Monday, March 31, 2008

LAUSD TALKING ABOUT SPEAKING MORE CHINESE: to help students compete globally, new classes might be offered

Where, gentle reader, will the money come from to support the hiring and continued employment of teachers of Chinese and the purchase of textbooks and materials to initiate and sustain this admirable program? We are laying off teachers in LAUSD; we can't get enough qualified math teachers.

In other venues the Superintendent has admitted that this program probably can't survive the budget cuts this and next year. -smf

By Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

March 29, 2008 - Acknowledging the growing force of globalization, the Los Angeles Unified School District is gearing up an ambitious program to offer Mandarin Chinese language and culture courses at all of its middle and high schools.

The plan, which will go to the board next month, calls for the courses to be offered at about 200 middle and high schools, and each of the LAUSD's eight local districts also would have at least one dual-immersion program in which students started studying the language in kindergarten.

The move would be one of the largest of its kind in the nation and would put Los Angeles Unified on the cutting edge of language and culture instruction in public schools.

Superintendent David Brewer III touted the plan at a Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week. He called it "embarrassing" in his years as an admiral that the U.S. Navy is the only one in the world whose sailors speak just one language.

"It's arrogance. Every student in China is taking English classes," he said.

LAUSD has been working for the past 18 months with Mandarin in the Schools - a local panel created by a prominent national nonpartisan Chinese-American organization called the Committee of 100 - on how to expand the classes in Los Angeles schools.

Representatives of Los Angeles city government, LAUSD and California State University, Los Angeles, are among members of the panel, which plans to launch a campaign to help recruit teachers and raise community awareness of the program.

School board member Yolie Flores Aguilar is sponsoring a resolution for the program, which proposes requiring at least one high school in each of the eight local districts to offer Chinese language and culture courses in the 2008-09 school year.

About 713 of 700,000 students in the district take Mandarin courses at the 14 schools that now offer the language. By 2009-10, each local district would have at least one high school, one middle school and one elementary school class offering a Mandarin language and culture program.

Starting in 2010, local districts that already had Mandarin classes would increase grade levels involved, and courses would be added at new sites.

"It's important because we - not just here in California and in L.A., but across the nation - are significantly falling behind other countries in terms of our abilities to manage in a global economy," Aguilar said.

"I don't think we have a second to spare. The rapidness of the economy in terms of moving in a global direction is not something we should take lightly, and there's no reason to wait."

The nation's second largest school district already offers instruction in foreign languages - including German, Italian, Japanese and Russian - and in American Sign Language to about 77,000 secondary students.

Only one school offers a dual-language program in Mandarin, while 24 offer such programs in Spanish and eight in Korean.

Harry Haskell, director of world languages and cultures at LAUSD, said it's critical that U.S. schools make Mandarin more available.

"Mandarin is and will continue to be a very critical language," Haskell said. "We're realizing right now that because of globalization, it's vital that we have second-language skills because we have to compete with the rest of the world.

"And we are not."

Stewart Kwoh, vice chairman of the Committee of 100, said the Mandarin in Schools committee will work to recruit teachers from among Mandarin speakers in the greater Los Angeles area, which boasts the largest concentration of Chinese-Americans in the United States.

"There are about 200million Chinese learning English, and less than 50,000 Americans learning Mandarin," said Kwoh, who also is executive director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California.

"We felt that it was very important for American youth to be able to learn Mandarin to be able to compete in the global marketplace, to understand a fast-growing country and its culture, and to be able to converse on the world stage with Chinese being one of the most widely used languages of the world."

Kwoh said he thinks there will be a demand for the courses, noting the number of students taking Mandarin doubled in one year when the district brought in four guest teachers from China.

"If the school board adopts this plan, Los Angeles would be a pacesetter in the country in terms of aggressiveness of a plan to broaden Mandarin programs," Kwoh said. "This is a very aggressive plan."

School districts in cities including Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., Seattle and Portland, Ore., are already offering Mandarin from kindergarten through grade12.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa long has emphasized the need for students to be proficient in more than one language to remain competitive in a growing world economy.

And he has repeatedly mentioned that his son took a one-month summer course to learn Mandarin.

"In a global work force, knowing a second language like Chinese or Spanish will be critical to our children's success," Villaraigosa said.

"It's encouraging that the LAUSD leadership recognizes this and is making the commitment now to provide our students every opportunity possible."

Kay Kei-ho Pih, assistant professor in the sociology department of California State University, Northridge, said demand for Mandarin courses has surged in recent years.

And he said that while English will remain the primary language in the global economy for the foreseeable future, the ability to read and speak Chinese will become increasingly important.

"We are very ethnocentric in how we view the world - as demonstrated by a lack of knowledge of international affairs," Pih said. "It's a very practical measure, as China is the No.1 trade partner of the U.S.

"It's very important for American kids to learn not just Chinese, but a foreign language."

PASADENA'S MUIR HIGH IS ON A NEW PATH: Pasadena 'school in crisis' requires all teachers to reapply for their jobs as part of arduous rest


Photo: Stefano Paltera / For The Los Angeles Times - Literacy coach Tina Renzullo talks with parents and others about plans to resolve Muir High School's seemingly intractable problems.

by Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer                                                                                                                                                                                

"A major component of the proposed fix requir(es) all teachers, administrators and counselors to reapply for their jobs.

The school is in its fourth year of state monitoring because of poor test scores. District officials were able to launch the rehiring plan without approval from the United Teachers of Pasadena. But the union weighed in on how the restructuring would occur."

March 31, 2008 - The statistics at John Muir High School are alarming: five principals in six years and test scores so dismal that the state has been monitoring the Pasadena school for four years. To turn around the troubled school, administrators, teachers and community members are undertaking an ambitious -- and unusual -- effort that includes requiring all teachers and staff to reapply for their jobs.

The rehiring process, the most emotionally difficult piece of the school's reconstitution so far, was completed Friday, but educators predict a tumultuous road ahead.

"It is a school in crises," said Renatta Cooper, a member of the Pasadena Board of Education. "Turning a school around is always very difficult. People are so protective of Muir that the amount of change that is going to have to take place to really change the academic climate at the school is going to make people uncomfortable."

Muir High School, a mission-style complex nestled at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, serves nearly 1,300 students from northwest Pasadena and Altadena. Open as a high school for more than half a century, Muir occupies a sentimental spot in the community, most visible in the large alumni turnout at the annual Turkey Tussle football game between the Muir Mustangs and arch-rival Pasadena High School's Bulldogs.

Demographically, Muir appears roughly similar to the Pasadena Unified School District's other secondary schools. But the school is more racially diverse and its students are more impoverished than those at two of the other three traditional high schools. It has more English-language learners than any of the others. Class sizes are comparable, though Muir has fewer credentialed teachers.

Muir's performance is notably weaker than the city's other schools' on state standardized tests. In 2007, only 7% of Muir freshmen showed proficient or higher skills in math. Three in 10 students at the school drop out, more than double the dropout rate reported by Pasadena High School, nearly three times that reported at Blair International Baccalaureate High School and 10 times that reported at Marshall Fundamental High School.

Muir's problems stem in part from district attendance boundary shifts in 2002 that concentrated lower-income and immigrant families at the school, educators, teachers and others said. That move, which cut back on busing, allows students to attend schools in their neighborhoods.

The district's open-enrollment policy also allows students to freely transfer to other schools, siphoning away high achievers. Under the policy, principals of the other schools can return students to Muir if their performance is subpar. Additionally, when the district's small continuation school, which serves about 300 students with behavioral and other problems, is full, the overflow is sent to Muir.

"It's the town's economic and racial divide that's behind this," said physics teacher David Herman, who gave up his free period this year so his students would be spread among six classes instead of five, to lower class size.

The school developed a reputation as violent, although its students have mostly avoided the large racial brawls that have occurred at some Los Angeles campuses. Gang problems in the surrounding community occasionally trickle onto campus, said Edwin Diaz, superintendent of the Pasadena Unified School District.

