Monday, September 30, 2013




A Southern California student uses an iPad to create an animated cartoon story in a 2011 file photo. In Monterey County's Pacific Grove Unified School District, voters will be asked to pay for such technology with a $28-million bond. (Mark Boster, Los Angeles Times)

September 29, 2013, 10:02 p.m.  ::  A small Monterey County school district has come up with what it considers a novel approach to paying for classroom technology: voter-approved, short-term bonds.

Taxpayers in the Pacific Grove Unified School District will be asked in November to pay for the technology — such as tablets for students and teachers — with a $28-million bond strictly designed for such uses. The money would be spent in intervals over time, such as every three to five years. The idea is to create a funding stream to replace worn or obsolete technology as needed.

Moreover, each time money is used, it would be paid back over a short period — to match the relatively short life span of the product, and also to limit the amount spent on interest.

As with similar voter-approved measures, these bonds would be repaid through increases in property taxes.

Supt. Ralph G. Porras said the idea has met with strong local support, even from a taxpayers' organization that has opposed past bond measures.

"In our community, people are obviously concerned about spending wisely," Porras said. "We talk with people about the ideal classroom: what it looks like, and also about how that will shift and change."

"They get it right away," he said.

Pacific Grove has about 2,000 students and would work with a local committee, with representatives from various groups, on how best to spend the money. The school system has various types of computers and would have to determine its technology needs.

Other districts have spent bond funds over a period of years for technology. The difference in Pacific Grove is that officials presume their technology will become out of date quickly and they're planning for it with their proposed bond spending.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, by contrast, the cost of an ambitious project to equip all students with iPads is being bundled with school-construction bond projects that property owners will pay off over decades.

Critics have castigated the school system for paying long-term for a short-term product, but so far no serious legal challenge has emerged.

But there's also the matter of how to pay for whatever follows the iPads.

Los Angeles and other school systems have not developed "a system of replenishment," said Dale Scott, whose firm structured the Pacific Grove bond proposal. Instead, many school systems "dump money in on a one-time basis with no plan for what would happen in three, five, seven or 10 years."

L.A. Unified chief information officer Ronald Chandler has talked of savings that could be applied toward future technology, such as a diminished need for photocopiers and printers.

District officials also have discussed the potential for new funding from an improving economy and an expectation that future devices would be less expensive.

In large measure, the school system hopes to rely on money that would have been spent on hardcover textbooks, Chandler said at a L.A. Unified meeting last week. But he conceded that currently there are "no restrictions on how much can be charged for digital texts."

L.A. school board member Monica Ratliff said the school system needs to better plan for the future.

"These devices will be obsolete at some point," Ratliff said. "The question is when."

Porras said part of a district's sound planning includes preparing for uncertainty.

"Technology changes too quickly," he said.


By Carrie Marovich, SI&A Cabinet Report – News & Resources

Monday, September 30, 2013  ::  Districts that slashed jobs for teacher librarians in recent years may soon regret that decision – especially as schools in California transition to the Common Core standards, which put new emphasis on students developing good research skills.

“We have many schools, districts, and some counties in California that have no teacher librarians at a time in education history when our kids, our state, and our country desperately need them,” said Glen Warren, a certified teacher librarian from Orange Unified. “Their expertise is crucial to the transformative implementation of both 21st Century Skills and Common Core State Standards.”

Given the enormous number of layoffs experienced by school librarians since the onset of the recession, it may appear that these information specialists are considered non-essential personnel on California campuses. But a close look at Common Core, with its emphasis on information literacy, may be challenging that assumption.

The Common Core standards for English language arts were adopted by California in 2010 and are currently being implemented in California schools. They call for students to be adept at accessing, evaluating and using content from a diverse range of sources. In today’s media-saturated society, learners must be able to assess information gleaned from websites, blogs, newspapers, reference books, online videos and cable news.

And perhaps most importantly, students need to have some ability to discern the credibility of their sources.

“The internet is a lovely information resource,” said Connie Williams, a teacher librarian for the Petaluma City School District, “But it’s huge and chaotic, and kids need to be instructed on how to use it well.”

Students also have to learn to locate and use information that is not found online. “Local resources and purchased resources provide information that can’t be found on the web,” said Williams, a former president of the California School Library Association. “It’s important for kids to know that there are many places to find information and how to evaluate it once they find it.”

While information of all kinds is available in excess both online and in traditional settings, finding a certified librarian to teach students what to do with that information isn’t so easy.

In the five-year span ending in 2012, California lost more than a third of its teacher librarians and media teachers to budget cuts, according to statistics from the California Department of Education. In their place, many schools hired clerks or library technicians. But critics point out that classified personnel do not have the teaching experience and training of a fully-certified librarian.

“Teaching the skills: information literacy, cybersafety, digital citizenship and literacy skills are all a part of the teacher education that teacher librarians receive in their credential,” Williams said.

In California, the teacher librarian credential can be earned only by fully credentialed teachers who complete additional coursework to earn their credential for librarianship.

A recent study of school libraries in Pennsylvania found that students at schools with full-time librarians score better in reading and writing on assessments of state standards than those without. Further, research has shown the guidance of a trained librarian can make a distinct difference in test scores for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Hiring a teacher librarian will go a long way to mitigate the effects of the poverty we’re finding more and more of,” Williams said, noting that low-income students generally lack access to both books and digital material at home.

The work of a teacher librarian extends far beyond helping students locate the information they need. Often, they teach students, teachers and administrators how to use technology tools for organizing information, preparing bibliographies, and creating presentations.

Parent education programs on literacy and cybersafety also fall under the purview of these information and technology specialists.

According to Warren, as school districts move more deeply into the implementation of the Common Core standards, they are going to feel the need to have at least one person on campus who has been trained as a teacher librarian.

“The Common Core is trying to assess if a child knows how to get new information and process it in a way that shows they know how to evaluate sources of information and integrate it into their learning,” Warren said. “So we’ve got to have somebody out there who knows what they’re doing.”

DIANE RAVITCH & THE REIGN OF ERROR TOUR IN L.A.: Oxy on Tuesday, CSUN on Wednesday, both at 7PM


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Reign of Error: A Talk with Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch will be giving a talk about her new book, "Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools." 


Ravitch is a research professor of education at NYU, and a prolific writer, who is internationally acclaimed for her expertise on past and present education. As Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander from 1991 to 1993, she led the federal effort to promote the creation of voluntary state and national academic standards. Subsequently she revised her thinking on these issues and is now the most well-known critic of efforts to promote vouchers, charter schools and high stakes testing, as she discusses in her new book.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Education on the Edge Speaker Series: Diane Ravitch

7:00pm to 8:00pm

Northridge Center, University Student Union

Cost: Free

The Michael D. Eisner College of Education presents the "Education on the Edge" speaker series.

Former Assistant Secretary of Education and author of the best-seller: The Death and Life of the Great American School, Diane Ravitch, Ph.D.

Dr. Ravitch will be speaking on her new book, The Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.

  • Location: Northridge Center, University Student Union
  • Wednesday, October 2, 2013, 7-8pm

This event is FREE. Register online at

Note: Parking passes are required and may be purchased for $6 at any campus information booth. For more information on this speaker/performer, please visit

THE CHARTER SCHOOL MISTAKE: 'Reforming' schools by giving tax money to corporations is a distraction from the system's real problems — poverty and racial segregation.

Op-Ed By Diane Ravitch in the L.A..Times |

Charter school

Students look for their classrooms on the opening day of instruction at the Westchester Secondary Charter school. (Los Angeles Times / September 3, 2013)


October 1, 2013  ::  Los Angeles has more charter schools than any other school district in the nation, and it's a very bad idea.

Billionaires like privately managed schools. Parents are lured with glittering promises of getting their kids a sure ticket to college. Politicians want to appear to be champions of "school reform" with charters.

But charters will not end the poverty at the root of low academic performance or transform our nation's schools into a high-performing system. The world's top-performing systems — Finland and Korea, for example — do not have charter schools. They have strong public school programs with well-prepared, experienced teachers and administrators. Charters and that other faux reform, vouchers, transform schooling into a consumer good, in which choice is the highest value.

The original purpose of charters, when they first opened in 1990 (and when I was a charter proponent), was to collaborate with public schools, not to compete with them or undermine them. They were supposed to recruit the weakest students, the dropouts, and identify methods to help public schools do a better job with those who had lost interest in schooling. This should be their goal now as well.

