Do LA charter schools really screen out special education students?

Special ed

LAUSD’s Lowman Special Education Center

Accusations that charter schools screen out special education students or discourage them from enrolling have returned with a controversial plan by the Broad Foundation to expand charter enrollment at LA Unified.

After the president of the LA teachers union, Alex Caputo-Pearl of UTLA, raised the issue a year ago, telling the Los Angeles Times a year ago that “a lot of charters don’t allow special-education or English-language learners,” it resurfaced at a recent UTLA-sponsored rally outside the grand opening the Broad Museum.

But is the accusation true?

Legally, charter schools are not allowed to discourage enrollment from special education students or English learners.

While it may be true that LA Unified’s independent charters have smaller percentages of special education students overall and fewer have students with moderate to severe disabilities, the reasons for any disparity are complex, said Sharyn Howell executive director of the Division of Special Education at LA Unified, who oversees special education services for all district schools and most of its independent charters.

But the discrepancies are not due to screening, she said. And while she may have heard the accusation in the past, Howell said it has become a non-issue.

“Probably in the last two or three years I have not had a parent call me and say a charter school, I wanted to go there, and they discouraged me from coming. I used to get a lot of calls and emails like that, but I’m not getting them anymore,” she told LA School Report.

Because charter schools tend to be smaller and newer than district schools, they may not have had certain types of special education students before, which would tend to discourage more students with the same issues from enrolling, Howell said. But if any such students were to enroll, charters are required by law to provide them appropriate services. Continue reading

Zimmer accuses Broad charter plan of strategy to ‘bring down’ LAUSD


Eli Broad

Steve Zimmer, president of the LA Unified school board, said today that plans by Eli Broad and other philanthropists to expand the number of charter schools in the district represents “a strategy to bring down LAUSD that leaves 250,000 kids vulnerable to damage.”

A draft report of the plan appears show how the organizations involved would be creating the equivalent of a parallel school district, one with a defined goal of serving half the number of students attending LA Unified schools within eight years.

The “Great Public Schools Now Initiative” says the expansion would cost nearly half a billion dollars by 2023, through 260 new charter schools to serve an additional 130,000 students “most in need — low-income students of color.” Currently, about 151,000 students now attend charters in LA Unified, which has more charter schools, 264, than any school district in the country.

The 54-page report, dated “June 2015,” omits the names of authors or sponsoring organizations. But Eli Broad’s name appears at the end of a cover letter accompanying the report that makes a case for charter schools as “the greatest hope for students in L.A.” And alluding to the number of students on waiting lists to get into existing charters, now about 42,000, the need for more charters, he says, is urgent.

“We are committed to closing the waitlist and ensuring that every family in L.A. has access to a high-quality public school,” Broad writes. “Such dramatic charter school growth would address the needs of families who have been underserved by public schools for years, if not generations.”

He also argues that, “The stakes are extraordinarily high. In all our years working to improve public schools, we have never been so optimistic about a strategy that we believe has the potential to dramatically change not only the lives of thousands of students but also the paradigm of public education in this country.”

But Zimmer characterized the plan as a destructive one that would ignore the needs of thousands of other children “living in isolation, segregation and extreme poverty.”

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Charter group: LAUSD’s independent charters outperform district schools

affiliated charter graph

Source: CCSA

Students from LA Unified’s independent charter schools outperformed their counterparts at traditional schools on the recent Smarter Balanced standardized tests in the number meeting and exceeding standards, according to a new analysis by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA).

The charter group found that the charter students scored nine percentage points higher in English language arts but only four percentage points higher in math.

The new analysis differs from a previous one by CCSA, in that it removes LA Unified’s 53 affiliated charters from the comparison, as the state does. Affiliated charters are district schools that operate with most of the same rules as regulations that govern traditional schools but with greater autonomy over spending decisions. Their teachers are union members.

The district’s 211 independent charters are publicly-funded schools run by outside groups who have even more autonomy, and in most cases, their teachers are not union members.

Students from affiliated charters accounted for only 22,750 of the district’s 267,228 students — about 8.5 percent — who took the tests, but they tend to skew the comparison because their racial and economic demographics do not match up with the district averages. They tend to have about half as many children from families living in poverty, with dozens of the schools located in more affluent neighborhoods of the San Fernando Valley.

Including their scores with those from traditional district schools reduces the difference between independent charters to only a few percentage points.

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Commentary: Challenges await for wave of new LAUSD charters

Eli and Edythe Broad charters

Eli and Edythe Broad

It was a bombshell of a story on Saturday, the LA Times reporting that a group of foundations is exploring plans to expand the number of charter schools within LA Unified to serve many beyond the 100,000 students who now attend charters in the district.

