Saturday, March 31, 2012


By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer | LA Daily News |

3/30/2012 08:32:16 PM PDT   ::  Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy has given the go-ahead to plans to revamp three underperforming schools in the San Fernando Valley, but ordered three other proposals to be tweaked and rejected another outright.

The decisions impact the 37 campuses across LAUSD that were targeted for improvement under the Public School Choice initiative.

This was the third round in the reform program, and the first time that charter operators were banned from bidding to take over the schools. Applicants also were allowed to seek waivers from district policies in order to meet their specified goals.

According to the results posted late Thursday at, Deasy approved 19 proposals, gave provisional approval to a dozen others and rejected six of the applications.

His decisions are final and cannot be appealed to the school board.

"These proposals are both comprehensive and driven by teachers," Deasy said in a statement. "We look forward to working with the applicants to provide a quality education for thousands of our students."

Among the applications winning approval:

Maclay Middle School: Renamed the Maclay Academy of Social Justice, the Pacoima campus will utilize standards-based instruction and promote student literacy and English-language proficiency.

Sun Valley Middle School: Social Justice and Environmental Science academies will be added, and underperforming students will be given access to electives. There will be an emphasis on data-driven and personalized instruction and project-based learning.

Sylmar High School: The Youth Policy Institute plan for the Sylmar Promise Academies will integrate technology into the curriculum in an effort to prepare students for careers in the health and media arts industries.

Additionally, Sylmar High's math and science magnets will be expanded and a leadership magnet will open in 2013-14.

A separate plan submitted by the Sylmar High faculty was rejected, and will be rewritten with help from the Superintendent's Office.

Deasy also gave provisional approval to a plan submitted by a partnership between LAUSD and United Teachers Los Angeles for Vista Middle School in Van Nuys. A companion plan for a new elementary school in the area was ordered rewritten, with an April 27 deadline for refiling the bid.

Provisional approval also was given to a plan to create the Sylmar Leadership Academy at a K-8 span school that would feed Sylmar High, although Deasy asked for clarification of some programs.

Finally, Deasy rejected a plan to revamp Fulton College Prep, a grade 6-12 school in Van Nuys. He criticized it as unfocused and lacking detail for achieving student success.

He gave the faculty until fall to come up with an acceptable plan and warned that the district would impose its own structure and staffers would have to reapply for their jobs if they failed.

Friday, March 30, 2012

State Chiefs to Duncan: “DON’T ‘UNDERMINE’ US WITH DISTRICT WAIVERS” + EdGuess’ CA 2¢

By Michele McNeil, Ed Week |

March 26, 2012 8:53 PM  ::  It's unclear just how serious Education Secretary Arne Duncan and his top aides are when they talk about pursuing waivers for districts in states that choose not to take advantage of a broader waiver under the No Child Left Behind Act.

But state chiefs have a message for Duncan nonetheless: Back off the idea of district-level waivers. (Okay, so they put it a little more nicely than that.)

During an hour-long Q-and-A session in Washington Monday at a legislative conference of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Duncan mostly danced around the issue of district-level waivers, saying that he wouldn't grant them to districts in states that had already secured a waiver from the department. But what about flexibility for districts in states that do not obtain a waiver? All he would say is: "We'll look at where we are at that point."

Later, the department would only clarify that district waivers are one idea "under consideration."

The chiefs' antennae went up last week after top Education Department aide Michael Yudin told urban school superintendents that officials are pursuing district waivers for states that choose not to pursue a waiver from the department by the September third-round deadline. (California, Texas, and Pennsylvania could be among those.) He said the debate within the department had moved on to what such a waiver process would look like, and how the department would manage it.

Mindful of those comments, state superintendents pressed the secretary. Virginia's state chief Patricia Wright said such a move would "undermine states." Colorado's Robert Hammond said such a move would "bypass" state authority and result in "unintended consequences."

Duncan, in his response, urged them to help those districts that want to go above and beyond their accountability systems to innovate. He pointed to the department's decision earlier this month to grant waivers to Kansas, on behalf of three individual districts, to use alternative exams for accountability purposes.

Kansas commissioner Diane DeBacker pushed back, and pointed out that the part of the state's district waiver application that officials thought was most innovative—allowing alternative exams in lower grades—was rejected by the feds.

Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis asked Duncan whether there were any other options for flexibility besides the formal waiver route the department has set out. (And besides a one-year temporary halt to increasing annual academic targets that the department is allowing for a few states that need more time to write their applications.)

Carmel Martin—one of Duncan's top aides who accompanied him to the conference—jumped in and told Tomalis, basically, no. She said just handing out waivers and expecting nothing in return would put the department in "uncertain waters." (I don't think Tomalis was expecting a waiver for free, but that's beside the point.) She even said that Duncan has a "legal obligation" to offer waivers closely aligned with the original principles of the law that improve student achievement.

After Duncan's remarks, Tomalis told me in an interview that he had "serious reservations" about district waivers.

"To allow districts to go directly to the feds to get waivers ... it would be difficult to see who is exactly responsible for accountability and reforms in their states," said Tomalis, whose state is still evaluating whether it will apply in September. "Districts are creatures of state government."

For its part, CCSSO is opposed to district waivers unless they are pursued in cooperation with a state, said executive director Gene Wilhoit.


Districts want shot at NCLB waiver: Duncan still weighing options, obstacles

By John Fensterwald - Educated Guess  |

Posted on 3/29/12   ::  State chiefs of education apparently let U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan have it over the idea of letting individual districts apply directly to him for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law.

Their message to him, during an hour-long face to face on Monday, was, according to Education Week: Stay off our turf; we run districts.

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has made it clear he’s no fan of Duncan’s waiver offer, which he considers expensive and intrusive, a swapping of one bad set of rules for another; California may not seek a waiver, not under Duncan’s conditions.

But Torlakson, while in Washington, didn’t attend the sit-down with Duncan, and his spokesman, Paul Hefner, said that Torlakson has no objection, in principle, to California districts applying for an NCLB waiver directly from the feds. But he does foresee practical problems that would have to be thought through – if Duncan actually moves ahead with district waivers.

That’s fine with Rick Miller, a former deputy state superintendent and now executive director of the California Office to Reform Education, the seven districts that led the state’s Race to the Top effort. CORE districts (now eight, with the new addition of Oakland Unified) want a waiver, believe they’d qualify for one, and will pursue it as soon as Duncan makes up his mind. They want relief next year from NCLB’s sanctions and the chance to spend more Title I dollars as they choose.

EdWeek quoted Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, as saying his organization opposes district waivers unless they’re done in cooperation with a state. Miller says the districts want Torlakson’s support; the CORE districts don’t see the waiver as an end-run around the state.

Miller said he spoke at length this week about the district waiver possibility with State Board President Michael Kirst and will talk with Torlakson, too. The districts will work through the potential roadblocks.

In an email, Hefner listed a few of them:

  • Who would be responsible for monitoring compliance with requirements associated with the waiver? The state? The federal government? How would those costs be absorbed?
  • If a district was required as part of a waiver to adopt a new or modified accountability system, would the state be obligated to modify its data system to accommodate those changes? Who pays for that? Who sets the timetable for system modifications?

Miller agrees that an alternative system of compliance has to be worked out. The cash-strapped state Department of Education would not be involved at all in the district waiver, and the feds won’t have the resources to monitor individual districts ­– potentially dozens of them, if not more. Critics will charge that direct federal oversight would violate states’ rights, even though, Miller says, NCLB does have provisions for district waivers.

Miller suggests that one option might be peer monitoring, with districts holding one another to account.

The CORE districts (Fresno, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Sanger, San Francisco, Sacramento City, Clovis, and Oakland, all unified districts), Miller says, agree on the requirements that Duncan has set for a waiver – creating data systems, developing Common Core standards and alternative teacher and principal evaluations, identifying and improving the lowest performing schools – in exchange for suspending NCLB’s sanctions. And they want to move ahead as soon as Duncan decides whether and how to grant district waivers.