Meanwhile, after the retirement in 2003 of respected principal Eddie Newman, a succession of administrators shuffled through the school. Some were forced out; others were temporary replacements or left for personal reasons.

"The district did not respond in an urgent manner," Diaz said. "There was a lack of continuity of leadership."

Past attempts at reform, he said, "never really got started. As a result, you have a staff that really didn't see the reason to change."

Being labeled a failure has seeped into school morale. A Jan. 15 article in the student newspaper, the Blazer, begins, "No matter how many times John Muir is under fire for being 'bad', no one can deny that our school Band is one of the best in the state."

Senior Maria Belman, 17, who wrote the article and plans to study history at UCLA in the fall, said the school is unfairly blamed for problems that begin in earlier grades.

"We're trying to be the best we can. When we hear these stories, we question ourselves, whether we're doing enough," she said. "I think people like to pick on us."

A major component of the proposed fix -- requiring all teachers, administrators and counselors to reapply for their jobs -- left teachers believing they were being blamed.

"It was very insulting," said Cynthia Lake, a 1971 Muir alumna who has taught art at the school for 16 years. "I was pretty angry at first, then went through grief, then indignation. Finally, we decided we're going to have to do this."

The school is in its fourth year of state monitoring because of poor test scores. District officials were able to launch the rehiring plan without approval from the United Teachers of Pasadena. But the union weighed in on how the restructuring would occur.

Fifty teachers and five counselors reapplied for their jobs this spring, and nearly 160 people from outside the school applied for positions.

Nine teachers were told Friday that they cannot stay after the school year ends and will be offered teaching jobs elsewhere in the district, said Pasadena Unified spokeswoman Binti Harvey. No decision has yet been made about three others. More than a dozen teaching positions and two counseling jobs will need to be filled.

Teachers were given sealed envelopes containing their status after school on Friday, after pledging not to open them at school. "We all just kind of went our separate ways with the agreement that we would find out later," Herman said.

The interview process was time-consuming, with applicants required to submit thick packets including resumes, portfolios, letters of interest and lesson plans. They also completed online exercises to show how they would react to various school situations and were interviewed by community and school officials.

"It's really to establish a new culture of high expectations and new expectations for how teachers are going to work," Diaz said. "We want to be very, very clear about what expectations are, and we don't want to put a new program into the existing culture and have that program be resisted."

Teachers who are selected must attend a three-week training workshop over the summer and each will receive a $5,000 annual stipend on top of their salaries for three years. In addition, the district received a three-year, $450,000 grant from the Pasadena Community Foundation that will be spent on staff development.

The other key part of the school's reorganization is the creation of five special learning academies, no larger than 300 students each, headed by a team of teachers who will work together One group will be entirely freshmen, and the other four will relate to curricula: environmental science; business; law and public safety; and arts and media.

The academies' goal is to foster closer ties between students and teachers, Diaz said.

Tim Sippel, the improvement facilitator, said the academies will make the curriculum more engaging and potentially reduce the dropout rate.

In the past, students "weren't known by anybody. No one noticed when they stopped coming" to school, he said. "The idea with the small learning community model is to have a core group of teachers work with a core group of students over an extended period of time. It's harder for a student to get lost when students become known more by their name, rather than just one of 180 on [a teacher's] caseload."

The hard work, the superintendent said, is ahead.

At a sparsely attended community meeting Wednesday evening in the school auditorium, two days before the teachers learned their fate, there was a mix of excitement, anxiety and suspicion about the impending changes.

"This school has a lot of history," said Culver City resident Don Holmes, a 1978 graduate who was wearing his varsity letter jacket. "I'm concerned. I've heard a lot of things about the academics" faltering.

Altadena resident Maria Moreno attended the meeting because her family, including her 14-year-old son Adrian, lives in the Muir attendance area. He is in his freshman year at Blair but is failing and in danger of being held back. She worries that he will be sent to Muir.

Though Moreno said her son learns better in smaller settings, she is hesitant to enroll him at Muir. "I'm looking for options. I want to hear what they have to say. But I'm really skeptical," she said.

Pasadena's Muir High is on a new path - Los Angeles Times



GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — A Grand Junction high school teacher is facing child abuse charges for allegedly telling students to beat up another student who was late for class.

Delta police say the incident began after 22-year-old teacher Brian Havel ordered the student to do 100 push-ups as punishment for being late. Havel then allegedly told other students to hit their fellow classmate for not completing the push-ups.

It's unknown whether Havel still works at the high school. He has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached for comment.

He will appear in court next month.


Education Weekcollection logo

Published Online: March 28, 2008 | Published in Print: April 2, 2008

By Sean Cavanagh


It is one of most widely accepted axioms in math education: Good teachers matter.

But what are the qualities of an effective mathematics teacher? The answer, as a recent federal reportRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader suggests, remains frustratingly elusive.

Research does not show conclusively which professional credentials demonstrate whether math teachers are effective in the classroom, the report found. It does not show what college math content and coursework are most essential for teachers. Nor does it show what kinds of preservice, professional-development, or alternative education programs best prepare them to teach.

As a result, while the report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, released last month, offers numerous conclusions about math curriculum, cognition, and instruction, many of its recommendations about improving teaching are more tentative and amount to a call for more research.

“It is, in some ways, where the action has to come next,” said Deborah Loewenberg Ball, the member of the panel who chaired its working group on teacher issues.

“We should put a lot of careful effort over the next decade into this issue so that we can be in a much different place 10 years from now.”

The uncertainty about mathteaching skills emerges at a time when policymakers at all levels see a need to boost students’ math and science achievement as a key to sustaining the nation’s future economic health and producing a skilled workforce.

One reason the panel found a paucity of evidence on effective math instruction is that it set a high standard for the type of research it would accept, as Ms. Ball acknowledged.

Yet its members found a deeper pool of research in other areas of math, such as how students learn in the subject, and how students’ confidence in their ability influences their persistence and engagement in math study.

Credentials and Content

The panel was also more confident in calling for “a more focused, coherent” curriculum in pre-kindergarten through 8th grade math—the primary age group studied—with a more logical progression from less difficult topics to more sophisticated subject matter. ("Panel Calls for Systematic, Basic Approach to Math," March 19, 2008.)

But when it came to drawing conclusions about the necessary skills and preparation of educators responsible for delivering that content, the report’s authors said much less is known.

On the one hand, effective math teachers have an impact on student achievement, the panel found. It cited a study showing that differences in the quality of teaching accounted for 12 percent to 14 percent of variation in students’ math achievement in elementary grades.

But the 90-page report also says it is hard to determine what credentials and training have the strongest effect on preparing math teachers to teach, and teach well. Research has not provided “consistent or convincing” evidence, for instance, that students of certified math teachers benefit more than those whose teachers do not have that licensure, it found.

Similarly, a weak connection exists between teachers’ college math coursetaking and the achievement of their students at the elementary level, though there was a stronger link between that educational background and high school achievement, the panel found.

When it comes to the specific math-content knowledge teachers need, the available research is also sketchy, the panel concluded. But the report does offer some direction on that topic.

It emphasizes, for instance, the importance of educators’ having a solid grasp of “mathematics for teaching”—or an in-depth knowledge of the specific math needed for their classes and how to make it understandable to students.

Ms. Ball, the dean of the school of education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, conceived that concept, also referred to as “mathematical knowledge for teaching,” along with a team of researchers. That work has been widely cited in education policy circles.

Classroom Know-How

Ms. Ball believes the emphasis on giving aspiring teachers more classroom-specific math skills must occur on several fronts.

Schools of education—ideally, entire networks of them—must devise courses and tests, in partnership with mathematics faculty, that provide “instructionally relevant” content knowledge for teacher-candidates, rather than just focusing on more generic math content, she said.

States, which license teachers, should produce certification tests that better measure math teachers’ knowledge of instructionally relevant content, Ms. Ball added.