Instead, the charter industry is aggressive and entrepreneurial. Charters want high test scores, so many purposely enroll minimal numbers of English-language learners and students with disabilities. Some push out students who threaten their test averages. Last year, the federal General Accountability Office issued a report chastising charters for avoiding students with disabilities, and the ACLU is suing charters in New Orleans for that reason.

Because they are loosely regulated, charter schools are often neither accountable nor transparent. In 2013, the founders of

an L.A. charter with 1,200 students were convicted of misappropriating more than $200,000 in public funds. In Oakland, an audit at the highest-performing charter schools in the state found that $3.8 million may have been misused when the founder hired his other businesses to do work for his charters.

Charter schools are "public" when it is time to claim public funding, but they have claimed in federal court and before the National Labor Relations Board to be private corporations when their employees seek the protection of state labor laws.

In Los Altos, a group of wealthy people opened a boutique charter school for their own children. Parents are asked to donate $5,000 per child each year. Local public school parents consider the charter to be an elite private school, albeit one primarily funded with public dollars.

Of course there are honorable, well-run charter schools that provide an excellent education. This newspaper's editorial board cites independent research that shows students in L.A. charters do better than they would in L.A. Unified schools. But many other studies show that charters in general are no more successful at the task of educating children than public schools if they enroll the same kinds of students.

As large as the gulf can be between charter cheerleading and charter reality, it doesn't represent the greatest danger of these schools. They have become the leading edge of a long-cherished ideological crusade by the far right to turn education into a consumer choice rather than a civic obligation.

Abandoning public schools for a free-market system eviscerates our basic obligation to support them whether our own children are in public schools, private schools or religious schools, and even if we have no children at all.

The campaign to "reform" schools by turning public money over to private corporations is a great distraction from our system's real problems: Academic performance is low where poverty and racial segregation are high. Sadly, the U.S. leads other advanced nations of the world in the proportion of children living in poverty. And income inequality in our nation is larger than at any point in the last century.

We should do what works to strengthen our schools: Provide universal early childhood education (the U.S. ranks 24th among 45 nations, according to the Economist); make sure poor women get good prenatal care so their babies are healthy (we are 131st among 185 nations surveyed, according to the March of Dimes and the United Nations); reduce class size (to fewer than 20 students) in schools where students are struggling; insist that all schools have an excellent curriculum that includes the arts and daily physical education, as well as history, civics, science, mathematics and foreign languages; ensure that the schools attended by poor children have guidance counselors, libraries and librarians, social workers, psychologists, after-school programs and summer programs.

Schools should abandon the use of annual standardized tests; we are the only nation that spends billions testing every child every year. We need high standards for those who enter teaching, and we need to trust them as professionals and let them teach and write their own tests to determine what their students have learned and what extra help they need.

Our nation is heading in a perilous direction, toward privatization of education, which will increase social stratification and racial segregation. Our civic commitment to education for all is eroding. But like police protection, fire protection, public beaches, public parks and public roads, the public schools are a public responsibility, not a consumer good.

Diane Ravitch is a historian of education. Her latest book is "Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools." Ravitch speaks tonight (Tuesday)  at Occidental College and Wednesday at Cal State Northridge, both a 7PM.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Reign of Error: A Talk with Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch will be giving a talk about her new book, "Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools."


Ravitch is a research professor of education at NYU, and a prolific writer, who is internationally acclaimed for her expertise on past and present education. As Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander from 1991 to 1993, she led the federal effort to promote the creation of voluntary state and national academic standards. Subsequently she revised her thinking on these issues and is now the most well-known critic of efforts to promote vouchers, charter schools and high stakes testing, as she discusses in her new book.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Education on the Edge Speaker Series: Diane Ravitch

7:00pm to 8:00pm

Northridge Center, University Student Union

Cost: Free

The Michael D. Eisner College of Education presents the "Education on the Edge" speaker series.

Former Assistant Secretary of Education and author of the best-seller: The Death and Life of the Great American School, Diane Ravitch, Ph.D.

Dr. Ravitch will be speaking on her new book, The Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.

  • Location: Northridge Center, University Student Union
  • Wednesday, October 2, 2013, 7-8pm

This event is FREE. Register online at

Note: Parking passes are required and may be purchased for $6 at any campus information booth. For more information on this speaker/performer, please visit


Kamala Harris' report says one-quarter of elementary students are truant, jeopardizing their academic futures and adding to school funding problems.

By Teresa Watanabe, L.A. Times |

Kamala Harris

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris says the truancy rate for elementary school students has reached a crisis level. (Brian van der Brug, Los Angeles Times / November 30, 2010)


September 30, 2013, 12:09 a.m.  ::  One out of every four California elementary school students — nearly 1 million total — are truant each year, an "attendance crisis" that is jeopardizing their academic futures and depriving schools of needed dollars, the state attorney general said in a report (follows) to be released Monday.

In her first annual study of elementary student truancy, Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris said school districts lost $1.4 billion in 2010-11 in state education dollars, which are distributed based on student attendance. Those losses amounted to $340 million in L.A. County, the report said, exacerbating the financial crisis in recent years that has resulted in deep cuts to school staff and programs.

"The California Constitution guarantees every child the right to an education, yet we are failing our youngest children, as early as kindergarten," Harris said in a statement. "This crisis is not only crippling for our economy, it is a basic threat to public safety."

Among counties, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo and Calaveras had the highest truancy rates — about 30% — last year. Los Angeles County's rate was 20.5%, with about 166,000 truant elementary students.

Among school districts, three of the five elementary campuses with truancy rates at 90% or higher were in the Pasadena Unified School District, where the overall truancy rate increased to 66% last year from 17% in 2008-09. Eric Sahakian, Pasadena's director of child welfare, attendance and safety, said "dramatic budget cuts" in staff handling attendance as well as financial hardship among families during the recession contributed to the district's elevated rates. The system has launched a new attendance improvement plan this year.

Los Angeles Unified's overall truancy rates also rose during the recession to 43% last year from 28% in 2009-10 and lost $126 million in state dollars this year. Part of the problem, district officials said, was the cut of nearly 30% of its specialized attendance counselors over the last five years. But under a program launched last year, the rates have started to decline.

State law, which requires children ages 6 to 18 to attend school, defines truants as those who are absent or tardy more than 30 minutes without a valid excuse three times in a school year. Those absent without a valid excuse for 10% of the school year are considered chronically truant and at high risk of academic failure.

One 2011 study of 640 California children found that only 17% of students chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade were reading at the third-grade level by then, compared with 64% of those who attended regularly. More than 250,000 elementary students were chronically truant in 2011-12, the report said.

Harris' interest in the issue was sparked when, as San Francisco district attorney, she found that a disproportionate number of criminals and crime victims were high school dropouts whose academic failure began much earlier, said Brian Nelson, special assistant attorney general.

But some community advocates were wary about the deepening participation of law enforcement in truancy issues. Ashley Franklin of the Community Rights Campaign, a Los Angeles organizing effort to minimize such involvement in schools, said legal threats to truant parents or their students would have a negative effect.

Harris and others say law enforcement can make a difference, however. When Harris began sending notices informing parents they could be subject to criminal penalties if they don't send their children to school, truancy rates fell 40%, Nelson said.

The L.A. city attorney's office and L.A. Unified send a similar letter to all families at the start of the school year.

But officials stressed that prosecution is a last resort. The Los Angeles County district attorney's office prosecuted only four parents in the last year — including one Los Angeles man who refused to send his three children to school for at least three years — but has assisted more than 3,400 families in 350 schools through its Abolish Chronic Truancy program, said Lydia Bodin, the deputy district attorney who heads it. Working with families to inform them of the consequences of excessive absences and connecting them to needed help, officials say they have reduced truancy by more than half in selected elementary schools.

L.A. Unified is also shifting from a punitive to supportive approach, said Debra Duardo, the district's executive director of student health and human services. A new program particularly focusing on kindergartners and ninth-graders — whose truancy rates are highest — features close monitoring of attendance data, parent meetings, and increased use of incentives and services.

Harris' report calls for similar strategies, noting the need to support families struggling with key causes of truancy: poverty, homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse.

Such supportive approaches offer the best chance for progress, said Elicia Frank, a Los Angeles paralegal and single mother of a son who became chronically truant in high school and dropped out. Frank said she went through cycles of poverty and homelessness. She did not always have the money to buy clothes for her three children, one reason her son began to balk at attending class, and they frequently switched schools because they often moved.

Eventually, Frank got back on her feet — and so did her son, after she got help from educators, social workers, community activists and law enforcement. Israel, 20, is studying for a high school equivalency degree and found a job as a soccer and crisis prevention coach.