What would that mean exactly? Unclear for the time being. No details were included, and charter officials talked about the effort only in the most general terms. As close to specifics was an unidentified source telling the Times that the goal was to enroll half of LA Unified’s 650,000 students in charters within eight years.

Today, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, one of the participating groups along with the Keck and Walton Family Foundations, said the guiding force behind the effort was to satisfy parents of children in low-performing schools who desire more and better educational choices.

“L.A. families still want more high-quality public school options in their neighborhood,” the foundation said in an email to LA School Report. “Too many of our school children still aren’t getting the quality of education they deserve, which is why tens of thousands of students are currently on public charter school waiting lists. We are in the early stages of exploring a variety of ideas about how to help give all families—especially in low-income communities of color—access to high-quality public schools and what we and others in the philanthropic community can do to increase access to a great public school for every child in Los Angeles.”

What the public response will be when any official announcement is made is unclear — but from some sectors, it’s not hard to guess.

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Morning Read: LAUSD Buses Violate Safety Rules

LAUSD Bus Inspection Reports Show Major Safety Violations
While your children ride LAUSD buses, we obtained the most recent reports, finding fuel leaks, steering violations that could endanger students, and bad brakes. CBS LA

A Level Playing Field for Transgender Students
In February, the California Interscholastic Federation adopted a progressive policy, which takes effect in the fall, under which transgender students must be allowed to participate on sports teams of the gender they identify with rather than the teams of their physical gender — after a panel reviews each situation to determine that the athlete truly is transgender. LA Times Editorial

Why We Need to Reform Education Now
To improve our schools, we have to humanize them and make education personal to every student and teacher in the system. Education is always about relationships. HuffPo Opinion (TED Talks Education)

Bill Aims to Help Expelled and Truant Students Get Back on Track
The purpose of a complicated bill aimed at preventing students from languishing in alternative schools became much clearer after the testimony of a former student who got stuck in one. EdSource

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Morning Read: Garcetti, Greuel Debate Who’s Best for LA

Garcetti, Greuel Debate Who Can Best Lead Los Angeles As Mayor
The two candidates for mayor of Los Angeles made robust cases for themselves in a televised debate Monday night from the USC Health Sciences Campus east of downtown, but they became most passionate when they squared off, again, on the question of who would be the most independent leader. LA Times

Saving the California Dream: ‘Parent Trigger’ Profiles
Parents at Weigand Elementary School in Watts are the most the recent group to organize and deliver a petition, and they say it’s been a tough fight so far. “The courage it takes to sign a petition when you know there’s going to be a battle is tremendous,” says Alfonso Flores, a former LAUSD “Teacher of the Year.” Fox LA

Attack Shows Education  Reform Gaining Ground
The passage by delegates at this month’s California Democratic Convention of a resolution condemning Democrats, including me, who support education reform illustrates an ongoing battle among Democrats across the nation. O.C. Register Opinion (Gloria Romero)

Burbank Teacher Suspended After Breaking State Standardized Testing Rules
At least one elementary school class has had their test scores invalidated, and the district’s ranking could be in jeopardy. NBC LA
See also: KPCC

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Morning Read: Progress for Bill Limiting Overuse of Suspensions

Bill Restricting ‘Willful Defiance’ for Suspending Students Moves Ahead
With new data showing that more than half of all suspensions and a quarter of expulsions in California schools are for “willful defiance” of school authorities, the Assembly Education Committee voted 6-0 on Wednesday to move forward a bill that would restrict the use of the vague category by school administrators. EdSource

School Boards Join Movement Against Out-of-School Suspensions
The National School Boards Association has labeled the use of out-of-school suspensions a “crisis” in a new report. EdWeek

Baldwin Park School District Wins #1 Spot in Closing the Achievement Gap
Recently we reported on two schools in the Baldwin Park school district that have unique programs: a high school that helps teenage parents stay in school, and an elementary school where teaching a dual language immersion program is yielding top results. KPCC

Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti Engage in Acrimonious Debate
Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti blasted one another with a torrent of allegations Wednesday night in the most acrimonious debate of the Los Angeles mayor’s race. LA Times

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District Silent As Charter School Dodges Audit

Monica Garcia, left, Marcos Aguilar, right, after Academia Semillas was renewed in April of 2012

Fresh off a controversial April 2012 renewal, the El Sereno charter school called Academia Semillas has refused to comply with an LAUSD audit, according to this December 2012 report by the Office of the Inspector General.

“Repeated attempts to obtain this information from the school were unsuccessful and the school chose to communicate to the OIG exclusively through its legal counsel,” states the report, which was ordered specifically for the school by the LAUSD charter school division.