Earlier this month, Torlakson proposed that the state seek a California waiver on its own terms, ignoring Duncan’s conditions. Recognizing that Duncan would likely reject it, the State Board took no action. Torlakson agreed to seek other ideas, with the possibility of resubmitting it to the Board in June.

GO BUY A TICKET!: CA Schools will get $100 million/LAUSD $20 million from lottery payday

The Myth of the Lottery helping schools: California schools poised to get $100 million from tonight's monster Mega Millions jackpot

By Tony Pierce, KPCC Pass/Fail |

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images - A man holds a bundle of Mega Millions lottery tickets that he just purchased, San Francisco, 2007.

Marc 30 ::  Although the odds are 1 in 175 million to win tonight's Mega Millions jackpot which currently looms at $640 million dollars, there is one sure bet: California schools will be receiving about $100 million if someone wins today.

According to the LA Times, the Golden State has sold over 283 million tickets for the world-record setting jackpot that has been rolling over since January. Elias Dominguez, the California Lottery spokesman told the Times that about 30% of each dollar goes to schools.

Indeed, since 1985 lotteries have brought in over $24 billion to California K-12 schools, community colleges, Cal States, UC's, other public colleges and universities, and other educational institutions. Nearly $272 million was sent from the lottery to schools (the vast majority was allotted to K-12 schools) in the 4th quarter of 2011.

With all that easy money flowing in, why are schools continually finding themselves having to cut programs and lay off teachers?

"Because instead of using the money as additional funding, legislatures have used the lottery money to pay for the education budget and spent the money that would have been used had there been no lottery cash on other things. Public school budgets, as a result, haven’t gotten a boost because of the lottery funding," wrote Valerie Strauss of in the Washington Post.

And what's more dire, according to the Times, is that the K-12 expenditures are projected to exceed $39 billion this year. Therefore, although the $100 million will be a nice contribution to schools, it's really just a drop in the bucket to the budget.

ADELANTO CAMPUS CALM AFTER 'PARENT TRIGGER' PETITION REJECTED: But petition supporters reiterate their outrage and say they will go to court to challenge the school board rejection of their effort to turn the campus into a charter school.

By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times |

March 30, 2012  ::  A day after Mojave Desert school officials rejected a controversial effort by parents seeking major changes at their lowest-performing elementary school, the embattled campus finally appeared calm even as supporters vowed to continue the fight.

David Mobley, principal at Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto, said Thursday that the school was free from weeks of conflict between supporters and opponents of the petition to hand over management to a charter operator under the state's landmark parent trigger law.

    their outrage and said they would challenge the school board action in court.

    "They're acting like they have no respect for our concerns," said Teresa Rogers of the Desert Trails Parent Union, which launched the petition campaign last year with Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles educational nonprofit group. "We're just asking for better education for our children."

    After an impassioned four-hour meeting, the board late Wednesday ruled that the petition failed to contain valid signatures from parents representing at least half of the school's 642 students. Board President Carlos Mendoza said the petition fell short by 20 signatures, in part because 70 parents who initially signed revoked their support after saying they had been misled.

    At a news conference Thursday, however, petition supporters renewed allegations that the recision process was riddled with fraud and that some of the documents turned in were falsified. They have asked the San Bernardino County district attorney to investigate.

    Mark Holscher, an attorney representing petition supporters, said he would challenge the board decision on the grounds that it failed to comply with the parent trigger law, but he declined to elaborate.

    The 2010 law allowed parents at low-performing schools to force changes in staff and curriculum, close the campus or convert to a charter school. Charters are public schools that are independently managed and mostly non-union.

    Meanwhile, Mobley said work is progressing to improve Desert Trails, where more than half the students are not proficient in math or reading. The district and teachers union recently signed a pact to form a committee, with parent representation, to select a school improvement model and are researching 22.

    Earlier this year, Desert Trails received $50,000 in federal funding to buy 110 classroom computers, and the staff is working on a new plan to make school rules more uniform and consistent, Mobley said.

    "I'm excited about changes we're making," he said.

    L.A. SCHOOLS TO NOTIFY PARENTS WHEN TEACHERS ARE REMOVED: They'll be told within 72 hours if an instructor is pulled because of sexual-misconduct allegations.

    By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times |

    LAUSD parental notification

    Parents at Miramonte Elementary in unincorporated Florence-Firestone were upset that they received no explanation when veteran teacher Mark Berndt was pulled from class early in 2011. (Krista Kennell / AFP/Getty Images)

    March 30, 2012  ::  Parents will be notified within 72 hours when a teacher is removed from a classroom because of sexual-misconduct allegations, Los Angeles school officials announced Thursday.

    The new policy addresses parent anger after the arrests of several teachers and other Los Angeles Unified School District employees.

    "The spate of cases involving sexual misconduct in recent months has prompted a reevaluation of our reporting procedures," Supt. John Deasy said in a statement.

    Parents at Miramonte Elementary in unincorporated Florence-Firestone were upset that they received no explanation when veteran teacher Mark Berndt was pulled from class early in 2011. A year later, Berndt was charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct, including allegations that he spoon-fed semen to blindfolded students; he has pleaded not guilty.

    Before the arrest, the school district and detectives limited the release of even partial information to those interviewed as part of the investigation. They said they didn't want to risk compromising the probe.

    At Telfair Elementary in Pacoima, parents and school employees received no explanation even after former teacher Paul Chapel had been in jail for months. Local school board member Nury Martinez learned of it from the media. Chapel has pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of lewd acts and continuous sexual abuse of four students.

    Previous policy specified no deadline for informing parents, creating the impression that L.A. Unified was deliberately withholding information, Deasy said.

    But the district has been criticized by people who say it was doing exactly that. Some say the school system has resisted issuing any notification, even under pressure.

    When contacted this year about a former music instructor accused of misconduct, for example, Hamilton High Principal Gary Garcia said parents and students had received no information about the teacher. Nor had he, Garcia added.

    At the time, the district was being sued by a former student of Vance Miller who alleged that the two had a sexual relationship when the boy was Miller's student. Miller, through an attorney, has denied wrongdoing. The district fired Miller in February.

    One reason for the enforced secrecy has been to protect the privacy of employees — who could be innocent — and of possible victims.

    The district's prior policy, from 2008, does not require any public or parental notification. It simply specifies that any release of information must be authorized by senior officials.

    A 2006 policy had required notifying only the parents or guardians of possible victims.

    "We believe that the new rule strikes the proper balance" between informing parents and assisting law-enforcement investigations, Deasy said.

    The district is still developing notification rules when abuse allegations arise against other types of employees, such as volunteers, custodians, teacher aides or clerks.


    By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer | LA Daily News |

    3/29/2012 05:52:14 PM PDT   ::  Parents will be notified within 72 hours when a teacher at their child's school has been accused of sexual misconduct under a policy adopted Thursday by Los Angeles Unified officials.

    The announcement came just hours after district officials confirmed that an unidentified teacher at Sutter Middle School in Winnetka had been removed from the classroom amid allegations of wrongdoing.

    The new policy follows calls by San Fernando Valley school board members Tamar Galatzan and Nury Martinez to change how the district notifies parents of abuse allegations.

    "This is definitely a move in the right direction," Galatzan said. "It strikes a delicate balance between the rights of parents to know what's going on and the rights of our employees."

    Martinez said the 72-hour window will allow the district to communicate with law enforcement to ensure the district's announcement will not interfere with any investigation or potentially harm the victim.

    "This new policy will begin the process of rebuilding trust with parents and kids," she said.

    The district was blasted by parents at Miramonte Elementary for failing to inform them for more than a year that teacher Mark Berndt was suspected of molesting 23 students.

    Officials also withheld information about the arrest last October of Telfair Elementary teacher Paul Chapel on charges of molesting four youngsters. They alerted parents in February after the Daily News wrote about the case.