How California should deal with truancy

The solution is straightforward: Hold accountable everyone who bears responsibility for getting kids to school.

Op-Ed By Arne Duncan and Kamala D. Harris |

South Gate school

Truancy is a problem that affects young elementary school children in addition to older students, say Arne Duncan and Kamala D. Harris. Above, students gather for morning assembly at Montara Avenue Elementary School in South Gate. (Los Angeles Times)

September 30, 2013

Millions of desks sit empty in elementary school classrooms because of truancy each year, costing schools billions of dollars, wasting public resources and squandering one of the country's most precious resources: its young people.

We tend to think of truancy as something that starts in junior high or high school, but nationwide, about 1 in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students miss a month of school each year due to absences. In California, you could fill Staples Center 13 times over with the 250,000 students who missed 18 days or more last year. About 1 million elementary school students in the state were truant — defined in California as three or more unexcused absences or tardies — during the 2012-13 school year.

Not surprisingly, students with high rates of unexcused absences fall behind. And teachers at schools with high truancy rates find themselves forced to teach the same material again and again.

Chronic absenteeism is especially damaging to disadvantaged students, who are already at higher risk of falling behind their peers academically. Missing school widens achievement gaps, and catching up can be difficult. Students who are truant in elementary school are more likely to be truant in middle and high school, when truancy is closely linked to an increased chance of a child dropping out.

Dropouts cost states billions in incarceration, lost productivity and lost tax revenues. Studies project that increasing graduation rates by just 10 percentage points would lead to as many as 3,000 fewer murders and nearly 175,000 fewer aggravated assaults nationwide.

The solution to truancy? It's straightforward: Hold accountable everyone who bears responsibility for getting kids to school.

School districts already have the tools, as well as the legal responsibility, to intervene when a child is truant. And it's clear that intervention helps. Truant elementary students whose attendance improves are half as likely to drop out in high school compared with students whose truancy continues or worsens.

School districts have long taken daily attendance, but they need to use the information they gather to create an early warning system that identifies children who are frequently absent. School administrators should contact guardians immediately when a child is truant and insist on a meeting to find solutions.

As needed, schools should connect families with social services, public health and community resources to address underlying problems. Parents must be held accountable, and law enforcement should support interventions that educate and bolster struggling students and parents. The business community should be enlisted to help create incentives to improve attendance, like rewards for schools and families with improved attendance.

California is one of only four states (along with New York, Colorado and Illinois) that does not collect individual student attendance data at the state level. That should change. These data are crucial for states to hold schools and districts accountable. Every state needs systems to track truancy, connect attendance to academic achievement and, where there are warning signs, intervene swiftly.

At the federal level, the Department of Education has invested in the revitalization of communities through its Promise Neighborhoods program, and improving attendance has been a core strategy for some grantees. One of the department's largest investments in innovation is helping to expand a national program for at-risk students, which has improving attendance among its key goals. Other grants support school counselors and the creation of more positive school climates. And low-performing schools receiving federal funds to turn themselves around have commonly put resources toward reducing chronic absenteeism. All of these approaches can serve as models if they prove successful.

On Monday, a diverse group of local, state and federal leaders will meet in Los Angeles to discuss a new report by the California Department of Justice, "In School and on Track." It can be found online at, and will be updated annually to measure and compare the progress of California's counties and school districts.

The report provides a window into truancy's toll on the nation's economy, public safety and children. If state and federal leaders work together — alongside schools and parents — we can stop this waste of potential and get our children to class on time, every day. The price we pay otherwise is just too high.

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education. Kamala D. Harris is attorney general of California.

  • REPORT: +IN SCHOOL/ON TRACK: Attorney General's 2013 Report on
    California's Elementary School Truancy & Absenteeism Crisis


By Howard Blume, L.A. Times |

L.A. Unified takes back iPads

Students at Theodore Roosevelt High School use iPads. The tablets were taken back until the L.A. Unified School District strengthens security measures. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / September 17, 2013)

September 30, 2013, 4:53 p.m.  ::  Los Angeles school officials have taken back iPads from students at Westchester and Roosevelt high schools and possibly other campuses as well until further notice, the latest fallout from student hacking of the devices.

The move is the latest complication in the early stages of a districtwide rollout that will provide an iPad to every student as part of a $1-billion technology plan.

Staff at Roosevelt in Boyle Heights and students at Westchester confirmed that the $700 tablets were taken back Friday by school officials. But a Roosevelt teacher said only about two-thirds of about 2,100 tablets were returned.

A week ago, district administrators were scrambling to respond when they learned that students skirted security measures that were intended to block free browsing of the Internet. In interviews, students said they had been disappointed at their inability to get to social networking and music streaming sites. Their work-around involved a couple of clicks — and soon hundreds of students were reaching any website they wanted.

The district tally of hackers was 260 students at Roosevelt, 10 students from Angelou Community High School in South Park and 70 at Westchester High. The numbers could be higher, based on reports from students and employees at the campuses.

The district did not respond immediately Monday afternoon to questions about students having to surrender the devices.

Rather, officials focused instead on the issue of when students could take them off campus again.

"We don't have a firm timeline on when students can take the devices home yet," spokesman Thomas Waldman said in a statement. "We are working with Apple to develop a solution. In the meantime, our team is working with each school to assist them with options for allowing students to use the devices at their school only."

Last week, officials said that security was only an issue off-campus and that the devices could and would be used at school.

But on Friday, students were directed to turn in the devices indefinitely.

"They carted them out of every classroom in sixth period," Westchester senior Brian Young said Monday after school. "There has been no word of when they’ll be back."

He added that teachers were talking about the possibility that the tablets might not return until late December, although administrators were making no such predictions, he said.

At Roosevelt, "we don’t know when or if we will able to use the iPads again for classroom instruction — this week, this semester or this year,” said Lisa Alva, the coordinator for academic services to low-income students.

The administration told her that it had collected only about two-thirds of the iPads from students by the end of school Friday. If that's true, then many students also may have been violating the recent instructions to keep the iPads on campus.

L.A. DISTRICT OFFICIAL ADDRESSES ISSUES RELATED TO HUGE CONTRACT FOR APPLE COMPUTING DEVICES “…the district ‘forced a marriage’ between Apple and the education publishing giant Pearson…”


By Benjamin Herold, Education Week |

collection logo

The Los Angeles Unified School District is providing iPads to students like Tiannah Dizadare (smiling as she works with classmate Avery Sheppard) at Broadacres Avenue Elementary Schools in Carson, Calif. Proponents hope an emphasis on technology will boost achievement and give low-income students new opportunities. Skeptics have questioned the financing of the multimillion-dollar project. —Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times/AP

Published Online: September 30, 2013/Published in Print: October 2, 2013  ::  The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District approved a $30 million contract with Apple Inc. in June, for the first phase of a roughly half-billion-dollar effort to provide all 660,000 students in the district with their own iPads by the end of 2014.

But what is all that money actually buying, and how did Los Angeles Unified and Apple strike their headline-grabbing deal?

Education Week recently reviewed thousands of pages of documents about the contract, which helped provide important context for a telephone question-and-answer session with the architect of the groundbreaking agreement: Mark Hovatter, the chief facilities executive for the Los Angeles district.

Two important points about the deal stand out:

  • Los Angeles Unified isn’t just purchasing devices. Mr. Hovatter described how the district “forced a marriage” between Apple and the education publishing giant Pearson, resulting in a package deal that means each new tablet will come preloaded with Pearson’s brand-new Common Core System of Courses. The intent, said Mr. Hovatter, is to “completely and dramatically change the way we deliver instruction to our students.”


  • The district’s contract with Apple, it turns out, is for only three years, even though the initial request for proposals called for a five-year agreement. The shift saved LAUSD nearly $282 million, but it means that the warranties and replacement guarantees for each iPad, the district’s license to use Pearson’s curriculum, and the training and support offered by both companies will all expire in July 2016.

Skeptics of the deal, including John Mockler, an educational consultant and former executive director of the California state school board, question the wisdom of making a massive purchase that has multiple big objectives and such a quick implementation timeline, especially given that the Los Angeles district will be financing the three-year technology effort as part of a bond initiative that will take more than two decades to completely repay.

Such purchases, Mr. Mockler said, “can be bold, or they can be big failures.”

Mr. Hovatter, though, made clear that the initial rollout of 30,000 iPads in 47 schools, already underway, is not a pilot project. He said that Los Angeles school officials are “absolutely convinced” that going all-in as quickly as possible “is the right thing to do.”

