilities in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (See accompanying story) and in other areas in need of improvement.

LA Unified has been under federal court oversight since 1996 as a result of a class action lawsuit that accused it of non-compliance with special education laws. As part of the settlement, an independent monitor was appointed in 2003 to oversee the district’s compliance with what is known as the Modified Consent Decree.

MiSiS, the district’s student data system, was created to fulfill part of the decree, which called for better tracking of special education student records. With an original estimated cost of $25 million, it was launched at the beginning of last year with disastrous results. The glitchy system caused problems with student schedules and transcripts and an array of other headaches. The cost ballooned to $133 million, with funding secured through June.

Former Superintendent John Deasy resigned under pressure in October of 2014, in part due to criticism for giving the green light to MiSiS. As his replacement, Cortines brought in a new team to oversee MiSiS and was able to get the system functioning over the course of last school year.

This school year began with MiSiS working much better and no major problems have been reported. As a result, Cortines has issued a number of memos and statements applauding the work of MiSiS team.

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Inspector seeking more money to conduct audits of LAUSD charters

Mónica Ratliff

Mónica Ratliff

The LA Unified’s Office of Inspector General told a school board committee this week that it needs an additional $570,000 to audit charter schools, according to a recent report.

The OIG once had a staff of 83 and is now down to 57, according to Inspector General Ken Bramlett, whose office oversees a $7.6 million budget. The OIG not only checks charter schools to see if they meet safety and educational requirements but also investigates financial fraud, contracts and internal audits for the entire district. The office also looks at services, personnel, safety and test scores.

The cost for a basic audit of a charter school that could take three months to complete costs nearly $70,000 while a more complex audit that could last half a year costs nearly $150,000, according to a report Bramlett and his staff presented to the Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee this week. The number of audits that the office conducts each year has also fallen by half, to 6 from 12.

Board member Scott Schmerelson, who sits on the committee, pointed out that it doesn’t seem to make sense to have a reduction of investigators and number of audits when the numbers of LA Unified charter schools are increasing.

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Charter group expanding mission to include support for LAUSD schools

Anita Landecker

Anita Landecker

In what would appear to be a strategic shift, the organization leading an effort to open more charter schools in LA Unified now intends to expand its mission to support traditional public schools that serve low-income children.

The organization, incorporated as Great Public Schools Now, is an outgrowth of a plan by the Broad and other foundations to create enough new charter schools to serve half of the district student population within eight years.

The foundations’ initial plan, articulated through a draft proposal over the summer, did not include consideration of investment in traditional district schools. But the plan now under development has been widened to include a goal of investing in pilot, magnet and other   high-performing district schools that have large numbers of children receiving free and reduced-price lunch.

“In one of the early meetings, the idea was raised, and people said, ‘Definitely, let’s do it’ “ said Anita Landecker, the interim executive director of Great Public Schools Now. “I don’t know how yet; it hasn’t been worked out, but there is an interest in helping high-quality schools that serve low-income kids.”

The willingness of the group to invest in district schools comes in some measure as a response to widespread criticism of the original Broad plan. Opponents, including members of the district school board and the LA teachers union, UTLA, have attacked the proposal as dangers for public education that would cost the district programs and jobs and leave half the student population with inferior assets.

Board President Steve Zimmer, perhaps the most critical of the seven board members, dismissed it as a “some kids, not all kids” plan that he would fiercely oppose.

Landecker described the new approach as an effort that would blunt some of the criticism even as the major thrust of the effort remains adding charter schools to satisfy the growing public demand for them and reducing the long lists of students on waiting lists to get in.

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Commentary: LAUSD robocalls confusing and infuriating


By Kerry Cavanaugh

I am the parent of a Los Angeles Unified School District student, and I get robocalls from the district probably two times a week. These are not calls from my son’s elementary school. These are recorded messages from various district officials, informing me of some meeting or workshop or that parents should fill out some paperwork.

I admit, these calls come so frequently and are so rarely useful that whenever I see the (213) 241 prefix, I let it go to voicemail and only occasionally listen to the message.

But last night’s call was so frustratingly useless that I had to listen to it several times to figure out if I was confused or if the district was just being confusing. Guess which one it was?