    In both instances, district officials said they'd been told by law enforcement not to comment.

    "The spate of cases involving sexual misconduct in recent months has prompted a re-evaluation of our reporting procedures," Superintendent John Deasy said in a statement. "Working closely with local law enforcement, we believe we have come up with a plan that best serves the needs of parents and teachers while not hindering possible criminal investigations."

    In notifying parents of abuse allegations, the district typically withholds the teacher's name, grade level and other identifying information. A district spokesman said he expects that practice to continue.

    The new policy applies only to teachers and other certificated employee. A separate policy is being developed for teacher's aides, custodians and volunteers/coaches and is expected to be in place by the start of the 2012-13 school year.


    40 LAUSD schools earn high honors

    LA Daily News |

    3/29/2012 10:51:03 PM PDT   ::  Forty elementary schools in Los Angeles Unified and several others in neighboring districts were among the 387 California Distinguished Schools announced Thursday by state Superintendent Tom Torlakson.

    The annual program recognizes schools that demonstrate educational excellence and student achievement, based on standardized test scores and other factors.

    "The schools we are recognizing today demonstrate the incredible commitment of California's teachers, administrators and school employees to provide a world-class education to every student, in spite of the financial hardships facing our state and our schools," Torlakson said. "Their dedication is inspiring, and I applaud and admire their passion and persistence."

    The list of winning elementary schools included 17 from the San Fernando Valley: Balboa Gifted/High Ability Magnet, Burbank Boulevard, Burton Street, Chandler, Darby Avenue, Dixie Canyon, Dyer Street, Enadia Way, Encino, Germain Street, Hamlin Street, Justice Street, Riverside Drive, Superior, Topeka Drive, Valor Academy Charter and Vintage Math Science Technology Magnet.

    In the Santa Clarita Valley, Oak Hills, Old Orchard and Stevenson Ranch Elementary schools in Newhall were honored, along with James Foster, Rio Vista and Tesoro del Valle in the Saugus Union School District.

    Glendale Unified also had three winners: Balboa, Monte Vista and Mountain Avenue Elementary schools.

    Simi and Township Elementary schools in Simi Valley were included on the list, along with Conejo Valley Unified's Environmental Academy of Research, technology and Earth Sciences and Madrona Elementary.

    For the complete list of schools, go to


    by smf for 4LAKidsNews

    The following schools were named as CALIFORNIA DISTINGUISHED SCHOOLS from LAUSD on Thursday by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. In even numbered years elementary schools are eligible, in odd numbered years secondary schools

    • 186th Street Elementary
    • Apperson Street Elementary
    • Balboa Gifted/High Ability Magnet Elementary
    • Beethoven Street Elementary
    • Braddock Drive Elementary and Gifted Magnet
    • Burbank Boulevard Elementary
    • Burton Street Elementary
    • Canfield Avenue Elementary
    • Castle Heights Elementary
    • Celerity Dyad Charter
    • Chandler Elementary
    • Chapman Elementary
    • Charles H. Kim Elementary
    • Coeur d'Alene Avenue Elementary
    • Commonwealth Avenue Elementary
    • Dahlia Heights Elementary
    • Darby Avenue Elementary
    • Delevan Drive Elementary
    • Denker Avenue Elementary
    • Dixie Canyon Elementary
    • Dyer Street Elementary
    • Enadia Way Elementary
    • Encino Elementary
    • Endeavor College Preparatory Charter
    • Gardner Street Elementary
    • Germain Street Elementary
    • Hamlin Street Elementary
    • Justice Street Elementary
    • Loyola Village Elementary
    • Melrose ES Mathematics/ Science/ Technology Magnet
    • Mount Washington Elementary
    • Open Magnet Charter
    • Riverside Drive Charter
    • Solano Avenue Elementary
    • South Shores Magnet School for the Visual and Performing Arts
    • Superior Elementary
    • Topeka Drive Elementary
    • Valor Academy Charter
    • Van Ness Avenue Elementary
    • Vintage Math Science Technology Magnet


    from the Office of the Deputy Superintendent of Instruction

    The following PowerPoint was presented to the LAUSD Bd of Ed Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Committee on March 27, 2012, laying out results from some unscientific online polling and various taskforces studying A-G Graduation Requirements, Standards Based Promotion and Homework Policies.

    You may view the video stream of the presentation here.  [You must have QuickTime to watch or listen to a meeting.]

    The PowerPoint  contains some specific recommendations to the board beginning on pp 11 – and proposes to eliminate the Health Education graduation requirement on p. 13. 

    2cents smf: I will write elsewhere about my poor opinion of this bad idea; some of my thinking is spoken in public comment at the meeting.

    2012 03 27 Curriculum and Instruction Rev 3-27-12


    from the LAUSD Office of School Operations

    The iSTAR system runs in real time and reports incidents to the office of school operations and the local district offices/educational support centers - with updates about every five minutes.

    The system, which came online on April 1, 2010, tracks incidences of Injury, Accident, Medical, Possession of Weapons, Arrest, Assault & Battery, Bullying, Possession of Illegal/Controlled Substances, Burglary, Fighting/Physical Aggression, Harassment, Disruptive Behavior/Annoyance, Threat, Suicidal Behavior (Threat to harm self), Inappropriate Conduct, Inappropriate Sexual Behavior , Vandalism/Property Damage,  and Altercation by or to students and adults.

    This report contains a summary of incidents reported through iSTAR for the 2010-2011 school year.

    The data from this system is used to assist sites and departments in resolving incidents as quickly as possible to ensure the safety of all students and staff and minimize any potential impact to instruction.  This data is also used to identify trends concerning student safety and well being to prevent future incidents.

    smf: This report from last year is the first of its kind and sets a benchmark for this and future years. Obviously LAUSD has been extraordinarily challenged  in 2011 – 12 with  issues around the abuse of students  and the reporting thereof; the death of Cindi Santana  - and bullying has drawn unusual scrutiny on a national scale.

    It will be interesting to compare this year to the last.

    iSTAR Annual Report 10-11


    Breakfast is served in L.A. classrooms thanks to donation

    --Teresa Watanabe,  LA Times |

    March 29, 2012 |  2:08 pm  ::  More than 200,000 Los Angeles students will start their day with a healthy breakfast in their classrooms over the next year under a major new program announced Thursday.

    The “Food for Thought” program, which will bring food into the classroom rather than just the cafeteria, aims to boost school breakfast consumption in the Los Angeles Unified School District from 29% to 70%, according to David Binkle, the district’s food services deputy director. Research has linked breakfast to higher academic performance, fewer discipline problems, less obesity and reduced visits to school nurses for headaches and other ailments.

    “Our mothers were right: Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the kick-off event at Figueroa Street Elementary School in South Los Angeles.

    As dozens of cameras clicked, two dozen third-graders dug into fresh strawberries, yogurt, a blueberry muffin, fruit juice and milk at their desks, while flanked by actress Sophia Vergara, L.A. Unified School Board President Monica Garcia and Supt. John Deasy. At one desk, Amayrany Reyes gobbled up her strawberries but ignored the yogurt and picked around the blueberries in the muffin. But the girl, sporting a pink ribbon in her long braid, said she generally enjoyed the meal.

    “Everything is good,” she said. “I feel more ready for school and I have more energy.”

    The school is one of several in L.A. Unified to launch pilot classroom breakfast programs. Since rolling out the program in January, absences, tardies and visits to the school nurse have noticeably declined, according to Principal Tanya Stokes-Mack. The district hopes to expand the program to 267 more schools in the next academic year and 676 campuses in three years, district officials said. 

    Expanding school breakfast consumption is hoped to bring in $5.8 million annually in federal school meal reimbursements, which can be reinvested in food services equipment and other services, Binkle said.