Marrying Device and Curriculum

Los Angeles Unified is paying significantly more for its new iPads with retina displays than consumers pay for a similar product off the shelf: $678.58 per tablet (after volume rebates), compared with about $499 at an Apple store.


Mr. Hovatter, though, bristled at the comparison, noting Los Angeles Unified’s “high standards” for “content, durability, warranties, security features,” and more. Indeed, the district’s request for proposals included 32 minimum requirements for the device’s hardware, 15 such requirements for the device’s functionality, nine requirements for its applications, and a long list of “non-negotiables” about everything from connectivity to the mix of 5th grade reading selections the curriculum must contain. The district actually decided against less expensive proposals from Apple that would have involved either an older-model iPad or curricular content from multiple providers.

But for Mr. Mockler, it’s that merging of device and curriculum that is the cause for most concern.

Los Angeles Unified, he said, “hasn’t used this technology for the purpose they’re now using it for, and the content hasn’t been tested in Los Angeles with L.A. kids, under L.A. circumstances.”

Education Week: Why purchase devices and curriculum as part of a single massive contract?

Hovatter: We wanted one system. Would you buy your engine and car separately? You can always second-guess the risks. It’s also risky to do two things independently and hope they fit together and work well.

We have one mission as a district, and we would like to have one source of accountability to achieve that, rather than having the software people pointing fingers at the hardware people [and vice versa]. So we forced a marriage between the two [vendors].

EW: How did you weigh the relative importance of the device itself, the content included on the device, and other factors when reviewing bids?

Hovatter: Certainly, the content was important. But as it turns out, the three [vendors] on the short list were all proposing the same [Pearson] content. There was a consensus that this was the best. So the devices themselves, their sustainability and security and durability, the support team, the training that was offered, the accessibility [of vendor staff] when we do have questions, all were important.

Shortening the Timeline

Apple’s initial bid for iPads preloaded with Pearson content, operating under a five-year contract, came out to $1,125 per device, meaning it would have cost Los Angeles Unified a total of $743.6 million to purchase devices and content that would be guaranteed until 2018.

District officials, though, were taken aback by that price tag, as well as other similarly expensive bids they received. Ultimately, Mr. Hovatter said, district officials made a difficult decision: to offer their finalists, Apple and San Diego-based Arey Jones, the opportunity to submit revised bids for three-year projects.

EW: During the procurement process, Apple’s proposed price point dropped almost 40 percent, from $1,125 to $678.58 per device. How did that happen?

Hovatter: Our goal was to have [the device] guaranteed for five years [including providing replacements for lost and damaged devices]. Nearly all of the proposers saw that as a significant risk, so they basically doubled their price. They were bidding it as if they were going to have to provide two devices for every student.

EW: Aren’t there some serious risks associated with limiting the contract to three years?

Hovatter: We would have loved to have a 10-year guarantee, but that’s not provided throughout the industry, and it would have been exorbitant to do. We will have to re-evaluate and make some arrangements to have [the curriculum] continued [past 2016].

Sunday, September 29, 2013



“I’m taking the answers to your questions with me as I leave!”  -or- Who knew we’d miss Jaime Aquino so soon?

The Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee Meeting of Sept 24, 2013

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Common Core Technology Project Ad Hoc Committee - September 25, 2013


A College Board report finds that scores remain steady for high school seniors in reading, math and writing. Minority representation was the highest in history.

By Stephen Ceasar, LA Times |

SAT scores stagnant

Visitors walk on the UCLA campus in Westwood. The College Board has reported that fewer than half of the students of the high school class of 2013 who graduated were prepared for the rigors of college. (Anne Cusack, Los Angeles Times)


September 28, 2013, 6:46 p.m.  ::  The average SAT scores for the high school class of 2013 remained stagnant from the previous year and fewer than half of the students who graduated were prepared for the rigors of college, officials said.

Average SAT scores for high school seniors nationwide stayed steady in reading, math and writing, according to a report released last week by the College Board, the New York-based nonprofit that administers the SAT and Advanced Placement program.

The combined average SAT score of 1498 was the same as last year; a perfect score on the three-section test is 2400.

In California, the combined average score of 1505 dropped two points from last year and 12 points from 2010.

Perhaps more telling, only 48% of test takers reached the "SAT Benchmark" — a score of 1550 that indicates a 65% likelihood that students will obtain a first-year college grade-point average of B- or higher, according to the College Board.

Students who reach that threshold are more likely to enroll in a four-year school and complete their degree, the College Board said.

In high school, the students who surpassed the benchmark were more likely than their peers to have completed a curriculum of four years or more of English and three years or more of math, natural science and social science.

They were also more likely to have taken honors or Advanced Placement courses.

College Board President David Coleman said that expanding rigorous course work in schools is the only way to improve the rate of college readiness.

"We must dramatically increase the number of students in K-12 who are prepared for college and careers," Coleman said. "Only by transforming the daily work that students do can we achieve excellence and equity."

There was, however, the highest representation of minorities among test takers in history.

In 2013, 46% of those who took the test were minorities, up from 40% in 2009.

African American, American Indian and Latino students made up 30% of test takers, up from 27% in 2009.

In California, 57% of graduating seniors — 234,767 students — took the exam, the highest number ever for the state.

Nationwide, participation has dipped slightly since 2011 for the SAT.

Meanwhile, a rival college entrance exam, the ACT, has seen a steady rise in participation since 2003. About 54% of graduating seniors nationwide took the ACT, up from about 40% in 2003.

In California, 26% of graduates took the exam, up from 15% in 2003, according to ACT officials.

Stagnant 2013 SAT® Results are Call to Action for the College Board

Expanding Access to Rigorous Course Work in K–12 Is Critical to Delivering Opportunities to More Students

College Board Press Release |


NEW YORK — With our country struggling to compete in a global marketplace and millions of skilled jobs left unfilled here at home, it is essential to ensure that our students are prepared for college and careers. However, data released today by the College Board reveals that only 43 percent of SAT® takers in the class of 2013 graduated from high school academically prepared for the rigors of college-level course work. This number has remained virtually unchanged during the last five years.

"While some might see stagnant scores as no news, we at the College Board consider it a call to action," said College Board President David Coleman. "We must dramatically increase the number of students in K–12 who are prepared for college and careers. Only by transforming the daily work that students do can we achieve excellence and equity. The College Board will do everything it can to make sure students have access to opportunity, including rigorous course work."

The SAT Benchmark and College Readiness
The College Board developed the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark to help secondary school administrators, educators, and policymakers evaluate the effectiveness of academic programs in order to better prepare students for college. The SAT Benchmark score of 1550 is associated with a 65 percent probability of obtaining a first-year GPA (FYGPA) of B- or higher, which in turn is associated with a high likelihood of college success.

Studies show that students who meet the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark are:

  • More likely to enroll in a four-year college. 78 percent enrolled in a four-year college or university, compared to only 46 percent of those who did not meet the benchmark.
  • More likely to complete their degree. 54 percent earned a bachelor’s degree within four years, compared to only 27 percent of those who did not meet the benchmark.

The students who met the benchmark in 2013 shared a number of other critically important academic characteristics that must be expanded to all students if our nation is to make meaningful gains in educational attainment.

Students who met the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark were:

  • More likely to have completed a core curriculum. 84 percent completed a core curriculum (defined as four or more years of English and three or more years each of mathematics, natural science, and social science or history), compared to 69 percent of those who did not achieve the SAT Benchmark.
  • More likely to have taken honors or AP® courses. 63 percent took an honors/AP English course; 59 percent took an honors/AP math course; 56 percent took an honors/AP natural science course; and 61 percent took an honors/AP social science/history course, compared to 29 percent, 21 percent, 20 percent, and 25 percent, respectively, of those who did not achieve the SAT Benchmark.
  • More likely to be ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class by GPA. 55 percent reported being in the top tenth of their class, compared to only 17 percent of those who did not achieve the SAT Benchmark.

SAT Participation Among Underrepresented Students

In 2013, there were gains in SAT participation by underrepresented minority students. Among SAT takers in the class of 2013, 46 percent (762,511) were minority students — the largest percentage ever and up from 40 percent (635,730) in the class of 2009.

  • African American, American Indian, and Hispanic students comprised 30 percent of all SAT takers in the class of 2013, up from 27 percent five years ago.

There was also an increase in the percentage of African American and Hispanic SAT takers who met or exceeded the benchmark in 2013.