Ideally, states would partner with each other to craft tests using similar standards to cover a wider swath of the teaching population, she said.

Cathy L. Seeley, a former president of the 100,000-member National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said she also favors emphasizing those classroom skills.

There is a growing recognition of the need to give aspiring math teachers, particularly those who will teach in the early grades, college coursework that is tailored more specifically to working with students, rather than simply piling on more advanced math, said Ms. Seeley, who was not on the math panel.

But shaping education school courses, professional development, and licensure tests around that concept takes time, she said.

“It’s a different kind of mathematics and an emerging area,” said Ms. Seeley, now a senior fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. “It’s not about how much math you have—it’s about the particular math you know.”

The working group of the math panel that studied teacher issues, like the panel as a whole, placed the greatest value on “scientifically rigorous” research, such as randomized controlled trials. The working group acknowledged, though, that conducting such rigorous studies in the area of teacher preparation and content knowledge is difficult.

Many researchers and scholars have bemoaned the lack of firm evidence, not just in mathematics but across subjects, about what preparation and credentials are most likely to produce high-quality teaching. ("Study Casts Doubt on Value of ‘Highly Qualified’ Status," April 4, 2007.)

The dearth of strong research on the attributes of effective teachers applies to science, another high-need subject in many schools, said Heidi Schweingruber, the acting director of the board on science education at the congressionally chartered National Research Council.

Ms. Schweingruber co-directed a 2006 federal study on teaching and learning in K-8 science, which she says revealed a lack of high-quality research on effective teacher preparation and professional development in that subject.

Specialist Knowledge

Establishing a link between teacher preparation and student achievement in many ways represents “the holy grail” in teacher education research, Ms. Schweingruber said. But there are many factors affecting teacher preparation and student performance that can undermine such research, she said.

“Our sense was there was even less known in science than there was in math,” she said. The best available knowledge about how to prepare and mentor science teachers, she said, is more commonly rooted in “professional wisdom” than definitive research.

The Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, is supporting a number of research projects on the characteristics and qualifications of effective teachers, and on effective practices in professional development, a spokesman said.

In addition, the IES recently issued a request for applications to set up a Center on Teacher Effectiveness to study the issue in greater depth, though it has not been determined which teacher subject-area would be its focus, the agency said.

On the topic of strategies to recruit and retain math teachers—who are in great demand in districts—the panel said evidence was generally favorable, though not conclusive, that financial incentives help.

Evidence was also mixed on the benefits of elementary school math specialists, who teach only that subject, as opposed to having to cover all subjects, as is common at that level of education. While specialists are used in China, Singapore, and Sweden, the panel’s report said, they are not widely employed in most high-performing nations.

Even so, the panel’s report urges that research be conducted on elementary- level math specialists, because the potential benefits are so great. Using specialists could be a “practical alternative” to attempting to raise the math skills of all elementary teachers, “a problem of huge scale,” the report notes.

Cost is sometimes cited as a barrier to hiring specialists, but another hurdle is the belief that young students benefit from “the nurturing of a single teacher,” rather than being taught by a group of them, said Ms. Seeley, who added that she does not buy that argument.

The possible upside of using specialists “is huge,” she said. Today, most elementary teachers, as subject-matter generalists, are likely to have taken only one or two college math courses at most, she pointed out.

“I don’t care if you have math specialists or not—but I think you should guarantee you have someone teaching math who knows it and likes it,” Ms. Seeley said. An elementary math specialist, she added, is more likely to be “someone who knows math and likes it.”


EdWeek Vol. 27, Issue 31, Pages 1,15

Sunday, March 30, 2008

EXAM CHEATING GOES HI TECH, BUT ITS CAUSES ARE NOTHING NEW: Students invent new methods, schools counter with new safeguards. But the underlying issue of honesty has changed little.

 by Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

March 30, 2008  - When six Harvard Westlake students were expelled last month for stealing midterm exams at the academically rigorous school, the incident highlighted an old problem facing educators: cheating.

A 2006 national survey found that more than 60% of high school students said they had cheated on a test, and the number of self-admitted cheaters has steadily risen over the years.

Students today can use an array of high-tech gadgetry, challenging schools to keep pace. One click of the Internet opens a world of possibilities and temptations, devious and ingenious, with Web sites devoted to the best cheating practices, and cheating tutorials on YouTube.
One YouTube compilation offers such strategies as taping answers under a tie and designing a T-shirt with a cheat sheet printed on the front in a form that can be overlooked as a logo.

In another, a young man recounts his method of stretching a rubber band over a textbook and writing answers on it. When the rubber band isn't stretched, his writing looks like harmless ink stains. Yet another video explains how to remove a wrapper from a drink bottle and create a duplicate carrying test answers.

Although camera phones with pictures of an answer sheet, and text messages from friends outside the classroom are still the most ubiquitous electronic techniques, many schools have caught on and now ban devices such as cellphones and iPods during tests.

More recent innovations are button cameras, which have a wireless connection to a laptop computer that can then capture stolen test items, and pens capable of scanning a test and sending a video signal to a remote laptop to save the images.

One 17-year-old senior, who attends a Westside high school, said he once turned in an essay for English class that he had taken off a Web site. He said he probably would not do it again because he believes it is now easier to get caught plagiarizing.

The student, who gave only his first name, said he receives good grades and didn't feel the need to cheat now, but admitted that sometimes there is a lot of pressure.

"I don't think there's as much [cheating] going on as people think, but yeah, it's happening," said Christopher, interviewed at the Howard Hughes Center in Westchester. "It's mainly because society puts all this pressure on teenagers, saying you better do good or you won't get to college or you'll be second-rate."

Motivating students to cheat, educators said, are factors such as the pursuit of admission to the 'best' colleges and the fear that not cheating will put them at a disadvantage.

And add to that the stories in the news -- dishonest athletes, politicians and even parents ready to behave unethically, for example, to obtain Hannah Montana tickets.

In the last few weeks, married New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a sex scandal, and the supposed gang memoir of a mixed-race foster child named Margaret B. Jones turned out to have been written by Margaret Seltzer, a white woman from the San Fernando Valley who attended Campbell Hall, a private school in North Hollywood.

"It's a mistake to talk about school cheating without referring to society at large," said Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Los Angeles-based Josephson Institute of Ethics, a nonprofit consulting and training firm. "We need to connect these dots and ask what is our attitude toward cheating, because kids are going to absorb that attitude. . . . And cheating learned in school is habit-forming."
Many educators are searching for their own answers.

David Bryan, head of New Roads School, a private campus in Santa Monica, dealt with a cheating scandal at his own campus a few years ago and recently spoke with a student who had been expelled from Harvard Westlake for the same thing. The student's family was likable and the student contrite, Bryan said. The student ultimately did not apply for admission, but Bryan is unsure whether he would have given the boy a second chance.

"On the one hand, why would I want to bring this kid into our community," said Bryan. "On the other, does that mean that we're supposed to give up on this kid and not give him a second chance?"

Schools increasingly are turning to test-security firms that use computer software capable of picking out anomalies in multiple-choice exams and identifying plagiarized material. Many more, such as New Roads, are also assuming responsibility for helping students to navigate the minefield of moral and ethical behavior with character-building curricula and ethics workshops.

Bryan said he was under no illusion that his campus was free of cheating. It was established in 1995 and has more than 640 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, spread over four campuses. Under the school's policy, students caught cheating the first time must forfeit credit for the assignment or test and do the work over again. A second occurrence will get them expelled.

An ironic subtext of a Society and Ethics class he led one recent morning was that several of those present had been involved in a 2005 cheating incident at New Roads in which about 50 students were briefly suspended for exploiting a computer glitch to get answers to a math assignment.
"I take as a given that young people are going to make bad decisions," said Bryan. "Now is the time to catch them, when the result is not going to be a federal indictment."