    The program marks the first initiative by the L.A. Fund for Public Education, a new foundation launched by Deasy and Hollywood philanthropist Megan Chernin aimed at raising $200 million over five years for local public schools. The foundation is providing about $200,000 to the breakfast program to help develop nutrition education, train teachers on ways to provide it during the 10-to-15-minute breakfast period and work with food vendors to improve food quality.

    “It’s healthy, it’s good and it gives kids the boost they need in the morning,” Chernin said of the breakfast program. 


    Nonprofit group to fund healthy meals at 267 LAUSD schools

    By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer LA Daily News |

    Sofia Vergara eats breakfast with students at the announcement of Food for Thought Thursday, March 29, 2012, at Figueroa Elementary School, in Los Angeles. The joint initiative between Los Angeles Unified School District and the LA Fund for Public Education will ensure that high poverty students across Los Angeles will be fed a nutritious meal before they start their day. (AP Photo/Katy Winn)

    03/29/2012 11:02:03 PM PDT  ::  The LA Fund for Public Education, a nonprofit group formed last year to support the Los Angeles Unified School District, announced Thursday it will help fund a healthy-breakfast program next year at 267 of the district's poorest schools.

    Meals will be delivered directly to elementary school classrooms, with students and teachers spending the first 10 minutes of the school day eating breakfast together. Students at secondary schools will grab their food at an on-campus kiosk.

    "Simple change can make a profound difference, and a nutritious meal can make the biggest difference in a student's school day," Superintendent John Deasy said. "Study after study shows that when students eat breakfast, they are healthier, perform better academically and are less likely to be tardy or miss school."

    Food for Thought is the first major initiative for the LA Fund, which hopes to eventually accumulate a $500 million endowment to help the financially strapped school district.

    The breakfast program was announced at an early-morning news conference attended by Deasy, LA Fund Chair Megan Chernin, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and "Modern Family" star Sofia Vegara.

    “The Superintendent’s recommendation is final – there is no vote by the Board of Education”

    Superintendent Approves 19 Applicants in Public School Choice 3.0


    2cents smf: …so, in Public School Choice 3.0 there is only one chooser.

    by e-mail from the LAUSD Public school choice team

    On behalf of the Public School Choice Team | Los Angeles Unified School District

    Applicant Teams –

    As promised, the Superintendent released his decisions for the third round of Public School Choice and the identified Watch schools.  Please visit the Public School Choice website at for his detailed decisions as well as to review feedback from the various review panels that provided feedback on the proposals.  You will also find detailed information from the Parent Academies that were held as well.

    Over the course of the next couple of weeks, you will receive a letter from our office regarding specific next steps for your team.  If you have any questions about anything contained in the letter please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

    Again, thank you all so much for your patience and dedication throughout this process. 



    Monique N. Epps

    Director, Public School Choice

    Intensive Support and Intervention

    Los Angeles Unified School District

    o: 213.241.5104 | f: 213.241.4710

    Sent by Katherine Trainor

    News Release

    For Immediate Release                                                                             March 29, 2012

    Contact: Tom Waldman                                                                             #11/12-158   

    (213) 241-6766        

    Superintendent Approves 19 Applicants in Public School Choice 3.0

    Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy has approved 19 proposals submitted under Public School Choice 3.0.  The specific applicants will be posted at

    “These proposals are both comprehensive, and driven by teachers,” said Deasy.  “We look forward in working with the applicants to provide a quality education for thousands of our students.”

    The Superintendent also granted provisional approval to 12 applicants, which have been asked to submit a few changes to their original plans by April 27th

    A total of six applicants have until April 27th to rewrite their proposal, and a number were either rejected or fell into a different category. 

    Under the new policy governing Public School Choice, the Superintendent’s recommendation is final – there is no vote by the Board of Education. 


    Proposal Feedback Information

    On March 29, 2012 Superintendent John E. Deasy announced his decisions for the schools participating in Public School Choice 3.0 as well as the designated Watch Schools required to submit a plan as part of this process. 


    Attachment A


    PSC 3.0 - Superintendent%27s Decisions Board Informative Version[1]

    Attachment B

    PSC 3.0 - Board Informative 03-29-12-FINAL[1]

    Initial Review Team Members

    Superintendent's Panel Team Members


    Superintendent's Review Panel Comments

    • The Superintendent’s Review Panel is comprised of representatives from LA Unified School District, Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, and United Teachers Los Angeles.

      The responsibility of the Superintendent’s Review Panel is to review both the PSC 3.0 and Watch School plans and provide feedback to the Superintendent.  They conducted an independent, written review for all plans, and then convened as a group to reach a consensus decision.   During their discussions, they were able to incorporate feedback from other reviewer panels for PSC in order to provide clear, comprehensive feedback to the Superintendent to assist in his decision-making.

      Please note that the Superintendent’s Review Panel is the ONLY review group that evaluated the Watch School plans.

    Click on this link to access this report

    Initial Review Panel Feedback

    • The Initial Review Panel consists of a team of individuals from LAUSD, external partner organizations, institutions of higher learning as well as educational experts.  Each reviewer read and provided feedback for proposals for a specific site.

    Link to Initial Review Team Feedback Spreadsheet

    Certificated and Classified Staff Feedback

    • Certificated and Classified Staff had the opportunity to do an independent review of the Informational Summaries for their PSC School.

    Link to Certificated and Classified Staff Feedback

    LA Pilot School Steering Committee Recommendations

    • The LA Pilot School Steering Committee, which is charged with reviewing and approving all initial Requests for Proposals to establish Pilot Schools and all proposals to later modify Requests for Proposals, comprises individuals from LAUSD, UTLA, AALA and the community.  The Steering Committee reviewed, provided feedback and made recommendations on the Pilot School proposals submitted via Public School Choice 3.0.

    Los Angeles Pilot School Steering Committee Recommendations

    For additional report information including the School Site Summary and the Parent, Student, and Community Reports please click on the appropriate link below:






    Thursday, March 29, 2012


    KCBS 2 |

    March 29, 2012 6:47 AM | LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The new “Food For Thought” breakfast program will provide free meals to students at 267 schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District next year.

    Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and Modern Family star Sofia Vergara will talk about the new meal plan at Figueroa Street Elementary School Thursday morning.


    The program, which will be funded by the LAUSD and the Los Angeles Fund For Public Education, aims to assist an estimated 553,000 students who are living in poverty.

    Starting next year, breakfasts will be delivered to elementary schools, where students will eat the meals with their teachers and peers during the first 10 minutes of class.

    At secondary schools, students will grab their breakfasts on the way to class.


    OpEd By Bill Boyarsky,Jewish Journal OF Greater L.A.  |

    March 29 2012  ::  In a city where some of the very rich are willing to pay $1 billion-plus for the bankrupt Dodgers baseball team, why can’t anyone spare $500,000 to support an Academic Decathlon program that brings luster to the often criticized Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)?

    Unbelievably, funding for the annual Academic Decathlon, which pits high school students against their peers in a test of wits and knowledge, would be eliminated in the cuts proposed in the worst-case budget approved by the LAUSD board. 

    These cuts are planned unless teachers agree to four-day unpaid furloughs or voters support a parcel tax, an additional tax on property. Among the other cuts contemplated are the closing of all adult schools and abandonment of afterschool programs and English-as-a-second-language classes. Thousands of teachers would be dismissed.

    News of the contemplated death of the Academic Decathlon program came out just as the Granada Hills Charter High School team won the 2012 California Academic Decathlon on March 19, its second consecutive win, completing a grueling period of preparation — with some sessions lasting eight hours a day — studying history, music, physics and math, learning to answer questions orally as well as on paper. LAUSD schools have won the state title 18 times since 1987, and 12 national titles.

    I find it a bit suspicious that Superintendent John Deasy and the Board of Education would pick on the Academic Decathlon program in the midst of the budget crisis. Its cost is a relative pittance; its pluses are huge. Threatening to eliminate something so valuable sounds like a familiar LAUSD budget scare tactic.