Thus far, LAUSD has taken the somewhat unusual step of declining to comment on the situation.  However, California Charter School Association spokesperson Sierra Jenkins said charter schools should not be allowed to dodge audits*.

“Schools need to comply with audits,” said Jenkins. “Charter schools are public schools and should be transparent.”

Morning Read: Board Votes to Speed Dismissal Process

LAUSD Board Votes to Improve Abuse Investigations
With 278 Los Angeles Unified educators sitting in “teacher jail,” the school board voted Tuesday to streamline and improve the investigations of those accused of serious physical abuse or sexual misconduct. LA Daily News
See also: LA School Report, LA Times

L.A. Unified Board Ratifies ‘Parent-Trigger’ Partnership
The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday ratified a partnership between the school district and a charter school to take control of struggling 24th Street Elementary under a controversial parent-empowerment law. LA Times
See also: Color Lines, LA School Report

School Board Renews Contract for Ivy Academia Charter
The petition by Ivy Academia Entreprenurial Charter School was renewed with little discussion, less than two weeks after a jury convicted its founders of grand theft, embezzlement and other charges. LA Times
See also: LA School Report

L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa Challenges on Schools
Unions and other elements of the education establishment strongly backed Antonio Villaraigosa’s steps up the political ladder – until he became an advocate of charter schools, parental empowerment, modifying teacher seniority and tenure and other reforms that the establishment despises. Sac Bee Opinion

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Board Preview Update: Discipline, Misconduct, and Dismissals

The LAUSD Board, via LA Times

The agenda for today’s School Board meeting is packed with hot-topic resolutions, including a plan to streamline LAUSD’s teacher misconduct investigation process, a call to work with state legislators to pass a new teacher dismissal bill, and a plan to reduce student suspensions and discipline for “willful defiance” in LA schools.

These topics have received scads of media coverage and statehouse activity in recent months. LAUSD Board members have obviously been paying attention, and the media is getting behind their resolutions.

Board Member Tamar Galatzan penned an op-ed published Monday in the Huffington Post that explains the rationale behind her resolution to streamline investigations of teachers who have been accused of misconduct in the classroom.

And the LA Times published an editorial piece Tuesday morning urging the School Board to approve Board President Monica Garcia’s resolution that would update schools’ discipline policies across the district and cease the suspension of students for “willful defiance.”

Read on for more details on the resolutions up for vote at today’s School Board meeting.

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Morning Read: State Democrats Pass Anti-Reform Resolution

California Democrats Blast Efforts to Overhaul Schools
California Democrats on Sunday condemned efforts led by members of their own party to overhaul the nation’s schools, arguing that groups such as StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform are fronts for Republicans and corporate interests. LA Times

L.A. School Reform Effort Draws Diverse Group of Wealthy Donors
Republicans, liberals, Hollywood notables and global corporate executives are among those who gave to the Coalition for School Reform. LA Times

LAUSD Chief John Deasy Draws Fire as He Pursues Aggressive Reform Plan
The reforms that Deasy enacted – and just how aggressively he’s pursued them – have put the fast-talking New Englander at the center of a heated debate over the future of the nation’s second-largest school district. LA Daily News

Interest in Teaching Continues to Drop in California
Interest in teaching is steadily dropping in California, with the number of educators earning a teaching credential dipping by 12% last year — marking the eighth straight annual decline. LA Times
See also: EdSource

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Morning Read: Greuel to Release Education Plan

Greuel to Release Education Plan
Greuel might have wanted her staff to do a little better advance work, because Garcetti is well liked at the school — Camino Nuevo Charter Academy — which he helped get a $700,000 grant to help build a new soccer field,” reports The Times. KPCC

Eric Garcetti Avoids Schoolyard Tussle With Wendy Greuel
On the heels of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa calling on the two mayoral candidates to step up and communicate their education platforms during his State of the City address Tuesday night, Wendy Greuel stepped up with a challenge to Eric Garcetti. KPCC
See also: LA School Report, Annenberg News, LA Times

LAUSD Superintendent Fires Lemon Teachers
The speed with which Deasy moves and speaks is well documented. He brings an uncomfortable impatience to the LAUSD supe’s job as he moves to increase the types of schools available to students (known as School Choice), raise achievement on test scores and graduation rates, and require accountability from L.A.’s more than 20,000 tenured-for-life teachers. LA Weekly

Education Coalition Wants to Stay Course in L.A. Unified
A coalition of groups, including the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, has launched an effort to put education at the center of the mayoral race and civic attention. LA Times
See also: LA School Report