There is no doubt that students are conflicted. Bryan posed a series of scenarios to his class, involving shoplifting, stealing, plagiarism, drug use and cheating, and asked: What is more important: friendship or values?
Only one student admitted to cheating in the past year, and many said cheating and theft were wrong under any circumstances. But one, who said that his friends shoplift, said he would discourage them from stealing from a small mom-and-pop store but might encourage taking items from one owned by a big corporation.

Students said there is a temptation to cheat if the consequence of not cheating is a bad grade.

"You're afraid your parents will punish you and take things away from you, and maybe you really, really studied hard to pass," said senior Johnny Winestock, 17.

The most recent survey conducted by the Josephson Institute, in 2006, found virtually no geographical or gender differences in the numbers of students who admit to cheating. Students attending parochial and private schools cheated at a slightly higher rate, as did varsity athletes. And there is anecdotal evidence that top-achieving students also cheat at higher rates, said Josephson.

The number of self-admitted cheaters peaked during a survey in 2004 at 72%, before falling to 61% in 2006. That is about the same number as 1992, when the first survey was conducted. But Josephson said it may be that fewer students are now willing to admit they cheat.

And he dismissed justifications that students are under more pressure than those of past years.
"I'm appalled by that argument," he said, adding that it becomes a silent apology for cheaters. "If that's the case, then don't get mad at Enron, because they were under pressure, and don't get mad at Jason Blair [the former New York Times reporter who was found to have plagiarized and fabricated articles] because he was under pressure."

Many students themselves also discount the idea that they are overwhelmed.

"You have friends who are into a lot of drama," said Alyssa Atain, 16, who attends the private Vistamar School in El Segundo. "There's drugs and alcohol. You're thinking about college, and are you going away and are you strong enough to go away. But I've always pushed myself a lot to do well rather than feeling pressure from the outside. And one thing they do very well at Vistamar is teach you to take pride in who you are as a student."

Richard Perlmutter, whose 16-year-old daughter Ruby attends New Roads, said he was attracted to the school in large part because "the culture here is that beating other people and getting ahead is not the primary objective."

There is an increasing body of opinion among educators that cheating may be an expression of the way schools approach teaching and learning. And as schools and teachers come to face more high-stakes standardized testing, the worse it will become, said Gary J. Niels, who has studied cheating behavior and wrote a 2003 paper on honor codes.

Studies found that when teachers were vague in explaining the relevance and importance of curricula, students perceived the lessons as a waste of time and were more likely to cheat. Fact-driven data that had to be "regurgitated," said Niels, also correlated to higher incidents of cheating.

Niels, who is head of the private Winchester Thurston School in Pittsburgh, also found that honor and integrity codes have little influence if they are purely adult or faculty driven. Although there are practical techniques that can reduce cheating, the entire school community must participate if it is to be prevented.

Even with the ease of access to new technology, the Harvard Westlake students who were caught cheating took the old-fashioned route -- they apparently distracted teachers and stole history and Spanish exams while teachers weren't looking. School officials are dealing with the breach and are holding discussions with students about how to abide by the school's honor code. Six sophomores were expelled and more than a dozen students who allegedly viewed the tests were suspended.

Exam cheating goes high tech, but its causes are nothing new - Los Angeles Times

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The news that doesn't fit from 3/30


"Many residents say they can predict everything that will happen now. There will be community meetings, calls for reform -- for jobs programs, mentoring programs, after-school programs. Solemn promises will be made. Police will put more cars on the streets. Violence will ebb. And then, before real change can take root, the city's attention will begin to drift, and a new cycle will begin."

► NOT ON THE TEST: A musical interlude

"Thinking's important. It's good to know how.

And someday you'll learn to, but someday's not now.

Go on to sleep, now. You need your rest.

Don't think about thinking. It's not on the test."

► MASTER CHEF REINVENTS LAUSD SCHOOL LUNCHROOM: This story missed 4LAKids last December, but with the district initiative to improve food service by increasing facilities capacity by the beginning of the next school year (July or September '08) at 64 of the 138 LAUSD secondary schools approved by the board of ed tuesday — and the reaffirmation of the 1990 board directive that every child shall have twenty minutes from the time he or she is served to eat lunch this seems like the right time.

► FORD AND “EXTREME MAKEOVER: HOME EDITION” PARTNER IN ECO-FRIENDLY SCHOOL MAKEOVER CAMPAIGN: A Contest. The lottery didn't pay off for schoolchildren, maybe this will

► ROMER & MEHLMAN JOIN FORCES ON EDUCATION REFORM: The Former Democrat and Republican party chairs want education to be a bigger part of the 2008 campaign.


► ACRONYMS 101 - or - AZ/EPC: A-Z Eduspeak for the Parentally Challenged: You've been there don't have a clue what they're talking about. How can you be sure they know what they're talking about if you don't even know what language they're speaking?

► NEW PROP. 39 RULES OK’D; AFFECT CHARTER FACILITY REQUESTS FOR 2009-10: The new Proposition 39 rules that significantly diminish school districts’ discretion over how facilities are allocated to charter schools.

► PUSH FOR CHARTER SCHOOL DIVIDES PALOS VERDES: Fear & Loathing as some parents want an alternative to schools they say focus on drills. Others fear the loss of state funds to existing schools.

► SAT SUBJECT TESTS ARE A VALUABLE TOOL: Particularly in the case of recent immigrants, they can spotlight students' academic strengths, but the UC Board of Admissions wants to end its requirement of SAT subject tests as a factor in admissions.

► (DE)CERTIFYING PARENTS: A California court ruled this month that parents cannot "home school" their children without government certification. No teaching credential, no teaching.


The Lowlights of "Flunk the Budget" - week two + The Highlights from UCLA/IDEA Just Schools California

SILVERADO CANYON SCHOOL’S BELL COULD RING ITS LASTTucked away in a fold of Orange County’s canyons, Silverado Elementary is an anachronism, a small-town school in a big-city district. With just 93 students and four teachers, the school is small by Wyoming standards, let alone Southern California. It’s been this way for generations. Whether it will last, though, is in doubt.


SAN DIEGO: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell criticized Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts of $4.8 billion from next year’s education budget during a visit yesterday at Lincoln High School in San Diego. Backed by about two dozen teachers and students who held placards with messages such as “Hey, Arnold, don’t terminate education,” O’Connell said the cuts defy Proposition 98’s voter-approved guarantee of state education funding.

SCHOOL BOARD APPROVES INTERIM BUDGET, SUPERINTENDENT SELECTION PROCESS Nothing is “set in stone,” but changes to the Amador County Unified School District budget for the upcoming school year are in the works. “It’s bare bones as it is,” said Elizabeth Chapin-Pinotti, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, following the board’s Wednesday evening meeting. “Nobody wants to cut anything.”

28 TEACHERS TO GET PINK SLIPS Of the more than 400 teachers in the Morgan Hill Unified School District, 28 of them have received so-called “pink slips” as the district prepares to deal with a projected $3 million deficit for the 2008-09 school year. According to Assistant Superintendent Jay Totter, who heads the district’s human resources department, the notices were hand delivered March 14, fulfilling the contractual requirement that certificated employees be notified of a possible layoff before March 15.

WRONG TIME FOR CUTS IN CLASSROOM  Imagine someone saying to builders who are designing and building a super highway that they are making great progress but that the next funding allotment for construction will be cut significantly. By the way, the mandate is that they continue to build better highways at a faster pace with less money, fewer workers, and greater accountability. In similar ways, California’s educational community is being asked to do more with less.

BUDGET CUTS LEAD TO TEACHER LAYOFFS The San Benito High School Board of Trustees voted March 11 to notify five teachers that they may not have a job come fall and eliminated the equivalent of 57 classes at the high school, said Mike Potmesil, director of human resources for the San Benito High School District. The reductions are due to declining enrollment in the district and 10 percent cuts to education funding in Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget.