  • In 2012, 14.8 percent of African American SAT takers met or exceed the benchmark. That rose to 15.6 percent in 2013.
  • In 2012, 22.8 percent of Hispanic SAT takers met or exceeded the benchmark. That rose to 23.5 percent in 2013.

However, despite these significant gains, the need to expand access to rigorous course work among underrepresented minority students is critical. College Board data shows that underrepresented minority and low-income students are less likely to complete a core curriculum, less likely to pursue more advanced honors or AP course work, and less likely to report a GPA equivalent to an A.

Expanding Access to Opportunity to More Students
The College Board, in collaboration with its members in the K–12 and higher education communities, is working to break down the barriers that prevent students from realizing opportunities. The College Board is currently using evidence-based practices to drive measurable outcomes for students in the following areas:

Access to rigorous course work: With the knowledge that students who meet the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark are also more likely to have taken honors or AP courses, the College Board is working with its partners to expand access to AP for students across the country. Last year alone, more than 300,000 students in the graduating class of 2012 who had been identified as having the potential to succeed in an AP course did not take one. The College Board is also working to find ways to expand access to the PSAT/NMSQT®, currently one of the strongest predictors of AP success. This will help to identify even more students with the potential to succeed in an AP course.

Giving low-income students a fair shot at college: The College Board wants to ensure that students who have succeeded in high school recognize their potential for college. More than 50 percent of high-achieving low-income students attend less selective schools where they are less likely to graduate and earn a degree. To date, the College Board has produced and sent nearly 7,000 packets of customized college information to high-achieving low-income students in the class of 2014. The goal of this work is to ensure that these students have the necessary information to help them more effectively find the colleges that best fit their academic performance. Over 20,000 additional students are set to receive packets in early October.

Expanding access through fee waivers and SAT School Day: Taking a college entrance exam is a critical step on the road to higher education. That is why the College Board has remained committed to making its key programs affordable. Since 1970, the College Board has provided SAT fee waivers to low-income students for whom exam fees would present an undue burden in the college-going process. More students than ever are using SAT fee waivers. Among the class of 2013, 23 percent of SAT takers (387,748 students) used fee waivers, up from 17 percent five years ago. Among public school SAT takers, 28 percent (365,463) used fee waivers.

First offered in the spring of 2010, SAT School Day helps states and districts foster a college-going culture and increases access to college. Enabling students to take the SAT for free during the school day ensures that promising students who might otherwise face barriers to standard Saturday testing — such as part-time jobs or family responsibilities — do not miss out on a chance at the college-going process. This year, the SAT will be administered during the school day to all public school juniors and/or seniors in Delaware, Idaho, and the District of Columbia, and to students in more than 60 districts in 12 additional states.

Additional Information
For more information about the College Board’s work, please visit

The SAT is a college entrance exam used in the admission process at nearly all four-year colleges and universities in the United States. The content on the SAT reflects how well students can apply the reading, mathematics and writing skills and knowledge they have learned in high school that are important for success in college. Validity research shows that the SAT is a fair predictor of college success (defined in terms of grade point average, persistence, and degree completion) for students of all backgrounds and its effectiveness is intensified when used in conjunction with high school grades. SAT performance data illustrate that students who take rigorous courses in high school and do well in those courses are likely to perform well on the SAT. The SAT is administered nearly three million times a year at test centers in more than 170 countries. For further information, visit

The College Board
The College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, the College Board was created to expand access to higher education. Today, the membership association is made up of over 6,000 of the world’s leading educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education. Each year, the College Board helps more than seven million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success — including the SAT® and the Advanced Placement Program®. The organization also serves the education community through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators, and schools. For further information, visit

College Board Communications Office
(212) 713-8052

Saturday, September 28, 2013


By Richard Rothstein | The Economic Policy Institute

August 27, 2013

Press Releases |

News from EPI:  Education Goals of the March on Washington Not Yet Met - Proposals That Ignore Segregation and Inequality Are Doomed to Fail

August 27, 2013

The goal of racially integrated schools of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom has yet to be met. As a result, national efforts to raise the achievement of the most disadvantaged African American students have been impeded. In For Public Schools, Segregation Then, Segregation Since: Education and the Unfinished March, EPI Research Associate Richard Rothstein observes that the isolation of socially and economically disadvantaged African American students is increasing. Yet policymakers, Rothstein said, “have abandoned integration as a goal despite abundant evidence that it continues to be essential for closing the gap between white and black student achievement.”

As of 2010, African American students typically attend schools that are only 29 percent white, a decline from 1970 when African American students typically attended schools that were 32 percent white. As more lower-middle-class and middle-class African Americans move to suburbs, low-income African Americans are more likely to attend heavily African American and low-income schools, with damaging consequences for their lifelong opportunities. On average, African American students in segregated cities perform below nearly two-thirds of African American students nationwide and below nearly all white students nationwide.

Despite continued school segregation, African American student achievement has been rising steadily over the last 40 years, according to data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The achievement gap persists because the same social and instructional forces that have caused black student achievement to rise have apparently also caused white student achievement to rise.

The striking and steady improvement in disadvantaged students’ performance is inconsistent with the conventional claims of reformers that teachers of such students are poorly trained, have low expectations, and fail to exert their best efforts. However, Rothstein argues, African American children will never achieve educational equality unless we remedy their economic inequality and segregation. Attempting to substantially improve achievement, without economic equality and integration, is an impossible task.

“Organizers of the March on Washington were correct to stress how critical integration was to education improvement,” said Rothstein. “It is tragic that education reformers fail to see the disastrous impact school isolation is having on African American students, while they persist in futile denunciations of failing schools.”

Richard Rothstein – Public Schools Are Still Segregated

The Tavis Smiley Show  |

Richard Rothstein

A study published by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC indicates that public schools in the United States are more segregated for African Americans today than they were 40 years ago. Richard Rothstein, a senior fellow at the UC Berkeley School of Law and the author of the report, explains how education policy undermined integration efforts.




"It doesn’t matter whether the proponents of VAM/AGTare wealthy or powerful; they are still wrong,and they are pushing a teacher evaluation system that is at best meaningless and at worst dangerous to instruction"

By warren Fletcher, From the UTLA United Teacher |

The original version of this column was published in November 2011, before UTLA and LAUSD negotiated the 2012 Evaluation Agreement. UTLA was successful in those negotiations in rejecting LAUSD’s attempt to include student test score growth as a factor in a teacher’s final evaluation. That, unfortunately, has not dampened the enthusiasm of the VAM/AGT true believers, in L.A. and nationwide, who continue to promote this deeply flawed junk science.

I have been an English teacher in LAUSD for many years. I have always understood that my primary duty and loyalty must be to my students, first and last. Teaching is a profession; it’s not merely a job. At a very deep level, we all understand this. And the public understands this too. Parents and the community don’t expect that we will robotically “deliver” instruction to students. They expect that we will passionately advocate for their children and that we will speak up when the District tries to implement policies that will degrade the quality of instruction.

Individual VAM/AGT evaluation degrades instruction

As most of us know by now, LAUSD’s Academic Growth Over Time (AGT) bears a striking resemblance to the Value-Added Measurements (VAM) being pushed across the country. The long-term goal of VAM/AGT is to eventually tie teacher pay and teacher retention directly to student scores.

As educators, we all understand how a narrow and punitive system of numerical evaluation like VAM/ AGT can seriously degrade instruction and, as a consequence, hurt students. I mentioned earlier that I’m an English teacher. I know that if my pay, or even my continuance in the profession, were to be tied directly to my students’ annual CST scores, I would be under intense pressure to spend less time teaching writing and teaching literature; to spend less time teaching my students how to clearly express themselves and to understand complex written material; to spend less time teaching the actual skills that my students need and that their parents want them to develop for college or careers.

In a VAM/AGT environment, there is constant pressure to teach less and to reduce instruction to test prep. And that kind of pressure would apply to every teacher, regardless of grade level or subject field. Many of the people (including elected leaders) who push the hardest to link teacher evaluation directly to raw test score numbers are well intended. They believe that directly linking test scores to teacher employment decisions will transform all schools for the better. This belief is based on two obvious fallacies: first, that test scores are a direct and accurate (rather than approximate) measure of “student achievement”; and second, that attaching test score incentives and threats to teachers’ jobs will somehow “revolutionize” how teachers approach their teaching. People who believe these things are not evil—they’re just wrong. And it’s our job as professional educators to set the record straight.