Operation Back in School Sweeps up Truant Kids
Operation Back in School, a multi-agency task force in the Harbor area Wednesday to sweep up truant kids who should be in school. No citations were issued in a friendlier approach to the problem that offered counseling for kids and parents. Daily Breeze

Parents Choose Unique School Takeover Model in ‘Trigger’ Vote
In the latest test of California’s controversial “parent trigger” law, South Los Angeles parents have voted to transform their struggling neighborhood school into a charter school hybrid beginning this fall, organizers announced Wednesday. Hechinger Report
See also: LA Times, LA School Report

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Morning Read: Parents Choose New Plan Today

24th Street Elementary Pulling Parent Trigger
The Parent Trigger at 24th Street Elementary School in West Adams keeps chugging along — despite what L.A. mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti thinks about it. LA Weekly
See also: San Bernardino Sun

New Analysis Bolsters Case Against Suspension, Researchers Say
The results of a new analysis of out-of-school-suspension data that show staggering rates of the punishment’s use at some schools are even more reason to rethink that common method of disciplining students, researchers said Monday. EdWeek
See also: KPCC, EdSource, Yahoo

LA Unified Off Track to Meet Deadline for College Prep Courses
Los Angeles Unified School District has some work ahead of it to meet its deadline for all students to pass college-preparatory classes in order to graduate. EdSource
See also: LA Daily News

California Federation of Teachers Lobbies Lawmakers
It’s lobby day for the California Federation of Teachers, which means members of the state’s second-biggest teachers union (after the California Teachers Association) are in Sacramento to petition lawmakers. Sac Bee

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Morning Read: Parents Weigh Trigger Options

Parents With Power Over L.A. School Weigh Their Options
About 50 parents on Thursday attended a presentation to help them decide who should run 24th Street Elementary School, a campus whose fate is in the hands of families who are trying to change the management of the school under the controversial parent trigger law. LA Times
See also: San Bernadino Sun, LA School Report

University Conference Hopes to Rally Southland Education Reformers
A TEDx conference at Loyola Marymount University on Saturday seeks to turn the traditional education conference on its head. Organizers believe that competing ideologies, little cooperation, and “finger-pointing” are keeping public schools in Los Angeles from improving. KPCC

U.S. Dept. of Ed. Protesters Turn Fierce Rhetoric on ‘Corporate’ Reform
As they kicked off four days of protests at the U.S. Department of Education, organizers of Occupy DOE 2.0 today used inflammatory—and, in one case, racially insulting—rhetoric to rally opposition against high-stakes testing, “corporate” education reform, and the “dismantling of public education.” EdWeek

Brown’s Funding Plan Faces Vigorous Review – and Speed Bump
The chair of the Assembly Education Committee turned Gov. Jerry Brown’s comprehensive plan for education finance reform into bill form Thursday, ensuring that all aspects will get an extensive review, while raising the possibility that the plan may not pass in time to take effect July 1, as the governor wants. EdSource

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Morning Read: Teacher Dismissal Plan Moving Ahead

Teacher Firing Bill Gains Momentum
Legislation that would make it easier to fire teachers accused of sex crimes against children and other serious offenses appears to stand a good chance of reaching Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk after similar measures repeatedly stalled through the years. SD Union-Tribune

Wendy Greuel Re-Starts Campaign With Aggressive Tone
On schools, Greuel said: “I will aggressively and creatively fight to ensure that every dollar is spent in the classroom. I will make sure that our neighborhood teachers, parents and principals are in charge – not downtown bureaucrats.” KPCC (See also LADN)

LAUSD Adds 400 Security Aides at Elementary Schools
Los Angeles Unified has hired more than 440 safety aides to provide security at local elementary schools, part of its plan to bolster campus safety in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, officials said Tuesday. LA Daily News
See also: CBS LA

NRA Report Sees Guns as Path to Safety in Schools
A National Rifle Association task force released a 225-page report on Tuesday that called for armed police officers, security guards or staff members in every American school, and urged states to loosen gun restrictions to allow trained teachers and administrators to carry weapons. NY Times
See also: LA Times, KPCC

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Morning Read: Symbolic Teacher Vote on Deasy

Teachers to Vote on ‘Confidence’ in L.A. Schools Supt. Deasy
Members of the L.A. teachers union begin casting ballots Tuesday in a symbolic confidence-vote referendum on L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy. LA Times
See also: LA School Report

CTA Goes Hollywood on Teacher Dismissal Bills
An adage in politics is that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  Not so for the California Teachers Association, California’s most powerful political special interest. Their mantra seems to be more like, “If you can’t beat ’em, just overtake ’em.” OC Register Column
See also: SD Union-Tribune Editorial