    “Every year, they go to the same filing cabinet and bring out the same old cuts,” said former school board member and teacher David Tokofsky. He’s the father of L.A.’s Academic Decathlon competition, starting the string of national and state victories with his Marshall High School team in 1987.

    But let’s assume Deasy and the school board are not bluffing, that they’d really be willing to sacrifice this adornment to the school district to save a few dollars. Is there an alternative?

    I talked to Tokofsky about raising money from private sources. He agreed with me about the availability of rich potential donors. He noted that some of them, and their foundations, are already putting money into the district to promote their own ideas of school reform, including paying salaries of some administrators they like.

    There are others he figures would be willing to help. “There are really famous rock stars from Garfield and Banning and other schools,” he said. “There are athletes. We are so busy beating up the system that we don’t celebrate the people who could help us. We should hunt down the alumni who have the most romantic views of their schools. They’re out there, yet nobody is harvesting them.”

    Tokofsky gave me a rundown on the approximately half a million dollars a year needed to finance the competition. The money goes for coaches, supplies, travel and food for the competitors, and salary for the official who administers it, Cliff Ker. Coaches, who are teachers, saw their extra pay cut this year from $5,000 a year to $2,800. Coaches work with the teams two or so hours daily at first, then five, six and even eight hours a day as competition nears.

    “It’s very hard to find coaches,” Ker said. “It’s a lot of work, there is a lot of turnover — we have between 20 and 25 coaches leave each year, about a third. They are dealing with very bright kids, some more motivated than others, requiring many hours of study with very few tangible results until it is over. It has to be a very special individual who is dedicated, can put in the time, [is] disciplined, kind of a whole bunch of John Wooden clones,” said Bruins fan Ker, invoking the name of the famed late UCLA basketball coach.

    “Part of my job is to get donations,” Ker said. “David [Tokofsky] has helped me. But the most we have raised in a year is $100,000. Recently, we have raised [only] $50,000 a year. I have gotten leads, but I don’t know whether it is my [lack of] fundraising skills, or I’m not connected, but I have only been able to raise that $50,000.”

    The district could help more. The Academic Decathlon makes headlines during competition time, but Deasy and his media staff could turn themselves into John Wooden clones and do much more.

    The high school students and their coaches bring something positive to a district flooded with gloomy news about test scores, labor management disputes and investigations into a few perverted teachers. And now, with the stroke of a pen in their bureaucratic hands, Deasy and the school board are threatening to kill something so good.

    Los Angeles can’t leave it up to them. We’re loaded with rich people — film executives and stars, athletes, Midas-touch financiers, developers, etc. They give to museums, universities, charities, foundations and political campaigns. Synagogues, churches and many other causes. A small portion of this wealth should go for LAUSD’s amazingly successful Academic Decathlon teams.

    Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for The Jewish Journal, Truthdig and L.A. Observed, and the author of “Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times” (Angel City Press).

    POLITICS OR KIDS?:Molly Munger, PTA's initiative makes more public policy sense than Brown's, but less political sense


    The better tax plan — for another time

    Molly Munger's competing initiative makes more public policy sense than Jerry Brown's, but less political sense, and dueling measures may turn voters off.

    Molly Munger

    Molly Munger, a wealthy attorney and civil rights advocate, is being heavily pressured to drop her initiative and allow the governor an unrivaled run at the voters, but her response is: "I’m not going to do that.” (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

    George Skelton


    By George Skelton Capitol Journal |


    March 29, 2012  ::  SACRAMENTO — Most people in Molly Munger's shoes would be looking for a graceful way out — a way to join Gov. Jerry Brown, since she can't beat him.

    Instead, the wealthy Pasadena civil rights attorney seems to be looking for a fight, a bruiser on behalf of schoolkids.

    No public poll — or recent private survey that I'm aware of — shows Munger's tax initiative with any real chance of passing voters' muster in November.

    A recent USC-Times poll of California voters found only 32% supporting her tax-everybody proposal, with 64% opposed. The rule of thumb is that any measure drawing less than 50% support before the hard campaigning begins is in deep trouble because approval normally declines significantly before election day.

    Brown's "soak-the-rich" idea, by contrast, was supported by 64% in the poll, opposed by 33%.

    If Munger's campaign consultants "are telling her she can win, they're guilty of political malpractice," asserts Steve Glazer, Brown's chief strategist.

    Except for the California State PTA, Munger is pretty much all alone in pushing her measure.

    Brown's proposal is endorsed by labor, including the two major teachers' unions, and most of the Democratic political establishment.

    The business lobby is hanging back, waiting to see whether the governor and Democratic-dominated Legislature ever pass public pension, spending and regulatory reforms.

    But business grimaced recently when Brown unexpectedly combined parts of his initiative with one that had been pushed by the liberal California Federation of Teachers. Their compromise would take a bigger tax bite out of millionaires than Brown had wanted.

    For practical purposes, it's too late for Brown and Munger to compromise and meet a June 28 legal deadline for qualifying a new initiative for the November ballot.

    Brown's self-imposed deadline is "early May" for collecting enough voter signatures for his new measure. He needs 808,000.

    Signature gatherers for both Brown and Munger are on the streets. As with all initiative operations, these are hardly volunteer citizens' endeavors. The governor is paying professional collectors $3 per signature. Munger is doling out just $1.50 because she got started earlier.

    Munger is being heavily pressured to drop her initiative and allow the governor an unrivaled run at the voters.

    "I'm not going to do that," she told me Tuesday. "We're completely dedicated to moving forward."

    So far Munger — daughter of Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charles Munger — has spent $3.4 million of her own money on the initiative. A successful campaign — assuming one is even possible — probably would cost at least $30 million.

    "My husband and I know" the cost, she says. "Let's just say we're bracing. We're willing to spend what it takes."

    Brown hasn't been able — or willing — to use the power of the governor's office to push her aside.

    They chatted by phone after Brown cut his deal with the CFT, but neither apparently budged. "I don't want to complain," Munger says. "He has a plan of attack and he's pursuing it. He just doesn't think he has anything to talk [to me] about."

    Others say Munger became increasingly frustrated with Brown after repeatedly trying to unite with him on a school funding proposal and being rebuffed.

    Actually, Munger's tax measure makes more public policy sense than Brown's. It just makes less sense politically.

    By raising levies on all taxable earnings over $7,316 — more progressively as incomes rise — Munger's proposal tends to stabilize the tax system by tapping virtually everyone. Brown's measure makes the currently volatile system even more unstable by raising income taxes only on single filers at $250,000 and joint filers at $500,000.

    The top 1% already pay roughly 40% of the state's income tax revenue. In boom times, the rich prosper and pour money into the state treasury. In bust periods, their capital gains dwindle and so does the state's tax take.

    Brown's revised measure would hike the sales tax by a quarter-cent, but that would raise only a small portion of the estimated $9 billion generated in the first 18 months. Schools would get $3.8 billion. The remaining $5.2 billion would be used for budget-balancing and to avoid deeper cuts to schools, universities and programs for the poor.

    Munger's measure would raise roughly $11 billion annually. Initially, 70% would go to schools and early childhood education. The other 30% would be used to retire school debt, thus relieving pressure on the deficit-plagued general fund. Ultimately, 85% of all the revenue would be spent on K-12 schools and 15% on early childhood ed.

    Ironically, although Brown's measure purports to force the wealthy to "pay their fair share," Munger says hers actually would take more money — roughly $1.5 billion more — from couples earning over $250,000.

    "Why not just do the bigger, bolder, right thing for our public schools?" Munger asks rhetorically. "Voters should have a chance to say, 'Don't just tax the rich people.... I'll step up and pay out of my pocket to help the kids.'

    "They should have a chance to pay a little bit more so California schools are not funded below the level of Alabama and Mississippi."

    But there's no convincing sign that people would be willing to tax themselves if they could hit up others, especially the rich, instead.