Individual teacher VAM/AGT scores are virtually meaningless

The U.S. Department of Education is headed by Arne Duncan. Duncan is a strong proponent of VAM/AGT-type teacher evaluations. But Duncan’s own department has released studies showing that VAM evaluations of individual teachers consistently have an error rate of more than 25%. In other words, one-fourth of all individual teacher VAM scores will be flat-out wrong. That’s why the U.S. Department of Education recommends against using VAM scores for teacher evaluation decisions. Respected researchers from all over the country have rejected their use and have warned of their unreliability. An individual teacher’s VAM/AGT score, whether it was calculated by the District or by the L.A. Times, is virtually meaningless as an indicator of effectiveness or competence.

And speaking of the L.A. Times, it appears that they want to do another round of articles on teacher performance, once again accompanied by a searchable database of individual teacher scores, only this time, the data would be your individual AGT score. While UTLA is vigorously pursuing all legal channels to keep this data from being released, it is important to remember that any individual teacher AGT score is little more than a random and meaningless number determined through a formula that has been widely discredited.

While the obvious purpose of the last L.A. Times VAM series was the public belittling of public school teachers, it is important to remember that your or my individual “AGT number” is about as reliable an indicator of teaching quality as your or my driver’s license number. When we forget that, we empower the people who want to disparage our profession. It doesn’t matter whether the proponents of VAM/AGT are wealthy or powerful; they are still wrong, and they are pushing a teacher evaluation system that is at best meaningless and at worst dangerous to instruction. We have a duty to our profession and to our students to resist its implementation.

When any teacher starts to feel inadequate (or for that matter superior) because of something as meaningless as an individual VAM/AGT score, the enemies of our profession score a small victory. The advocates of individual VAM/AGT score evaluation all have one thing in common: They don’t know the first thing about quality teaching. You do. Never forget that.


By Valerie Strauss, Washington Post/Answer Sheet |

(David Paul Morris / Bloomberg)

(David Paul Morris / Bloomberg)

September 27 at 4:23 pm  ::  The $1 billion initiative by the Los Angeles public schools district to give an iPad to all 650,000 students and teachers for home use has hit a snag that, in hindsight, someone should have seen coming: student hackers.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times,  officials in the country’s second-largest school district stopped allowing home use of the iPads this week because high school students had hacked into the devices and used them for non-educational purposes such as tweeting, checking their Facebook accounts and streaming music.

No adult anticipated this?

School Superintendent John Deasy had pushed the initiative to spend about $1 billion to give every student and teacher in the system an Apple tablet to take home, with half the money going to pay for the devices and the other half to set up wireless networks at schools and other costs. The money is being funded by school construction bonds.

Students were supposed to use the iPads, each loaded with software designed by  Pearson Education and aligned to the Common Core State Standards, to do online lessons, read assignments and take exams. But within a week they figured out how to bypass the security lock and connect to the Internet, the Times report said.

The iPad initiative has proved controversial. Some critics said the school district was spending too much money on technology that might have little impact on student achievement. Others criticized the way the effort was being implemented; initially there was no money allocated to buy keyboards for the iPads, for example, and it’s still not clear how they will be funded.

The Times quoted from a memo sent by two senior administrators to the Board of Education and Deasy:

Outside of the district’s network … a user is free to download content and applications and browse the Internet without restriction. As student safety is of paramount concern, breach of the … system must not occur.

But it did, and students at one high school were freely explaining how they got past the iPad’s security system. Now school district officials are going to have to figure out how to salvage the $1 billion initiative that they didn’t really think through before implementing. Will they be held accountable?


Hacking by students and missing iPads are only part of the problem. Did anyone ask if the teaching software is any good?

By Steve Lopez, L.A. Times Columnist | problems surface with L.A. Unified's iPad program

Students at Theodore Roosevelt High School receive iPads as part of L.A. Unified's program. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / September 19, 2013)

September 28, 2013, 12:00 p.m.  ::  Don't worry, L.A. Unified officials keep telling us. The $1-billion program to give iPads to more than 600,000 K-12 students is going to work out fine.

Maybe. But so far, nobody at district headquarters gets any gold stars for the rollout.

Last week, students at Roosevelt High were almost instantly able to breach the wall intended to keep them from using the iPads as toys rather than tools. They simply deleted the personal profiles on their tablets and presto! A free pass to YouTube and Facebook.

As my colleague Howard Blume reported, the district initially said 185 students had broken through the wall, but soon the number was adjusted up to 260. Then an additional 80 students at two other high schools made monkeys of the L.A. Unified geniuses who approved the setup.

As one Roosevelt student explained, they had to do something. The problem with the iPads, as issued?

"You can't do nothing with them. You just carry them around."

Where do I begin?

Is that a case of lousy students, bad teaching, uninspired software or a failure to fully appreciate the challenge of convincing students the tablets are for education rather than recreation?

The Roosevelt story was followed by another Blume report that 71 iPads were "missing" from an early implementation program last year.

Let's just call them goodbiPads.

And speaking of what happens when the tablets leave campus, Board of Education member Monica Ratliff called it "extremely disconcerting that the parent and student responsibility issue has not been hammered out" when it comes to damaged or lost iPads, which cost almost $700 apiece. (Keyboards, an apparent afterthought, will cost the district an additional $38 million).

L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy has a lot to answer for. But these little snafus may be distracting everyone from bigger concerns about Deasy's determination to move faster than any other large district in getting every student wired.

One question is whether the educational software is any good, or whether everyone was so focused on the hardware that they forgot to scrutinize the separately purchased content?

Steve Zimmer, a board member, said he isn't ready to judge the software, but he agreed that he and other district officials may have had their eye on the wrong ball in making a huge financial commitment without more discussion.

There was "a lot of talk about the machine and…very little talk about software," said Zimmer, who was motivated in part by his conviction that tablets can serve as an equalizer in a district with so many disadvantaged students. He said he put faith in Deasy and the procurement process because "frankly we are not equipped as board members to micromanage."

I'd have to disagree with him there.

We're talking about a superintendent who's in a race to spend $1 billion, counting bringing Wi-Fi to classrooms. And let's not forget that Deasy was featured as a pitchman in a commercial for iPads, and Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino (who just resigned in a snit over the tech implementation) once worked for the parent company of Pearson, the firm hired to provide curriculum for the iPads.

So, yeah, do some micromanaging. Hold people accountable. Ask questions.

As in, what was so compelling about the Pearson proposal that L.A. Unified bought a product sight unseen?

Did the district do a thorough job of evaluating other software options, and is it too late to change course before committing millions on the next phase of the rollout?

Shouldn't there have been more public discussion, more teacher training and more information for parents, given that we're in the midst of a dramatic shift to digital material and an entirely new set of learning standards called Common Core?

I know teachers who believe the kinks will be worked out and the tablets will be an engaging and effective teaching tool. And earlier this year, I visited a Granada Hills high school where teachers and students in a pilot program were giving high marks to iPad instruction. (Of course, 69 of those iPads are now missing.)

But I got a closer look at the content on one of the iPads last week, and for all the hype about students taking a magic carpet ride into the future on these tablets, I missed the wow factor. One eighth-grade math lesson included a video of some guy on a treadmill going faster and faster, with a question about how to graph his movement. But no matter how you answered, there was no feedback, and no right or wrong answer.

"I wasn't that impressed," said Marina del Rey resident Karen Wolfe, parent of two L.A. Unified students. "I didn't think it was very engaging."

"A mediocre teacher with little training, and with a shiny new textbook, could do better than what I saw," said former teacher and school board member David Tokofsky.

Scott Folsom, a member of the oversight committee that supported using bond money for the technology despite reservations, now has concerns that extend beyond content.

"I remember Deasy said … last week that it was only 20% ready … and yet the contract called for it to be ready in September," Folsom said of the software. "We've only got a couple of days to go and it's not going to be ready. That's what really concerns me."

I'm with him after looking at another eighth-grade math lesson on one of the district-issued iPads that involves graphing a roller coaster's movement. Just when it might get interesting from an interactive standpoint, a message pops up:

"This digital manipulative (interactive) is not playable in this version of the Pearson Common Core System of Courses."

That'll get the kids excited, won't it?


LA Students Outfox Apple, Pearson and School Board

Alan Singer

by Alan Singer, ocial studies educator, Hofstra University in the Huffington Post |


09/27/2013 2:30 pm "Following news that students at a Los Angeles high school had hacked district-issued iPads and were using them for personal use, district officials have halted home use of the Apple tablets until further notice." - Los Angeles Times, September 25, 2013

It turns out students in Los Angeles really are smarter than school board members and two of Americans largest and most powerful corporations.