CUTS TEACH STUDENTS TO ‘BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH’ By: Jackie Dickson, Michael Douglas, Robb Felder, Jose Hurtado, Frances Ortiz-Chavez, Tom Kensok and Alan Murray-Trustees of the Board of Education of the Napa Valley Unified School District How appropriate that March 15, the “Ides of March” — a date associated with impending doom, was the deadline the state had set for teachers to receive layoff notices precipitated by the $4.8 billion reduction in education funding proposed by Gov. Schwarzenegger, who once proclaimed that 2008 would be the year of education.

SUPERINTENDENTS SNARL IN UNISON AT PROPOSED $4B IN CUTS SANTA CRUZ - After nearly 240 Santa Cruz County educators received notices of potential layoff last week, superintendents countywide handed out another slew of pink slips Thursday, but this time they were aimed at one person: the governor. “Your services will be terminated. Hurts doesn’t it?” That was the message on a fake pink slip carrying Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s name, which educators and students waved while rallying on the steps of Santa Cruz High School to decry his proposed $4 billion in K-12 funding cuts.

DISTRICT SENDS OUT 62 LAYOFF NOTICES  West Contra Costa students may not see some of their favorite teachers, secretaries or vice principals at school next year.The West Contra Costa Unified School District sent out 62 layoff notices, mostly to elementary school teachers, last week as part of a plan to slice $10 million from its $300 million budget next year. The district must make the cuts to prepare for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to chop about $4.5 billion from education in California to offset the state deficit.

CALIFORNIA FRACASA EN CIENCIA Y TECNOLOGÍA  Ubican al estado en el número 45 en el progreso académico de esas áreas en EU/State places 45th in US in academic progress in these areas
By Iván Mejía/La Opinion Las escuelas de California tienen la calificación de F en cuanto al acceso a tecnología, D acerca del uso de la misma y B- sobre la capacidad de usar las herramientas tecnológicas, indica un estudio dado a conocer ayer. En el reporte titulado La tecnología cuenta 2008, se analiza el esfuerzo por mejorar el rendimiento de los alumnos en las áreas de ciencia, tecnología, ingeniería y matemáticas (STEM) en Estados Unidos.
California schools got an F when it came to access to technology, a D in its use and a B- in its ability to use technological tools, according to a study that was released yesterday. The study, entitled "Technology Counts 2008" analyzes efforts to improve students' achievement in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the United States.

FOCUS ON SCHOOL REFORM AS WELL AS FUNDING Editorial/San Diego Tribune  The battle over how much funding a deficit-stricken state should give to education – now in its second month in Sacramento – continues to be fought entirely on terms set by the California Teachers Association. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to reduce spending from $57.6 billion to $56.5 billion – a 1.9 percent cut – is routinely, inaccurately described as something far more drastic. Why? Because the governor's plan would spend about $4.8 billion less than what would be required by Proposition 98, unless the 1988 initiative were suspended by the Legislature.

CLASHING RULES BLOCK SCHOOL AID, GAO FINDS By Maria Glod/Washington Post   Conflicting requirements are preventing some of the nation's struggling schools from getting the financial help envisioned by the No Child Left Behind Act to boost achievement, according to a report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office. The law calls for states to devote 4 percent of the largest pot of federal education funding -- money dedicated to help low-income students -- to efforts to turn around high-poverty, low-performing schools. But another overriding rule prevents states from using the full amount in schools with the most serious problems if that means cutting funding from other school systems.

STUDENT ENGAGEMENT FOUND TO RISE AS CLASS SIZE FALLS  By Debra Viadero/Ed Week   A new British study quantifies and confirms what many teachers have long believed: Students tend to be “off task” more often when they are in larger classes. The report, by researchers from the University of London Institute of Education, was one of several studies on the educational effects of reducing class sizes that were presented here Monday on the first day of the annual meeting of the Washington-based American Educational Research Association. The March 24-28 event is expected to draw more than 15,000 education scholars from around the world before it ends on Friday.

SIZE ALONE MAKES SMALL CLASSES BETTER FOR KIDS  By Greg Toppo/USA Today  Breaking up large classes into several smaller ones helps students, but the improvements in many cases come in spite of what teachers do, new research suggests. New findings from four nations, including the USA, tell a curious story. Small classes work for children, but that's less because of how teachers teach than because of what students feel they can do: Get more face time with their teacher, for instance, or work in small groups with classmates. "Small classes are more engaging places for students because they're able to have a more personal connection with teachers, simply by virtue of the fact that there are fewer kids in the classroom competing for that teacher's attention," says Adam Gamoran of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who analyzed the findings.

STATES SEEKING PROPER BALANCE IN USE OF ELL TEST SCORES Assessments can help decide when students should exit programs.
By Mary Ann Zehr/Ed Week   Now that they have new English-language-proficiency tests to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, state education officials are trying to come up with guidelines on how school districts use those tests to decide when English-language learners no longer need specialized instruction. States vary widely in how prescriptive they are in the use of those test scores, but most seem to be taking steps toward standardizing the process. “Is there a relationship between the scores and what is happening in the classroom? I certainly hope so,” said Ellen Forte, a consultant on ELLs for the Washington-based Council of Chief State School Officers. “It’s a place where people should be focusing a lot of attention—the validity of the scores and how we are using them.”

GRADUATION TESTS WILL HARM STUDENTS  By Judith A. Browne-Dianis/Baltimore Sun  Beginning next year, Maryland students will face an additional hurdle to graduate from high school - passing four state tests. Students will be unable to receive diplomas if they fail the Maryland High School Assessments (HSA), even if they pass all of their classes during the year. Fortunately, the General Assembly is considering legislation that would eliminate this one-size-fits-all graduation requirement. If we want to fix our schools, punishing students is not the answer. Instead, we must provide students with the resources they need, and rely upon other measures to assess them. Maryland already has a graduation rate problem, and an exit exam will only exacerbate it.

:PUBLIC SCHOOLS EXPAND CURRICULUM ONLINE by Larry Abramson/NPR  When senior Zack Jackson wanted to take a class in mythology, he wasn't out of luck just because his small high school in rural Virginia didn't offer it. Instead, he headed online. The course comes courtesy of Virtual Virginia, a state program that offers dozens of online classes to middle and high school students. The program allows children to take classes that aren't offered at their schools. Nationwide, programs like Virtual Virginia help hundreds of thousands of students take the kinds of unusual courses that make colleges sit up and take notice.

CHILDREN WITH HEALTHIER DIETS DO BETTER IN SCHOOL, STUDY SUGGESTS  Science Daily   A new study in the Journal of School Health reveals that children with healthy diets perform better in school than children with unhealthy diets. Led by Paul J. Veugelers, MSc, PhD of the University of Alberta, researchers surveyed around 5000 Canadian fifth grade students and their parents as part of the Children's Lifestyle and School-Performance Study. Information regarding dietary intake, height, and weight were recorded and the Diet Quality Index-International (DQI-I) was used to summarize overall diet quality. The DQI-I score ranges from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating better diet quality.

STIMULATING SLEEPY STUDENTS  Acupuncturists Show Students How to Stay Awake by Stimulating Pressure Points  Science Daily   Simple techniques inspired by traditional Chinese medicine may help students stay awake during class. Researchers report that college students were more alert if they massaged or tapped areas on the back of the neck, the hands and legs -- areas that acupuncturists believe can stimulate the release of endorphins. Whether it's boredom or just not enough shut-eye, a lot of students have trouble staying awake during class. For many students, a textbook, paper and pencil are a recipe for sleepiness.

Friday, March 28, 2008




Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A sidewalk flea market operates near the Vernon-Central intersection.

Gunfire, graffiti and drugs prevail in what was once a center of African American culture. 'We've lost control,' a pastor says.

Many residents say they can predict everything that will happen now. There will be community meetings, calls for reform -- for jobs programs, mentoring programs, after-school programs. Solemn promises will be made. Police will put more cars on the streets. Violence will ebb. And then, before real change can take root, the city's attention will begin to drift, and a new cycle will begin.