    Brown's strategists fear — and most politicos agree — that Munger's initiative would confuse many voters and prompt them to also oppose the governor's.

    Munger deserves credit and respect for stepping up and trying to resolve an acute problem: the underfunding of schools.

    Now it may be the time to step aside, pull her measure and give the governor a clear shot. If he misses — or hits and makes little impact — she could return to the fight in 2014. You'd think a California governor could cut that deal.


    ●●smf:  PTA signature gatherers are volunteer citizens' endeavors – unpaid and uncompensated; petitions, clipboards and pens in hand with nothing other than increased school funding to their neighborhood schools on the line.

    Skelton argues that the “Our Children, Our Future” ballot measure makes public policy sense but not political sense. He suggests the children of California can wait an additional  two years.

    That – and what passes for public education funding in California - makes no sense.

    If any of what Skelton argues seems to make sense maybe we need to take our cue from the Talking Heads 1984 album and film: “Stop Making Sense.”

    Click here to see what your child’s school, what your neighborhood school will get with OCOF.

    Adelanto “Parent Trigger”: ANOTHER MISFIRE

    3 from The Times:

    Adelanto school leaders reject parent trigger effort

    Supporters of changes at struggling Desert Trails Elementary say they will fight the vote in court.

    By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times |

    March 29, 2012  ::  Mojave Desert school officials late Wednesday denied a petition by parents to overhaul their children's failing school, dealing a major blow to forces aiming to win the first reform under the state's pioneering parent trigger law.

    Adelanto school board members unanimously rejected the petition to turn Desert Trails Elementary into a charter campus, finding that it failed to win the support of parents representing at least half of the school's 642 students, as the law requires. The school has the lowest standardized test scores in Adelanto, with fewer than half the students proficient in math and English.

    Petition supporters, who allege that opponents doctored documents to sink their campaign, said they would challenge the board decision in court.

    "While we are disappointed and outraged, we are hardly surprised by the board's decision tonight to rely on fraud and forgery to defend the status quo," said Doreen Diaz of Desert Trails Parent Union, which launched the petition campaign.

    But Lori Yuan, a parent leader on the other side, expressed relief: "Now we can focus on making actual improvements to the school rather than be distracted by outside issues."

    The vote capped weeks of mounting conflict and mutual charges of deceit between two groups of parents, one assisted by the California Teachers Assn., a union, the other by Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles nonprofit that lobbied for the parent trigger law.

    The 2010 law allows parents representing at least half the students at low-performing schools to close their campus, transfer management to a charter operator or change the staff and curriculum.

    In Adelanto, parents representing what they said was 70% of the school's students submitted a petition in January asking for a charter school. But the board rejected it last month, saying it fell 16 students short of the required threshold after dozens of parents complained they were confused about the campaign and rescinded their signatures.

    Under the campaign's strategy, two petitions were circulated — one for district reforms and another for a charter school. Supporters told parents they preferred the first option but submitted the second one as leverage, they said, to press school officials to carry out their desired reforms.

    Board President Carlos Mendoza, among others, has criticized the two-petition strategy as confusing and on Wednesday called the rescissions "justified."

    But Parent Revolution, in examining the rescission documents, uncovered evidence that at least four of them had been doctored. The group, joined by several state legislators, has called for an investigation into possible fraud, a complaint under review by the San Bernardino County district attorney's office.


    Parents' effort to fix failing Adelanto school comes to a head

    By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times |

    • March 28, 2012 ::  ...Parents at Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto, where fewer than half the students...rejected the petition for errors. In Adelanto, Ramirez and others initially submitted...several elected officials representing the Adelanto area and the bipartisan sponsors of the... More
  • Power to the parents of school children

    Op-Ed: Power to the parents of school children
  •    By Gloria Romero |

    March 28, 2012  ::  ...seen it in the Antelope Valley town of Adelanto. In both cases, more than half the...consumers with few choices. In both Adelanto and Compton, parents trying to engage in a last-ditch battle in Adelanto. What it denies is that it did anything...  More

    Wednesday, March 28, 2012


    LAICHS has disputed some of Monica Whalen's claims.

    By David Fonseca, HP-MW Patch |

    27 March 2012   ::  The Los Angeles Unified School District has offered classroom space at Benjamin Franklin High School to Los Angeles International Charter High School (LAICHS), but the charter has yet to decide whether to accept the offer, said planning and development director Tony Torres.

    "I can tell you that it is an okay offer," Torres said. "The classrooms would all be grouped together, which is something we would want."

    As previously reported on Patch, LAICHS applied to operate in Franklin's empty classrooms through California Proposition 39 in November.

    Among other provisions that allowed for the funding of public school building projects, Prop. 39 requires public school districts to take applications from charter schools to operate in open classroom space in their buildings.

    Torres said LAICHS has until May 1 to accept the offer; the school is still undecided.

    "We're not sure if the time is right for us," Torres said. "We'd also have a parent meeting before we made any decision."

    On Monday, Franklin teacher and United Teachers Los Angeles representative Monica Whalen said LAICHS faculty and students would not be welcomed at the high school.

    Whalen has authored a petition expressing the union's opposition to the possible co-location.

    The petition, which had 253 signatures as of 4 p.m. on Monday, can be found here.

    "We want to make them know they're not going to be welcome," Whalen said.

    Whalen said the co-location of LAICHS students onto Franklin's campus would limit student access to gym and library facilities, burden staff with added administrative tasks and open the school to increased competition from the charter.

    Torres disputed some of Whalen's claims. He said that LAICHS can only enroll 400 students and already had 250 students signed up.

    "We are not a threat to them," Torres said.

    He added that that Whalen's assertion that LAICHS' students would be a financial burden on Franklin were untrue.

    "They're not just going to give us Franklin's facilities," Torres said. "We have to pay rent, we have to pay for janitorial services, we have to pay for cafeteria  services. We have to pay for any of the costs associated with running a school."

    Torres added that he feared that the language in Whalen's petition would create a hostile environment for students.

    "We've been the quiet side in this negotiation," Torres said. "I found some of the comments in the petition interesting. We just don't want there to be any hostility toward our students."

    Asked if she feared that her petition might create a hostile environment for charter students, Whalen said she did not wish violence on anybody.

    "I don't want anything hostile to happen to the kids," Whalen said.

    She added: "You have this group, they're coming to our campus and they are not welcome. They are forcing themselves on us."

    PETITION: Friends of Franklin High School: Stop Colocation

    ●●smf: When I was the President of the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council ASNC supported and encouraged Los Angeles International Charter High School in their move from a succession of storefronts into the then vacant Christian school property in Hermon – a small community in Northeast Los Angeles – space they continue to occupy. We gave LAICHS money where that was appropriate – good LA City taxpayers money. ASNC advocated before the board of education in LAICHS‘s behalf when they faced some fiscal problems and their charter was in jeopardy - because we supported the charter in our neighborhood. Because the concept of the small community-based  charter school not a chain-store charter management organization run school - which allows students and parents choice in the education of their/our children is a concept we support.

    Now LAICHS wishes to move out the neighborhood they claimed to be supportive of and which was welcoming and supportive of them. – in an obvious move to cut costs – at the expense of Franklin High School.

     So much for  LAICHS’s  commitment to the neighborhood.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2012


    By Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, kpcc Pass / Fail |

    [ Listen Now | Download ]

    Jerry Brown

    Max Whittaker/Getty Images

    California Governor Jerry Brown at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California on October 27, 2011.

    6:52pm  ::   A judge is backing up a budget move by Gov. Jerry Brown which took away billions of dollars earmarked for education, but the legal war is far from over.

    In a brief, tentative ruling, a San Francisco Superior Court judge said that the California constitution doesn’t forbid shifting of state funds by state lawmakers.

    That’s what Brown did last year to close an enormous budget deficit, shortchanging public education $2 billion in the process.