This school year the Los Angeles school district planned to start distributing iPads to all students in the district, the second-largest school system in the United States. Forty-seven school campuses across Los Angeles are scheduled to receive 640,000 iPads by the end of 2014. The initiative is ultimately supposed to cost $1 billion. The iPads come with a three-year warranty.

In August, 1,500 teachers from 47 schools received their own iPads and staff development to use for lesson plans, class assignments, homework and tests. The iPads came preloaded with software developed by Pearson Education that is supposed to be aligned to the national Common Core standards.

The iPads cost $678 each. They have a case and software, but no keyboard. The LA school district hired fifteen facilitators and paid for teacher training and technical support. Teachers will be provided with packaged lesson plans and material. Students are supposed to use their iPads to access online lessons, read digital texts, and take exams aligned with the lessons.

The purchase of the iPads was approved by the Los Angeles school board by a vote of 6-0 with one school board member abstaining because he owns stock in Apple. District Superintendent John Deasy did not participate in deliberations because he also is an Apple stockholder. School board member Tamar Galatzan declared the decision marks " an amazing adventure we're about to embark on . . . Nothing is perfect, but we've made the best choice possible."

Rejected bids were made by Dell and HP. All three finalists included Pearson Education software as part of their proposal. Apple claims there are nearly 10 million iPads already in schools today."

One week after students started receiving their iPads, students attending at least three Los Angeles high schools had figured out how to disarm a built-in security lock that was supposed to limit what they could do with the devices. This freed them to use the iPads to surf the Internet, send tweets, socialize on Facebook, stream music through Pandora, and who knows what else besides homework and school assignments. Student access to social networks and tweets will of course invalidate any of the online exams.

All the students had to do to trick the system was to delete their personal profile information and then they were free to use the iPads any way they wanted to. They can download their own programs and music onto the iPads and enjoy themselves while they are supposed to be rigorously and vigorously learning the Pearson way.

A different question, but I think an even larger question, is whether teachers should be using scripted online Pearson lessons and assessments. I do not remember any public discussion over whether Pearson should decide what gets taught in American schools.

When the news broke that students had unlocked iPad security, Los Angeles school Superintendent John Deasy declared that "As student safety is of paramount concern, breach of the . . . system must not occur." The School District Police Chief recommended to senior staff that the district delay further distribution of the devices because "once this hits Twitter, YouTube or other social media sites explaining to our students how to breach or compromise the security of these devices," it will be impossible to "prevent a 'runaway train' scenario."

Unfortunately, it appears that neither the school superintendent nor the head of security consulted with tech-savvy students before initiating the Apple-Pearson iPad rollout. Maybe Apple and Pearson should hire the L.A. students to test out their products. In the meantime, Los Angles officials explore ways to use the warranty to get their money back.

LA Times Mailbag |

L.A. Unified's high-tech train wreck LAUSD iPads

A student at Broadacres Elementary School in Carson, part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, experiments with his district-provided iPad's camera. (Bob Chamberlin / Associated Press)

September 28, 2013  ::  Leveling the technological playing field by giving all students — rich and poor alike — in the Los Angeles Unified School District an Apple iPad is a good thing, right?

It isn't so simple, readers are saying.

This week, The Times reported that some of the 47,000 who have received iPads so far have figured out how to disable their tablets' Internet firewall, allowing them to roam the Web for less-than-educational content. It was also reported that the district hadn't decided if parents or taxpayers would pay for accidentally lost or damaged iPads.

The several dozen readers who sent us letters have been unsparing in their criticism of the district. The reactions range from apoplectic (stunned and angered that L.A. Unified didn't work out these details) to snarky. As of Friday, no readers have said anything positive about the district's iPad rollout.

Here is a selection of those letters.

— Paul Thornton, letters editor

West Hills resident Teresa Nield says teachers saw this coming:

"Any classroom teacher will tell you that students will damage school supplies and equipment. These are children, after all.

"The district insists on feeding every elementary school student a free breakfast, desired or not, and throwing away the food that is uneaten. Officials contend that parents either cannot or will not feed their children breakfast. Why would they assume that parents would properly supervise the use and pay for any damage that occurs with an iPad?

"First, the school board must stop making expensive decisions based on advice from people who do not understand the classroom. Next, there should be a full public accounting of the history of purchase of these iPads. The taxpayers and the children they want to educate deserve to have the money spent effectively."

Ed Kaz of Oak Park makes the same point in one line:

"The district is also reporting that kindergarten students are breaking pencils and middle school students are refusing to eat their vegetables."

Cypress resident John Jung has a lesson plan for district officials:

"So L.A. Unified is trying to lock the barn door after the horse has been taken.

"First, the district didn't realize it would need to buy keyboards for the iPads. Then, it didn't foresee that some students would hack the tablets to use them for unauthorized Web surfing. Then it realized that some iPads will get broken or stolen, and now officials don't know if they can make the parents pay for the costs.

"It's time that L.A. Unified's top officials went back to school themselves."

S.R. Fischer of Los Angeles rethinks his generosity as a voter:

"It will be a very cold day in hell the next time I vote to increase my taxes to pay for any more school bonds, which the district is using to pay for the iPads. I don't understand how such

ineptness is now regrettably accepted as the new status quo."

Friday, September 27, 2013


By Kimberly Beltran | SI&A Cabinet Report – News & Resources

Friday, September 27, 2013  ::  In a signal to school officials that the Brown administration is unlikely to burden districts with additional compliance requirements tied to the new Local Control Funding Formula, the governor on Thursday vetoed legislation that would have conditioned the funds with new reporting and tracking mandates of English learners.

In rejecting AB SB 344 by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, Gov. Jerry Brown stood firm in his promise to apply the “principle of subsidiarity” – that is, giving local agencies authority to make their own spending decisions.

Brown also sided with critics of the bill – which included the California Teachers Association – who called the legislation premature given that the California State Board of Education is in the process of developing LCFF accountability regulations.

“This bill interferes with the work of the State Board of Education as it implements, through an open and transparent process, the Local Control Funding Formula,” Brown wrote in a veto message. “Moreover, it contains provisions contrary to the July budget agreement. For these reasons, I am unable to sign this bill.”

Brown’s reaction to the bill was being closely watched by the K-12 community, many of which have been anxious about exactly how the state board and the California Department of Education would translate legislative priorities and intent into hard and fast regulation.

As a result, there might be a sense of relief. The governor’s veto would seem to suggest his desire to have the LCFF regulations impose as light a burden as possible on schools while meeting the letter of the law.

That said, there remains significant support within the Legislature to tighten the accountability provisions within the LCFF.

Even though a major feature of the program is to provide state grants specifically to help schools and districts that serve large populations of English learners as well as other educationally disadvantaged students, critics have argued that it does not go far enough in ensuring districts will spend the money as the Legislature and the governor have directed.

Toward that end, Padilla, one of the Legislature’s strongest advocates for English learners, put forward his bill to expand the scope of annual external school audits to include analysis of whether funds delivered under the LCFF have been spent properly by local educational agencies on services for English learners and low income students.

The bill, which faced opposition from statewide school organizations during committee hearings in the final months of the session, called for districts to report as part of the LCFF accountability plan the participation by teachers, administrators and other staff in professional development and induction programs.

It would have lowered the student-population trigger for when districts must establish English learner parent advisory committees, and provided that county offices of education have parent councils on English learners as a condition of receiving LCFF money.

Finally, the bill would have prohibited districts from using unspent funds from the Economic Aid Program – money for disadvantaged students that has now been absorbed into the LCFF – for any other purpose than its original intent.

The LCFF gives local school boards far more control over spending decisions. But the LCFF also mandates new accountability measures that include requirements for districts to get input from parents and the community before money is spent and for school managers to use new indicators for tracking student performance.

Districts are also required to adopt accountability plans that detail how they will use the new state money to support disadvantaged students.

The state board is required to develop templates for the accountability plan by March 31, 2014. Districts must adopt the new plans by July 1, 2014.

Photo: ¿An empty bag?


Pearson bag


Mary Plummer | | Pass | Pass / Fail | 89.3 KPCC Fail | 89.3 KPCC

CalArts Summer Program - 7

Maya Sugarman/KPCC - Teachers John Stephens, left, and Debasish Chaudhury lead a class in North Indian music on Friday, Aug. 2 at Cal Arts.

September 26th, 2013, 1:45pm  ::  Only about a third of high school graduates reported taking an arts class or lesson in childhood, according to a new national survey out Thursday, but rates increased with more education.

More than half of college graduates - 59 percent - said they'd taken an art class or lesson in childhood.