What’s Really Scandalous About the School Testing Scandal
Even if we eliminate all the cheating, what remains is a broken system built on the dangerous misconception that testing is a proxy for actual teaching and learning. Time

What Will New Evaluation Systems Cost?
The cost of new teacher-evaluation systems is likely to vary based on how states and districts choose to establish student-growth measures for all teachers, according to an analysis from a researcher at the Value-Added Research Center. EdWeek

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Morning Read: Teachers Pass as Students Lag Behind

Curious Grade for Teachers: Nearly All Pass
Across the country, education reformers and their allies in both parties have revamped the way teachers are graded, abandoning methods under which nearly everyone was deemed satisfactory, even when students were falling behind. NY Times

California’s Largest Teachers Union Now Backs Bill to Ease Firing
Districts have long complained that the process is cumbersome and expensive, but unions have stridently fought attempts to change it.  Union leaders say the new proposal would shorten the dismissal process in a way that still allows charges against teachers to be handled fairly. San Jose Mercury News

Want to Teach Better? New Study Says Use Your Hands
One key to more effective teaching could be as simple as talking with your hands, according to a new study from the University of Iowa and Michigan State University. KPCC

Final Count in L.A. Election Due Tuesday After Three-Week Delay
Three weeks after the Los Angeles primary election, the city will announce the final vote count Tuesday in races for mayor, City Council and other local offices. LA Times

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Morning Read: Teachers Unions Team Up Against Tenure Lawsuit

California’s Two Largest Teachers Unions File to Become Defendants on Vergara v. California
Lawyers for California’s two largest teachers unions filed a motion in L.A. County Superior Court on Wednesday to intervene as defendants in a lawsuit that would radically alter tenure for public school teachers. KPCC

Report: Cheating on Standardized Tests in 75 Percent of U.S. States
The National Center for Fair & Open Testing issued a report Thursday that tallies cases of cheating on standardized tests in 37 states across the country, including notable cases in Southern California. KPCC

SBE Allows Higher Student/Teacher Ratio for Online Charter Schools
California’s State Board of Education approved waiver requests this month increasing the pupil-to-teacher ratio for independent study students at several online charter schools. SI&A Cabinet Report

Michelle Rhee, ‘a Public School Parent’?
In the course of reporting a story about Michelle Rhee, the controversial former District of Columbia chancellor seeking to take her brand of education reform to statehouses across the country, the Los Angeles Times asked her spokeswoman a simple question: Do Rhee’s children attend public or private school? LA Times

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Morning Read: LA Teachers to Vote on Deasy, District Policies

LAUSD Teachers Set to Vote on Confidence in District, Union Policies
Los Angeles Unified’s 40,000 teachers will be polled next month on their confidence in Superintendent John Deasy and whether they want their union to ratchet up demands for higher pay, smaller classes and an end to many of the district’s reforms. LA Daily News

California Voters Split on Jerry Brown School Plans
Fifty percent agree with the governor’s proposal to give more funds to school districts that serve low-income children. A separate Brown plan to give local districts more funding control is favored by 59%. LA Times

LAUSD Salvages Summer School, but Classes Will Be Limited
Despite fears that Los Angeles Unified would have to cancel summer school this year, officials say they’ll be able to hold a limited number of credit-recovery classes at 16 high school campuses across the sprawling district. LA Daily News

State Educators Support LAUSD Waiver From No Child Left Behind Law
State education officials support efforts by Los Angeles Unified and eight other school districts to get a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law, but remain concerned about who would monitor a new accountability system. LA Daily News
See also: EdSource

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Morning Read: Teacher Dismissal Bill Gets New Champion

Sen. Padilla Drops His Teacher Dismissal Bill
Two days after Assemblymember Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, introduced a bill that would make it quicker and potentially cheaper to fire teachers, Sen. Alex Padillo, D-Los Angeles, has shelved his controversial version of a teacher dismissal bill and signed on as a principal co-author of hers. EdSource

L.A.’s Mayoral Rivals Walk Fine Line in Dealing With Labor
Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel are Democrats with long histories of supporting organized labor. But the competition for labor support has upended conventional thinking about the candidates. LA Times

L.A. Unified Officials Let Abuse Allegations Slide, Lawyers Say
Two high-level district employees heard but failed to act on accusations of sexual misconduct by an elementary school teacher, according to attorneys representing alleged victims. LA Times
See also: KPCC, KTLA

LA Unified School Board Blocks Current President From Another Term
The term limit may be the first sign that fewer members on the board of education may support the reform agenda. KPCC

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