By Scott Gold, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

March 28, 2008 -- The sun splashed onto the roof of a church, filling the faces of two golden statues of angels who opened their arms to the sky. It was the first light of the morning, which made everything look pretty, even the hardened heart of South Los Angeles.

Don't be fooled, said 50-year-old Darrell Pruitt, waving a crooked cautionary finger. He walked down Central Avenue, carrying a dripping cup of coffee back to his one-room apartment, as he does each morning before work.


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Central and Vernon

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Central and Vernon




"All the stuff that's hiding," he called over his shoulder, "it'll all come out."

He was right. Before long, a pile of thin blankets atop an abandoned couch began to stir. A homeless man, 83 years old, wiped the sleep from his filthy face, stretched his good arm and rubbed his shrunken, arthritic one. He hauled himself over a rusty fence to start his day, his sandals crunching on a bed of cheap discarded lighters, their silver tops popped off so they could be used for smoking crack.

The hair stylist arrived at work, pleasantly surprised that gangs had not, as they do two or three times a week, tagged the white walls of her salon with black paint. The pastor sprinkled a rack of ribs with paprika; he'd sell them at cost a few hours later, hoping to help a few hungry people get at least one solid meal that day. Two men with mean eyes stepped behind a dumpster, shot up, urinated and emerged again, one of them cursing madly.

It has been a month and a day since a gunman opened fire on two men stepping off a bus at the corner of Central and Vernon avenues. He missed his targets, as far as investigators can determine, but hit eight other people, all innocents. They included five kids, students walking home from George Washington Carver Middle School. Police have charged Billy Ray Hines, 24, with the crime.

Mario Martinez, 46, was in his girlfriend's Vernon Avenue bakery, the Panaderia Zeragoza, where he sweeps the stoop every morning, when he heard the shots.

"I ran down there. We all did," he said. "I saw a boy still sitting on the bus stop bench. He was not hit but he could not move. He was too scared. There was a lady at his feet, lying on the floor. Lots of blood."

Somehow, no one was killed.

Hines has pleaded not guilty to a series of felonies that could bring him a life prison term. Police are still searching for the intended victims, who have not come forward.

Hines is a Four Trey Crip, said Los Angeles Police Lt. Paul Stalker, commanding officer of detectives in the department's Newton Division, which covers 10 square miles of South Los Angeles, a shifting mosaic of gang territories.

The gunman's intended victims, investigators believe, were probably Bloods, perhaps members of a branch called AFC, or "All for Crime." Generally, Bloods control the east side of Central and Crips the west. Latino gangs -- 38th Street, Playboys, Barrio Mojados -- are sprinkled on both sides. The avenue is a spine of tension and, routinely, staggering violence.

"You've just got to keep moving," Pruitt said. "The strong survive."

The shooting shocked the city, but around here, most say it was an aberration only in the sense that the outside world noticed.

Many residents say they can predict everything that will happen now. There will be community meetings, calls for reform -- for jobs programs, mentoring programs, after-school programs. Solemn promises will be made. Police will put more cars on the streets. Violence will ebb. And then, before real change can take root, the city's attention will begin to drift, and a new cycle will begin.

"Danger. Every day, danger," said Diva LaVerde, 59, proprietor of Diva's Beauty Salon, on Vernon just east of Central.

LaVerde, who immigrated to the United States from Colombia 40 years ago, pays $750 a month in rent for her tiny salon, which she has operated for 19 years. She is enormously proud of it.

Dozens of glittery angels hang from the ivy-covered ceiling. She has a special barber's chair she uses for kids; it's outfitted like a tractor, with a red steering wheel.

But more than once, she has herded customers into the back corner when gunshots have rung out on the street. Last year, two men were shot at the barber shop across the street. The owner of the liquor store a few doors down was killed during a robbery. In between is a drug house that is often bustling by 9 a.m.

"I don't ask questions," she said. "I don't call the police." No one does, she explained, not so much because the police are feared but because you will become a target yourself if you are known to have ratted out a criminal.

Gangs cover the walls of her building with graffiti so routinely that she keeps a large paint brush and two gallons of white paint under one of her sinks. She begins many of her workdays by painting over the graffiti, often hauling one of her salon chairs onto the sidewalk to reach the highest part of the wall.
"I love my salon," she said. "But I'm tired. I don't want to paint anymore."

Central and Vernon was once L.A.'s answer to the Harlem Renaissance -- never wealthy, but an epicenter of African American culture and minority entrepreneurialism, home to successful black hotels, black restaurants, black music halls where Art Tatum and Charlie Parker played.

There were restaurants like Ivie's Chicken Shack, elegant despite the name, run by the great Ivie Anderson, a singer who performed with Duke Ellington in the 1930s. There was Dolphin's of Hollywood, a record shop so influential in the music industry that disc jockeys broadcast live from the front window.

Today, "South-Central" is synonymous with urban blight. Much of the community is now a transient, threadbare tapestry of people whose common thread is poverty.

"There are a lot of good people in this neighborhood," said Robert Cordova Jr., the principal of nearby Harmony Elementary School. "But they are all afraid."
The school was built four years ago for 600 students; there are 812 kids enrolled today, all but five of them too poor, officially, to afford lunch.

Cordova, an educator for 25 years, spends much of his time in the wake of the shootings lobbying police to deal with issues like mobile prostitution vans and working with the city attorney's office to crack down on unscrupulous landlords who run slum apartments where many of his students live in dangerous and unsanitary conditions.

At the United House of Prayer for All People, 58-year-old pastor Wilbert Swaringer helps prepare scores of meals in the basement each morning -- macaroni, ribs, thin steaks.

In sermons or just walking down the street, the minister tells anyone who will listen that the neighborhood needs to retreat to old-fashioned principles and practices -- discipline, respect, corporal punishment.

"The analogy that I give people is that it's like a roomful of flies," he said. "I can kill as many flies as I want. But until I correct the hole in the screen, I've got a problem."

He slammed another rack of ribs in a pan for emphasis and sprinkled it with industrial-sized tubs of paprika and garlic salt.

"People are afraid to correct their own children," he said.

"You have people who live next door to somebody and don't even know their names. People have no respect anymore."

As he spoke, his wife of 31 years, Brenda, walked in to pitch in with meal preparation.

The first thing she did was turn on a television set in the corner that showed four closed-circuit security camera shots of the doors to the church.

"We've started seeing people robbing a church," he said. "When did you ever see that?"

He shook his head.

"We've lost control," he said. "And this community is wounded."

Living with staggering violence in South L.A. - Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

NOT ON THE TEST: A musical interlude

Here's a little song you can all join in with
It's very simple and I hope it's new
Make your own words up if you want to
Any old words that you think will do.

- TRAFFIC (1968)

Not On The Test
by John Forster & Tom Chapin
© 2007 Limousine Music Co. & The Last Music Co. (ASCAP)

Go on to sleep now, third grader of mine.
The test is tomorrow but you'll do just fine.
It's reading and math. Forget all the rest.
You don't need to know what is not on the test.

Each box that you mark on each test that you take,
Remember your teachers. Their jobs are at stake.
Your score is their score, but don't get all stressed.
They'd never teach anything not on the test.

The School Board is faced with no child left behind
With rules but no funding, they're caught in a bind.
So music and art and the things you love best
Are not in your school 'cause they're not on the test.

Sleep, sleep, and as you progress
You'll learn there's a lot that is not on the test.

Debate is a skill that is useful to know,
Unless you're in Congress or talk radio,
Where shouting and spouting and spewing are blessed
'Cause rational discourse was not on the test.

Thinking's important. It's good to know how.
And someday you'll learn to, but someday's not now.
Go on to sleep, now. You need your rest.
Don't think about thinking. It's not on the test.