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: Alliance parents divided over unionization

A growing split among parents over unionization efforts at Alliance charters 
The fight to unionize the largest provider of charter schools in Los Angeles is beginning to divide parents.
Los Angeles Times, by Joy Resmovits

Prop. 98 guarantee could reach $80B by 2020
The minimum funding guarantee for K-12 schools and community colleges is expected to surge to $77.5 billion by the 2019-20 school year.
Cabinet Report, by Tom Chorneau

About those kids who sued over fake classes
Behind the lawsuit against sham classes in California high schools.
Hechinger Report, by Peg Tyre

Supporters, opponents share opinions on proposed Glendale charter school
A parent-led effort to establish a charter school in Glendale has pitted Glendale Unified educators and parents against those who favor the school.
Los Angeles Times, by Kelly Corrigan

Curriculum materials a sticking point in Common Core implementation
During the five years since California adopted the Common Core State Standards, the search for high-quality textbooks and curriculum materials has been a sticking point.
EdSource, by Louis Freedberg and Theresa Harrington

Money and clout on the line for teachers union in 2016
The California Teachers Association, one of Sacramento’s most powerful interests, is heading into an extraordinary year with decisions on the ballot.
CALmatters, by Lauren Rosenhall

LA Unified prearing to sell first bonds from $7 billion Measure Q

MarkHovatterChief Facilities Executive

Mark Hovatter, chief facilities executive

Seven years after city voters approved Measure Q, giving LA Unified the go-ahead to borrow $7 billion, the first bond sales from the measure will begin within a month or so, district officials said today.

As the largest local school bond measure in California history, Measure Q was requested to upgrade older school buildings and reconfigure outmoded campuses. Some projects will cost as little as $50,000, wiuth others as much as $140 million.

Mark Hovatter, the LAUSD chief facilities executive, said the first phase of Measure Q sales will attempt to raise $900 million. The board has already approved spending $2 billion of the $7 billion total.

“We pay as the work is done,” Hovatter said. “There’s always a cash flow.”

The district already has projects underway, but those are being paid for by the sale of other bonds. This is the first tranch of Measure Q. The district goes into the bond market “once or twice a year,” and Hovatter said he expects to raise the second tranch within another six or eight months.

With capital improvements in the district, the financial assembly line is always running, and the bonds are sold only when money is needed. As soon as money comes it, it goes out to pay bills, with each project following a similar track: Endorsement by the district’s School Construction Bond Citizens’ Oversight Committee, school board approval, a plan for the scope of the project, a design, approval by the office of the state architect, then the approval of construction contracts.

Hovatter said LAUSD bonds are easy to sell. “We’ve always had twice as many people who want to buy them as we need,” he said. “It’s a solid investment. We have a reliable tax revenue to support it and a strong completion rate. It’s a low risk investment.”

Tom Rubin, a consultant to the bond oversight committee, confirmed LAUSD’s credit rating has remained fairly steady since 2008 and that there should be no problem in selling the bonds.

Measure Q also provides $450 million to independent charter schools to upgrade their facilities to those of traditional public schools. The measure did not raise taxes, nor can it be used for anything except facility improvements.



LA Unified joins forces to stop commercial child sex crimes


Monica Garcia reacts to the gruesome report.

As the FBI agent played a video of a 16-year-old caught in a sex ring in Los Angeles, the audience of the Successful School Climate: Progressive Discipline and Safety Committee yesterday remained hushed. Some wiped tears from their eyes.

LAUSD Chief Deputy Superintendent Michelle King reviewed the list of local schools where such crimes occurred and she she was shocked to spot an elementary school among them.

For the past year, LA Unified administrators have joined the fight to stop child sex trafficking with a group of 60 Los Angeles agencies called the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Task Force.

“This is a very difficult topic, it makes us uncomfortable, afraid, repulsed, it’s not something we connect to our students,” said committee chair Mónica García. “I’m proud that LAUSD said ‘yes’ again to getting involved in the program.” Garcia said early next year she will ask the school board to support an update to the district’s child abuse policy to include focusing on commercial sexual exploitation of children.

“I want to be that village for our young people and educate ourselves and empower ourselves to be another level of lifeline,” she said. “The community helps ourselves by knowing more and getting the facts and it’s not going away just because you don’t know.”