The survey is the sixth of its kind from the National Endowment of the Arts, which partnered with the Census Bureau to produce the 2012 data.

The most common class was music lessons. Of adults who said they'd received arts classes as a kid, 36 percent reported playing an instrument, 19 percent participated in visual arts and 18 percent took an arts appreciation or art history class.

"This iteration of the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts is our most comprehensive look yet at the myriad ways art works for Americans," NEA Senior Deputy Chairman Joan Shigekawa, said in a statement.

The percentage of adults who reported participating in arts education through "classes, lessons, or through informal instruction (from friends, family tradition, or teaching oneself)" at some point in their lives was 56 percent.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, which serves about 650,000 Southern California students, does not provide arts education to all students. The district estimates students on average spend 2 percent of their K-12 careers learning about the arts.

Arts education is just one facet of the NEA survey. It also looked at attendance rates for art events and asked adults whether they read novels or poetry, among other things. The group said it'll release more results next year.

The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts was first conducted in 1982.

National Endowment for the Arts Presents Highlights from the 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts

nea: Highlights report: 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts |

The latest survey explores five areas of arts engagement

Cover image for 2012 SPPA Highlights Report


September 26, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC—How do Americans participate in the arts in the course of a year? What kinds of art forms and activities do they engage with, and in what numbers? The NEA investigates these questions and more in the 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA), the nation’s largest population survey of arts participation trends. Today the NEA released an initial report of the survey's findings. A more comprehensive report will be available in 2014.

“One of the most important things we can do as the National Endowment for the Arts is to understand how our nation engages with the arts,” said NEA Senior Deputy Chairman Joan Shigekawa. “This iteration of the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts is our most comprehensive look yet at the myriad ways art works for Americans.”

A Yardstick for Arts Engagement

The NEA has partnered with the United States Census Bureau six times since 1982 to conduct the SPPA. The 2012 survey asked a nationally representative sample of adults ages 18 and older if they had participated in five broad categories of arts activity in the past year: attending, reading, learning, making/sharing art, and consuming art via electronic media.

Within the arts attendance category, the survey collected data on performing arts events; art museums, galleries, and visual arts events; destinations with historic or design value; and movies. In the reading category, the survey measured reading rates for literature (novels or short stories, poetry, and plays), as well as reading rates for any book (fiction or nonfiction) outside of school or work. The art-making or art-sharing category gathered data on dance; photography; various types of music; film/video; the fiber arts; leatherwork, metalwork, and woodwork; scrapbooking; creative writing and books in general; the visual arts; pottery, ceramics, and jewelry-making; theater; and opera. The survey also asked about electronic consumption of books and literature, the visual arts, dance, theater, opera, and various types of music. In addition, the survey asked people if they had taken an arts class or lesson in or out of school, or had learned arts subjects through some other means.

For the 2012 survey, the NEA doubled the sample size in order ask more questions and discover new patterns of arts engagement. The NEA developed the new questions through dialogues with researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in the arts. Since the survey captures more art forms, it also captures more people who are participating in the arts.

Key Findings

This initial analysis of the 2012 SPPA shows that large segments of the U.S. adult population reported taking part in at least one kind of arts activity. A closer look at the data reveals subtle shifts in demographic and behavioral patterns that occurred since 2008, the previous survey year.

Art and Electronic Media

  • More than two-thirds of American adults (71 percent or 167 million) accessed art via electronic media, including TV, radio, handheld or mobile devices, the Internet, and DVDs, CDs, tapes, or records.
  • Music viewing and/or listening is the most popular form of media arts participation—whether on TV, radio, or the Internet. Fifty percent of adults used TV or radio to watch or listen to music, and 29 percent used the Internet to watch, listen to, or download music.
  • Mobile devices appear to narrow racial/ethnic gaps in arts engagement. Whether listening to music, looking at a photo, or watching a dance or theater performance, all racial/ethnic groups show roughly the same rates of engagement via mobile devices.

Attending Arts Events and Activities

  • Nearly half of the nation's adults (49 percent or 115 million) attended at least one type of visual or performing arts activity. Fifty-nine percent of adults attended at least one movie, an activity that increased substantially among most demographic subgroups.
  • Musical play attendance saw the first significant drop since the 1985 SPPA: a 9 percent rate of decline from 2008 to 2012. Non-musical play attendance fell at a 12 percent rate over the same period.  Museum-going also saw a decline: 21 percent of adults (or 47 million) visited an art museum or gallery in 2012, down from 23 percent in 2008.
  • Non-white and Hispanic Americans saw no declines in their arts attendance rates from 2008 to 2012; on the contrary, they even saw increases in some categories. In 2012, African Americans outpaced whites' attendance rates at jazz events.
  • Festivals show promise as entry points to the arts. One in four younger adults (ages 18-24) attended an outdoor performing arts festival in 2012, up from 22 percent in 2008. 

Art-Making and Art-Sharing

  • About half of the nation's adults created, performed, or shared art of various types. Social dancing is the most popular form of art-making or art-sharing; nearly one in three adults (32 percent) danced at weddings, clubs, or other social settings. Young adults and Hispanic Americans are the most avid dancers; 40 percent of 18-34 year olds and 36 percent of Hispanics reported social dancing.
  • One in four adults (26 percent) e-mailed, posted, or shared photography in 2012. One in five adults (21 percent) e-mailed, posted, or shared music. Fifteen percent shared their own photos, and 13 percent shared film or videos. Thirteen percent did photo editing, and 12 percent did photography for artistic purposes.
  • In this category, the fiber arts were among the most popular. Thirteen percent of adults reported participating in weaving, crocheting, quilting, needlepoint, knitting, or sewing in 2012. Twelve percent of adults played a musical instrument. Nine percent reported singing, either alone or with others, and 8 percent created leatherwork, metalwork, or woodwork.

Reading Books and Literature

  • More than half of American adults read a work of literature or a book (fiction or nonfiction) not required for work or school. However, adults' rates of literary reading (novels or short stories, poetry, and plays) dropped back to 2002 levels (from 50 percent in 2008 to 47 percent in 2012).
  • Older Americans (65 and older) now have higher rates of literary reading than any other adult age group. 

Arts Education

As of 2012, roughly half of all adults had experienced some arts learning at some point in their lives, whether through classes or lessons, in or out of school, or outside of formal instruction. But disparities persist by gender, race/ethnicity, and level of general education. For example, a college graduate is nearly twice as likely to have taken an art class or lesson in childhood than a high school graduate (59 percent compared to 32 percent). Meanwhile, adults of all racial and ethnic backgrounds reported similar rates of taking arts classes or lessons in the last year.

  • The most popular classes adults reported taking in childhood (in or out of school) were voice training or playing an instrument (36 percent), visual arts (19 percent), and art appreciation or art history (18 percent).
  • A new, more inclusive question about arts education reveals more arts participants than before. Fifty-six percent of adults reported that they received arts education at some point in their lives—whether through classes, lessons, or through informal instruction (from friends, family tradition, or teaching oneself). This compares to the 49 percent who reported having taken formal instruction (a class or lesson, in or out of school) at some point in their lives. The most popular informal learning experiences were voice training or playing an instrument (18 percent), dance (16 percent), photography or filmmaking (13 percent), and music appreciation (11 percent).    

Next year, the NEA will release a full report with in-depth findings including more geographic and demographic details for arts engagement among U.S. adults. Beyond today's highlights report, the entire survey questionnaire, raw data, and user's guide are available to researchers and the public at

The SPPA Challenge: Presenting Arts Data Artfully

Big data presents big challenges, and the SPPA is no exception. Consequently, the NEA is issuing a challenge to create interactive visualization tools to make the 2012 SPPA more accessible to the public. This challenge seeks to help researchers, academics, and the media explore and explain the reach of the arts in American life.  More than $20,000 will be awarded to select contestants; learn more when the SPPA Challenge goes live on September 30 at

NEA Art Works: Research Grants

The SPPA and its host survey instrument, the Current Population Survey, include a wealth of demographic information that can be mined for detailed characteristics of arts participants. Researchers are encouraged to analyze the SPPA through the NEA Research: Art Works grant program; the next deadline is November 5.

About NEA Research

The NEA is the only federal agency to conduct long-term and detailed analyses of arts participation. For more than 30 years, the NEA Office of Research & Analysis has produced periodic research reports, brochures, and notes on significant topics affecting artists and arts organizations, often in partnership with other federal agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The NEA is committed to extending the conversation about arts participation by making data available to both the research community and the public at large.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at

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Highlights From 2012 SPPA