 ACSA: The Association of California School Administrators, is the umbrella organization representing school administrators in the state.  Associations that joined together to form ACSA included:

  • California Association of Adult Education Administrators (CAAEA)

  • California Association of County Superintendents and Staffs (CACSS)

  • California Association of School Administrators (CASA)

  • California Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (CASCD)

  • California Association of School Personnel Administrators (CASPA)

  • California Association of Secondary School Administrators (CASSA)

  • California Elementary School Administrators Association (CESAA)

March 20, 2008 - The March 15 deadline for layoff notices has come and gone, leaving potential devastation in its wake.

Because of the skewed way education funding works, school districts were forced to prepare for the coming school year without knowing what form the final budget will take. If Gov. Arnold Schwarzen­eg­ger’s proposed budget is what comes to pass, the thousands of teachers and administrators who received March 15 notices will find themselves looking for new employment.

ACSA Professional Standards Advocate Lloyd Wamhof said the effects on school leadership will be felt everywhere, but even more so in smaller school districts.

“As an example, a district recently asked an elementary principal to consider being reassigned to a full-time teaching position and continue the work of being the site principal for the same salary next year,” Wamhof said. “This isn’t an isolated situation. Obviously it’s very difficult to do two full time jobs rolled into one without ramifications of what gets priority.”

While the March 15 numbers are bleak, they only tell part of the story. The thousands of pink slips that are being handed to teachers and other educators represent only a small portion of the cuts that schools face if the governor’s proposed $4.8 billion cuts to schools – equating to $24,000 per classroom – are enacted.

Classified layoffs are expected to number in the tens of thousands. Such hard working people as temporary and probationary teachers, custodians, food service workers, nurses, bus drivers, librarians and counselors also are expected to be cut from school budgets for 2008-09. However, with only a 45-day notice requirement for these folks, they can be laid off at any time during the school year.

“There’s a direct link between pink slips and educational programs and services,” said ACSA Executive Director Bob Wells. “These cuts mean larger class sizes, shuttered libraries, abandoned art and music programs, and an end to many programs that serve California’s students struggling to meet our tough academic standards.”

“When teachers are laid off due to budget cuts, sadly, it’s California’s students who suffer the consequences,” said David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association. “If we want talented teachers to remain in the classroom teaching our students, we cannot constantly be pulling the rug out from underneath them. Some of these teachers will never return to the profession.”

“When pink slips are sent to educators, not only do our students feel the impact right away, but entire schools are disrupted and communities suffer,” said Pam Brady, president of the California State PTA. “When bright, enthusiastic teachers and school staff receive pink slips, they’re forced to find other jobs and we lose them to the profession forever. That’s not the way to build a world-class education system in California.”

“California has the highest academic standards in the nation, and experts agree that billions more are needed to ensure all students have the opportunity to meet these standards,” said Paul Chatman, president of the California School Boards Association. “Cuts to education funding hurt students, undermine school progress and shortchange California’s future.”

“Layoffs of school employees and teachers negatively impact everyone,” said Rob Feckner, president of the California School Employees Association. “Whether it’s less adult supervision on school campuses, fewer bus routes for students or other services cut because schools simply don’t have the people in place to provide them, the negative impact of these cuts to students and schools is immense.”

ACSA’s Wamhof added that it’s important to look beyond the numbers aspect to the human side of the story.

“Administrators are people who have mortgages to pay and families who need health insurance,” he said. “The anticipation of wondering what’s going to happen to you raises a lot of anxiety. It also raises questions of whether you should be looking for another job immediately or to wait to see what happens with the state budget.

“Districts will be able to move forward and educate students; however, some positions will be eliminated as well as programs. Some administrators will be taking on additional tasks for next year. More important is the personal side of this for our members.”

Association of California School Administrators 1029 J Street, Suite 500 Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916.444.3216 | Toll-Free: 800.890.0325 | Fax: 916.444.3739 |
contact us

ACSA Online : ACSA News : General News

Master chef reinvents LAUSD school lunchroom

this story missed 4LAKids last December, but with the district initiative to improve food service by increasing facilities capacity by the beginning of the next school year (July or September '08) at 64 of the 138 LAUSD secondary schools approved by the board of ed tuesday — and the reaffirmation of the 1990 board directive that every child shall have twenty minutes from the time he or she is served to eat lunch this seems like the right time. - smf

Lunch options at Los Angeles Unified School District

1 of 7: LAUSD board member Marlene Canter led the way to ban soda and junk food in school vending machines. Now she's looking for colorful produce-filled meals that will still appeal to kids.

Photo Gallery Previous 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 Next

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -Friday, December 07, 2007- Cafeteria lunch has been on the receiving end of many jokes throughout school history, but Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) wants to put a stop to the snickers. They've hired a master chef to whip up a new menu that brings innovative colorful cuisine to students.

Mac n' cheese is on the menu at Fairfax High in L.A., but there's healthy changes ahead.

"We now have standards for sugar, for fat," explains LAUSD board member Marlene Canter. "We have a certain number of grains, whole wheat grains, you have to have."

And while Canter is pleased with new recipes, she wants more.

"I feel like we're on the move. We're going into the right direction," said Canter. "We have to keep on looking at it and focusing on it."

Canter led the way to ban soda and junk food in school vending machines. Now she's looking for colorful produce-filled meals that will still appeal to kids.

But if healthy doesn't look or taste good, the kids won't bite. So L.A. Unified hired an Oscar chef to whip up some award-winning meals.

"What I'm going to be working on is presentation. I'm going to work on flavor profiles, textures, smells, taste," said executive chef Mark Baida. "We're the largest international school base. Why can't we start with international food?"

Well versed in finicky eaters, Chef Baida not only created meals for Oscar night and five-star restaurants, he's also fed USC students. His strategic vision for SoCal schools is coming to reality.

"And that's when I'll be able to introduce all my new findings of cuisine, get interaction with the students, student focus groups, bring them into my kitchen, start cooking together," said Chef Baida.

With well over 500,000 meals a day, LAUSD is the second largest school lunch program in America. Making changes is tough, but not impossible.

"Currently, a pizza is either pepporoni or cheese -- and that's vegetarian. We're going to make some grilled chicken enchiladas, tomatillo with chipotle, roasted vegetables -- make it colorful," said Chef Baida. "When you walk in, you go, 'Wow.'"

There are pizzas with roasted veggies, along with sophisticated salads. It seems to be paying off.

"A lot of people are eating salads, and I think a lot of people are caring about their weight and stuff," said student Diego Montio, who likes the school food.

Fries are baked and burgers are a blend of soy and meat to lower saturated fat. Meals must have no more than 400 calories and offer four grams of fiber per 100 calories -- that's certainly helpful to Baida's motto.

"Bring in the new, roll out the old," said Chef Baida.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


 Ford will Makeover One Lucky School with Its Educate to Escape Contest Launching in March: Accepting Nominations Now

  • Ford Motor Company and Paige Hemmis from ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” is calling for entries in its Educate to Escape green school makeover contest.
  • Students, parents, community members, school staff, and teachers are encouraged to nominate a school for the green school makeover by submitting an online survey to
  • Consumers will also have a chance to win a 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid in the Educate to Escape sweepstakes.

DEARBORN, Mich., March 14, 2008 – Schools looking to go green can now enlist Ford Motor Company’s help in welcoming sustainability into the classroom. The automaker is joining forces with ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” on Educate to Escape—a green school makeover campaign. As part of the campaign, Ford is sponsoring a nationwide contest that awards one lucky K-12 school with an eco-friendly makeover up to $250,000. Ford’s Educate to Escape initiative launched earlier this month, and schools will have their shot at the makeover until May 18, 2008.