LAUSD intervention coordinator Holly Priebe-Diaz said district officials will soon be adding information to their annual spring child abuse training for principals. She said she will ask the principals then to share the information with teachers.

“I thought I heard everything,” Priebe-Diaz said, until she attended conferences and training about how prevalent the problem was in the United States, and especially Los Angeles.

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Gipson named LAUSD chief academic officer, replacing Perez

Ruth Perez LAUSD

Ruth Perez


LA Unified announced today that Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Ruth Perez is leaving the district and will be replaced by Frances Gipson, the current Local District East superintendent who will serve as chief academic officer.

Perez, a former superintendent of the Norwalk-La Mirada school district, had been in her position since August of 2014 after she was hired by former Superintendent John Deasy. Gipson had only been promoted to her District East role in July.

Perez is leaving LA Unified to become superintendent of the Paramount Unified School District, pending approval of its school board.

Gipson previously served as principal of the El Sereno Middle School and Magnet Center, which became the first-ever California Gold Ribbon school in East Los Angeles, the district noted in a press release. Gipson, meanwhile, will be replaced in Local District East by Jose Huerta, principal of Garfield High School.

“I have been more than pleased with the work Dr. Gipson has done for the children in Local District East these past months,” LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines said in a press release. “Now, I have asked her to step into a role where her expertise and leadership will shape the futures of all students in LAUSD.”

At the beginning of the school year, Gipson was also named the new chairperson of the Instructional Technology Initiative taskforce and will continue in that role, the district said. As deputy superintendent of Instruction, she will oversee instructional plan and academic programs.

‘It is a true honor to serve colleagues, community, and student scholars of the united LAUSD family,” Gipson said in a statement. “Each and every day we exercise our beliefs in how we listen, learn and lead to increase student achievement. As a learning leader, I embrace the opportunity to support ‘Team Kid’ as we model and propel excellence for all.”

*Updated to reflect Gipson’s title will be chief academic officer


Commentary: How to make digital devices matter in the classroom

ed tech magazine

By Eric Patnoudes

As the parent of four kids, I had the pleasure of listening to Fredi Lajvardi give a keynote at CETPA’s annual conference last year, and it was the sort of talk that sends shivers down educators’ spines and gives them goose bumps.  It was an hour of awe-inspiring pure education magic — the type of story that most educators would tell you is the very reason why they became a teacher.

For those who don’t know, a movie was made about Lajvardi, called Spare Parts. It’s based on a true story about four of his students, undocumented Mexican immigrants who spoke English as a second language and lived on public aid. These kids asked Lajvardi to support them in entering an underwater robotics competition. Then, against seemingly insurmountable odds, these students won the competition and beat MIT in the process.

That’s MIT, as in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Yeah, crazy, right?

The questions I always ask when telling the story about Lajvardi and his students are: Which platform, apps or cool tools do you think Lajvardi mentioned the most? Do you think he used Google, Microsoft or Apple? A tablet or a laptop?

The answer? He didn’t mention any of those things.

Click here for the full story.

Morning Read: Nonprofit forming to lead LAUSD charter expansion

Nonprofit is formed to advance charter-school plan in Los Angeles area
Backers of a plan to greatly expand successful charters and other high-quality public schools in the LA area have formed a nonprofit organization.
Los Angeles Times, by Howard Blume

Low-income students ask educators to believe they can succeed
A statewide coalition of students from low-income families are posting statements on Twitter and Facebook that are both poignant and backed by research.
EdSource, by By Jane Meredith Adams

How L.A.’s teachers are talking about Paris
students throughout Southern California came to school Monday morning with a few questions about the Paris attacks.
Los Angeles Times, by Sonali Kohli

Mark Zuckerberg on philanthropy: Move slowly and build things
“I’d say that we’re trying to help people” rather than disrupt philanthropy, Zuckerberg said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.
Associated Press, by Brandon Bailey

Calls mount to remove metal detectors from NYC schools
A student has not been shot in a New York City school in 13 years, a heartening statistic in an era of commonplace school massacres.
Associated Press, by Jonathan Lemire

United Way looks at real cost of family life in 2015
Families with young children are particularly hard hit, with 58 percent earning less than what the study figures it costs.
Modesto Bee, by Nan Austin