    "The governor has suggested that he’s going to repay that money to schools," says Abe Hajela, a lawyer for the school districts. "But what’s really at stake is the principle of the matter. Is the constitutional provision a minimum guarantee, or is it something that can be lowered by the Legislature if and when they need to?"

    California voters approved Proposition 98 almost a quarter century ago to provide a minimum funding guarantee for public schools and community colleges. If Gov. Brown’s education funding tax measure doesn’t pass in November, lawmakers could again be faced with the choice to fund schools below that level.

    Lawyers for both sides in the legal challenge are set to argue in court Wednesday.

    Saturday, March 24, 2012


    By YUDHIJIT BHATTACHARJEE | New York Times Sunday Review |

    Illustration: Harriet Russell

    Published: March 17, 2012   ::  SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

    This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

    They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.

    Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. In a 2004 study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares presented on a computer screen into two digital bins — one marked with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle.

    In the first task, the children had to sort the shapes by color, placing blue circles in the bin marked with the blue square and red squares in the bin marked with the red circle. Both groups did this with comparable ease. Next, the children were asked to sort by shape, which was more challenging because it required placing the images in a bin marked with a conflicting color. The bilinguals were quicker at performing this task.

    The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.

    Why does the tussle between two simultaneously active language systems improve these aspects of cognition? Until recently, researchers thought the bilingual advantage stemmed primarily from an ability for inhibition that was honed by the exercise of suppressing one language system: this suppression, it was thought, would help train the bilingual mind to ignore distractions in other contexts. But that explanation increasingly appears to be inadequate, since studies have shown that bilinguals perform better than monolinguals even at tasks that do not require inhibition, like threading a line through an ascending series of numbers scattered randomly on a page.

    The key difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: a heightened ability to monitor the environment. “Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often — you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain. “It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.” In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it.

    The bilingual experience appears to influence the brain from infancy to old age (and there is reason to believe that it may also apply to those who learn a second language later in life).

    In a 2009 study led by Agnes Kovacs of the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy, 7-month-old babies exposed to two languages from birth were compared with peers raised with one language. In an initial set of trials, the infants were presented with an audio cue and then shown a puppet on one side of a screen. Both infant groups learned to look at that side of the screen in anticipation of the puppet. But in a later set of trials, when the puppet began appearing on the opposite side of the screen, the babies exposed to a bilingual environment quickly learned to switch their anticipatory gaze in the new direction while the other babies did not.

    Bilingualism’s effects also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.

    Nobody ever doubted the power of language. But who would have imagined that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might be leaving such a deep imprint?

    Yudhijit Bhattacharjee is a staff writer at Science.


    By Sean Abajian —A guest blog article in the discussion series on Cut the Excuses, Not Education! How Is Fighting the Proposal to Eliminate Adult Education in L.A. |

    March 22, 2012  ::  On Tuesday, March 13, and for the second time this year, the LAUSD presented an Interim Financial Report stating that the District will end the 2011-2012 school year with reserves of over $700 Million (pg. 51 of 92 in the document linked above). $707 million represents almost 12% of the $6 Billion budget.

    That same Tuesday the Los Angeles Unified School District voted 6-1 to approve a worst-case scenario budget that closes all the adult schools and essentially leaves only credit recovery classes for high school students.

    The same week on Thursday March 15, pink slips went out to all the teachers, administrators and staff in Adult Education, which is unprecedented, and has a demoralizing effect on an entire division of employees, 350,000 students, and their families, spread across Los Angeles County.

    School Board members, such as Board  President Monica Garcia, continue the mantra that “there just isn’t any money for adult education”.  Superintendent John Deasy also joins that chorus, but then keeps signing off on Interim Financial Reports stating there is more than enough money.

    In our SaveAdultEd Campaign, we have, among other things:

    • Collected 220,000 petition signatures  (In just two weeks)
    • Made over 20,000 constituent calls to elected officials
    • Sent thousands of hand written letters to elected officials

    And yet why is it that the School Board refuses to budge?

    It would appear that the Board is operating in “crisis mode”, so they can engage in what Naomi Klein refers to as the “Shock Doctrine”.  Under the guise of “budget crisis” the Board is exerting authoritarian-like power, and committing disastrous actions against our communities.

    Is it because they are thinking, “How dare these communities rise up and demand things from us,” that they are acting with impunity against their own constituents who have spoken up so loud and clear?

    It’s no secret that the new Superintendent is a proponent of privatization of public education.  John Deasy, after all, graduated from the Eli Broad Superintendents Academy (Class of 2006), and before LAUSD he was deputy director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

    Already there are reports of Charter schools sizing up office space used by Adult Schools. For example, see this post on Twitter from Public Education Social Justice Advocacy (PESJA, a group that advocates for public education, social justice solutions, authentic reform, and liberation pedagogy) and reply from a practitioner at a local program:

    And who wouldn’t want these prime properties?  Take, for example, Evans Adult School, which was founded during the Great Depression.  As one of our largest adult schools, it has an amazing location on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Figueroa.

    Whatever the reason(s) may be we have a message for those Board Members who won’t support us: We know the money is there.  We are looking at ballot initiatives to re-direct funds from the $19.5 Billion LAUSD school construction bond fund (the largest in US history) to LAUSD’s general fund.  Serious discussions are underway as to which School Board members are most vulnerable to recalls.  Furthermore, we have already begun preparing for the March 2013 School Board Elections and we will vote out and replace candidates who don’t come through for us.

    Jose Lara has organized a Voter Registration and Community Walks training session, which is attracting leaders citywide.

    “Last week, when we heard that the School Board voted to continue with cuts to education that would eliminate Adult, Early Ed and Elementary Arts education, we began the chant, ‘You don’t vote for us, we won’t vote for you!’ We were not kidding.” (Jose Lara)

    In response to the pink slips, Adult Education teachers have taken the attitude “Fired? No we’re Fired Up.”  To quote Julie Carson of the Adult Education Committee (UTLA),

    “Take one day to cry….Then pull yourselves together and get ready to kick some ***.  We have just begun to fight.”

    Next week we are having a new kind of action for the SaveAdultEd Campaign as we will be protesting right in the heart of Monica Garcia’s District in Boyle Heights, at Mariachi Plaza.  We’re inviting all public education advocates to join us on March 29 from 1:30-4:30pm.

    Finally, we reach out and appeal to President Barack Obama, in this current election year, and ask that he intervene.   In this current national election, the one thing on everyone’s mind is the economy, and as we continue to organize at the grassroots level and push from below, we call on the President to use his influence to save our Adult Education program which is preparing 350,000 students and their families for better economic opportunities, here in the second largest city of the nation.

    As Diane Ravitch rhetorically asked after the March 13 vote: “Why were we able to afford Adult Education in 1912, but not 2012?”  The answer is that we can, we must, and with our communities united we will.

    Sean C. Abajian, Organizer, SaveAdultEd Campaign

    Sean C. Abajian is a campaign organizer and digital strategist with the  Campaign. He is a guest blogger in the discussion series “Cut the Excuses, Not Education! How Is Fighting the Proposal to Eliminate Adult Education in L.A.” See the full discussion schedule online. Participate by posting your comments and questions in the box below and signing’s petition.


    Get Involved in Advocating and Organizing for Adult Education Nationally.

    Join the National Coalition for Literacy. Sign up today for our free e-newsletter. Get email alerts on how you can impact adult education issues at the federal level. Or sign up to get text alerts sent directly to your phone.

    Save the Date for these Webinars. Sean Abajian will be a panelist in Advocacy Strategies for Challenging Times:

    • Advocacy Strategies for Challenging Times: Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 4:00 pm ET

    Going to COABE? Join us at these sessions.


    Written by Patty Rasmussen, |  Three Former Teachers Take on the System

    Friday, July 15 2011  ::  It’s said that experience is the best teacher. In the case of the forthcoming new book, A Culturally Proficient Society Begins in School, the authors – all former teachers – take that adage and multiply it, times three.