Students, parents, community members, school staff, and teachers are encouraged to nominate schools for Ford’s Educate to Escape contest by submitting an online survey to Entrants will be asked a series of essay questions about why their school deserves an eco-friendly makeover. The winner will be announced in June 2008, and the makeover completed later in the summer. In addition to the Educate to Escape green school makeover contest, entrants will have the opportunity to win a 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid in the Educate to Escape sweepstakes. To enter and for more information on the contest and sweepstakes, including official rules, go to

“We integrated eco-friendly renovations into our entire season of makeovers on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” said Paige Hemmis of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” “In the long run, thinking green reduces the amount of energy used as well as the costs associated with running old or inefficient appliances. Schools minding their money due to budget cuts may find that integrating eco-friendly renovations will cut their costs dramatically over time.”

While green improvements made to the winning school will be largely contingent upon the winning essay and specific school needs, some eco-friendly solutions may include energy-efficient appliances, athletic fields made of organic/sustainable materials, vegetation roofing, solar paneling, Energy Star lighting and insulation, programmable thermostat and triple-pane windows.

“Ford maintains a commitment to lessen our overall impact on the planet with our products and our manufacturing plants,” said Connie Fontaine, Multicultural and Experiential Marketing Manager, Ford Motor Company. “Our hope is the Educate to Escape campaign will encourage schools to think about what ‘green’ additions or changes can be made to their own campuses.”

“This campaign is a wonderful extension of our on-going partnership with Ford. Our Extreme Home families have benefited from Ford's generosity, now so will a larger community," said John Sadler, SVP, Integrated Marketing and Sales, ABC.

4LAKids opines: OK, it's a shameless marketing promotion - but it's a good SMP! In the interest of full disclosure I am a shareholder in the Disney Co., which owns ABC and and is one of the shameless promoters. If somehow this self serving do-goodery profits Ford, ABC. Disney and me (please - although - drat! - I'm not allowed to win the car !) I am unashamed - it's about doing well by doing good.  And I will be forwarding this to the high school in Houston I visited last year that was contemplating putting up a wind turbine on a particularly windblown corner of the campus!

- smf

Paige Hemmis
Paige may be an unlikely vision on a construction site, but this statuesque beauty is an accomplished carpenter and skilled homebuilder. Paige is self-taught, with no formal carpentry training, and is rarely to be found without a tool of some kind in her purse. This dynamic and confident Wisconsin-born dynamo considers her role on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" a blessing and feels extremely fortunate to make her living helping others. In between extreme makeovers, Paige volunteers her time to Keep America Beautiful's “Great American Cleanup” and Habitat For Humanity.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (Sundays, 8 - 9 p.m., ET)

Put together one very run-down house, a deserving family, several opinionated designers, seven days and what do you get? The answer is “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The show has won two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Reality Program, as well as the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Reality Show/Makeover and the Family Television Award for Best Alternative/Reality Program.

For the fifth straight season, ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” ranks No. 1 in its Sunday 8 o’clock time period in the key Adult 18-49 sales demographic. During the 2007-08 TV Season, “Home Edition” beat its nearest competition in the time period by 6% in Total Viewers and by 10% in Adults 18-49. The broad appealing ABC unscripted series also leads its time slot among Adults 25-54 and across all key women demographics (W18-34/W18-49/W25-54).

Beginning this season, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” began featuring green elements on every episode with eco-friendly, low energy and recyclable sources being incorporated into the builds. Concluding the show’s two-year, 50-state tour, will be a two-hour Season Finale on May 18 featuring three homes for a family (all on the same lot) and a church in Louisiana. In a first-ever effort to put together a coalition of past builders from all over the country, the show has called on the Building Industry to join forces and help with what might be the toughest challenge yet.

“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” is produced by Endemol USA, a division of Endemol Holding. David Goldberg is President of Endemol USA. The series is executive-produced by Denise Cramsey and premiered December 3, 2003. The design team includes team leader Ty Pennington, with designers Paul DiMeo, Paige Hemmis, Michael Moloney, Ed Sanders, Tracy Hutson, Tanya McQueen, Eduardo Xol and John Littlefield. New designers this season are Rib Hillis and Didiayer. The show airs Sundays (8:00-9:00 p.m. ET), on the ABC Television Network.

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles in 200 markets across six continents. With about 260,000 employees and about 100 plants worldwide, the company’s core and affiliated automotive brands include Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mercury, Volvo and Mazda. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit

Press Release Detail - Ford

Monday, March 24, 2008


from the March 21, 2008 edition

The Former Democrat and Republican party chairs want education to be a bigger part of the 2008 campaign.


Former Gov. Roy Romer, chairman of Strong American Schools - ED in 08, left, Ken Mehlman, right, a spokesman with Strong American Schools - ED in 08, were the guests at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast March 20, 2008 in Washington, DC. - Andy Nelson


David Cook | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Washington - The former chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties have come together in a bipartisan effort to push education reform to center stage in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman and Colorado Governor Roy Romer and former Republican National Committee Chairman and Bush White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman were the guests at Thursday's Monitor breakfast. Mr. Romer is chairman and Mr. Mehlman is a trustee of Strong American Schools. The organization describes itself as a nonpartisan campaign to make education a top national priority by making the subject a centerpiece of the 2008 election.

Washington bureau chief David Cook recaps Thursday's Monitor Breakfast with Ken Mehlman and Roy Romer, former chairmen of the Republican and Democratic National Committees, respectively.


"This nation has been drifting back in comparison with the rest of the world for the last 20 years in education," Romer said. After serving as governor, Romer was superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District from 2001 to 2006. "Where we used to be No. 1 or No. 2, we are now, if you compare 15-year-olds," 21st among 30 industrial nations in science, he said. "The rest of the world has advanced very rapidly in education, and we have been making some advances but not nearly at the same pace," he argued.

In a front page story Thursday, The New York Times reported on what it called a "dropout epidemic" so pronounced that only about 70 percent of the 1 million American students who start ninth grade each year graduate four years later.

Mehlman and Romer described both economic and moral reasons why Americans should focus more intensely on improving education.

"In my opinion, this is the justice and competitiveness issue of our time," Mehlman said. "If you stop and think about our history, one of the reasons we had an American century and there is an American dream was because at key points in our history we made very bold decisions about making sure that there was very broad, universal access to quality education."

The US would profit economically if our educational system improved, Romer said. "There is an entirely different economic future that we are going to be living in and education is the key to that future," he said. If US students improved to where their test scores matched the midpoint of European student achievement, the US gross domestic product would grow an additional 5 percent over the next 30 years, producing trillions of dollars of added resources for the US, he said.

While there are clear benefits to improving the US education system, making the issue a centerpiece of a campaign will not be easy. "Part of our challenge is the eventful nature of 2007-2008. You have got a war. You've got real economic concerns, economic challenges that are unique at the moment. That all happening makes it hard to cut through on the education issue," Mehlman said.

A USA Today/Gallup poll released in February found education ranked as the third most important issue out of 14 in selecting a president. Education trailed the economy and Iraq but came in ahead of healthcare, government corruption, and energy prices.

To maintain its bipartisan stance, Strong American Schools carefully avoids many of the hot button issues in education that divide along party lines, including school vouchers and the fate of President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" legislation.

Despite potential political minefields, there is a pressing need for greater national coherence on education, Romer said. "I don't see any other industrial nation in the world that has left their education as decentralized as we have. Now I'm not trying to federalize education but you simply put yourself in the position of the next president. You cannot move this nation into the next century unless you get more coherence and national unity on what we are going to do with education, how we are going to measure it, how we are going to get the right kind of teachers in the classroom, and how we are going to measure our success," he said. "There is a need for us to have a national understanding about where we are going."

When the conversation turned to politics, Romer was closely questioned as he is one of the Democratic Party's uncommitted superdelegates who could tip the balance in the party's tight nomination battle. He was co-chairman of President Clinton's reelection campaign and Bill Clinton was in the White House when Romer was head of the Democratic Party.

His comments will probably give more comfort to the Obama campaign than the Clinton team. "Any decision that goes against the delegate count is a difficult decision," Romer said. At the moment, Barack Obama leads Hillary Rodham Clinton in the number of elected delegates. The "math is very compelling."

Romer and Mehlman join forces on education reform |