    Highly accomplished and respected educators in California, Carmella Franco, Maria Ott, and Darline Robles, draw upon their similar life experiences to inform their thesis – that cultural proficiency must be addressed in schools in order to equitably educate and transform not only students but also teachers, communities, and the rest of society.

    They have the credentials to make the case.

    After many years in the classroom, Franco worked her way up to become superintendent of Whittier City School District, where she served for 12 years. After a brief retirement, she now serves as a state trustee, appointed by the California State Board of Education, to oversee Alisal Union Elementary School District, an academically failing district in Monterey County.

    Ott also worked as a classroom teacher and made her way up the administration ladder, serving five years as the senior deputy superintendent to Roy Romer in the Los Angeles Unified School District. For the last six years, Ott has served as superintendent of the Rowland Unified School District, a district rich with ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic diversity.

    Robles was the first woman and first Latina ever to serve as county superintendent of schools for the Los Angeles County Office of Education, the country’s most populous and diverse county, which served 80 school districts with more than two million students from preschool to high school. She left that position in August 2010 to become a professor at the University of Southern California charged with developing a master’s program for school leaders. In early 2011, Robles was named to President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

    “We were having dinner one night commiserating over the challenges of the job,” recalls Franco. “We each had unique situations we were dealing with and overcoming, and we said, ‘You know, we need to write a book someday. We need to get these stories out there.’” That was five years ago. The book, published by Corwin Press, will be available in September, just as school gets back in session. And it’s not a stuffy textbook or academic treatise.

    Three Former Teachers Take on the System

    <<Carmella Franco

    “I think anyone can pick up this book and find wisdom and practical knowledge.” says Franco. “It’s relevant for anyone who works with children, in particular children where there are high needs. And we all faced it, personally. We’re all Latina. My coauthors and I grew up in situations that weren’t always ideal. We didn’t have material things, yet our parents came through for us. That’s been the driving force. (Readers) can look at three careers and how they happened.”

    “Cultural proficiency” is a term that’s been around awhile. Randall Lindsey, author of numerous books on the subject, defines it as “the policies and practices at the organizational level, and values and behaviors at the individual level, that enable effective cross-cultural interactions among employees, clients, and community.”

    The business community often uses the phrase “diversity training,” and the two terms have been used interchangeably. But cultural proficiency goes deeper, attempting to transform or move the organization and individuals from viewing cultural differences as problematic to appreciating differences and learning how to interact effectively with other cultures.

    There are few environments as diverse as a school system. They reflect the community in terms of race, ethnicity, economics, and ethos. In particular, the approach a classroom teacher takes when addressing those differences between students can last a lifetime.

    Ott tells a story of being a first grader with the surname “Gutierrez.” The teacher wrote and pronounced it, “Gunzer.” Ott cried, confused that her teacher could be wrong. Not fluent in English when she started school, Ott remained intimidated about expressing herself correctly. It wasn’t until high school that a sensitive English teacher changed her perspective about the language, breaking down the barrier of fear by encouraging her, telling her she was a good communicator.

    But the paradigm shift of cultural proficiency goes both ways. “Growing up, my center was my grandmother’s home,” says Robles. “We didn’t have lots of different ethnic groups coming to my grandmother’s home; it was pretty much our family and neighborhood friends. But I went to school with Caucasians, African-Americans, Japanese; I had friends who were biracial. School was where I experienced exposure to other cultures. For me, cultural proficiency did begin at school because, as in my case, the community (I lived in) and my home didn’t provide it.”

    Leaders of school systems are instrumental in identifying the need to address cultural proficiency systemically and then supporting their principals and teachers in the transformation process.

    Three Former Teachers Take on the System

    Maria Ott>>

    When Robles was hired as superintendent of schools in Salt Lake City, the system was bracing for major changes in its demographic. One of the first things she did was to provide professional development to the staff. “We were fortunate to get a grant and spent six years, three days a year, with full staff involvement, looking at what do we need to get ready for this (change),” she says. “Over time they realized they were missing (the cultural proficiency component). They were excellent teachers – excellent, if a certain population was in their classroom.”

    Robles encouraged teachers to look at things as basic as homework practices. “If I know I’m going to have students in my classroom whose parents only speak a different language and I want the parents involved I’m going to have to give them homework where the parents can help,” she says. “I can’t just give them the workbook in English where no one can help them. So what can I do to set up that support for the student? Is there a homework activity at school with tutors available to help them? Could I change my homework assignment for this group of students so the parents can be involved verbally?”

    Franco listed key components to achieving cultural proficiency, including setting high expectations for student achievement, encouraging parental involvement, having visionary school leadership, and keeping good teachers and getting rid of the bad ones. In her current role as a state appointed “guardian” for an academically poor school system, Franco sees heartening glimmers of hope.

    “I believe that every parent can be a support and a role model,” she says. “For example, where I am as a trustee in the Salinas Valley, the children of the farm workers see their parents going to work every day. They’re seeing the value of hard work; that their parents will do everything they can to see that their family is provided for. That’s how they’re setting an example. They’ll come home after working in the fields all day and still go to a night meeting at the school. I’ve seen them, and we encourage that.”

    Ott leads a system of more than 15,000 students; 63 percent are Latino. In 2008, the system began partnering with the Ball Foundation, a nonprofit organization that develops and funds literacy initiatives. “They’ve worked with us to build a system characterized by a collaborative learning style,” she says. “Collaboration is built upon an understanding of others and openness to hearing and learning from others, whoever that ‘other’ is. The core of their work has been to build a strong learning environment in our school district to promote literacy and produce exceptional outcomes for all children whatever their background.”

    The collaboration component is also an essential ingredient in professional development and the advancement of the goal of cultural proficiency. “The day-to-day work in the classroom is challenging and often done in isolation,” says Ott. “In our system, we’ve built ‘communities of practice’ where teachers come together and work in teams. We believe collaboration is the foundation for adult learning that translates into the learning environment in our classrooms. Cultural proficiency is the lens through which we look at the organization and everything we do. What we do is important, but how we do it may be even more impactful.”

    Three Former Teachers Take on the System

    << Darline Robles

    Even in the enlightened 21st century, the concept of cultural proficiency can be a hard sell. “Based on their perceptions of others, people sometimes have ideas about student potential,” says Ott. She and her coauthors talk about the importance of starting the “courageous conversations,” opening up about attitudes regarding race, ethnicity, gender, and other ways people are labeled as it relates to student achievement and value.

    “If it was as simple as putting a textbook in everyone’s hands and teaching our students the standards that our state requires, why do we continue to have the gaps in achievement?” Ott asks. “Why do we continue to face the very painful issue of why certain segments of our U.S. population are not fully participating in society and are not getting the education they need to be productive and successful?”

    Despite the sometimes contentious political climate permeating many institutions including education, Ott is optimistic. “I think that the country is more ready for the conversation than they’ve ever been,” she says. “Maybe, because of our fiscal crisis, we’re aware of our vulnerabilities and want to make sure our citizens are succeeding, beginning with the youngest ones going to school.”

    Robles cites a more pragmatic reason to embrace cultural proficiency. “Our economic future depends on it,” she says. “Think about our pocketbooks. If doing it because it’s right doesn’t cut it, economically, we have to do it. The world is shrinking. If I’m not able to work with diverse groups, different styles, this country isn’t going to make it.”

    Pat RasmussenPatty Rasmussen is an Atlanta-based freelance writer. She spent 12 years covering the Atlanta Braves for ChopTalk Magazine and has written for Major League Baseball publications, Georgia Trend magazine, WebMD, and Blue Ridge Country.


    ●●smf: I do not know Carmella Franco, but I do know Dr. Ott and Dr. Robles – and they are both impressive women and powerful educators. They have taught me things and I’m a challenge  …easily distracted by sparkly, shiny things and anything other than what I should be doing.. I should be doing something  other than writing this. 

    I am looking forward to reading this book.