Saturday, January 31, 2015


from the Brustein & Manasevit - Federal Update / via e-mail

From:  Michael Brustein, Julia Martin, Steven Spillan, Phillip Burgoyne-Allen
Date:  January 30, 2015

Senate Committee Holds Second Hearing on ESEA

This week, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held its second hearing on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), this time focusing on the support of teachers and principals.  While members of the Committee generally agreed that accurate teacher evaluations are important for improving the public education system, it appears unlikely that their version of an ESEA reauthorization will include specific requirements surrounding those evaluations.

During his opening remarks, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) referenced his work as Governor of Tennessee, during which he implemented a compensation system based on teacher performance.  Despite his support of such policies, he said he does not believe they should be enforced at the federal level, and that “finding a way to fairly reward better teaching is the holy grail of K-12 education…but Washington will get the best long-term result by creating an environment in which States and communities are encouraged, not ordered, to evaluate teachers.”

Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) said that States need ways to measure how educators are doing, but she is “wary of using them as the sole factor in setting salaries or using testing as the sole indicator in an evaluation.”  Rather, Murray believes the Committee should find ways to recruit and retain a diverse teaching force and ensure that successful teachers are working with the students who need them most.

Kentucky’s Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday, one of the hearing’s witnesses, said there needs to be an overhaul of the entire teacher and principal pipeline, including recruitment, preparation, evaluation, and professional development.  However, he thinks that States should lead this transformation, saying that “in order to create a system of support for teachers and school leaders, we as State leaders in education do not need review or approval from the U.S. Department of Education.”

Christine Handy-Collins, a principal from Gaithersburg, Maryland, emphasized that States and districts should be required to ramp up their recruiting and training efforts for principals working in low-income school districts.  Similarly, Seattle first grade teacher and National Education Association (NEA) member Rachelle Moore spoke in favor of improved recruiting and training programs for teachers.  She cited the Seattle Teacher Residency, a teacher-induction program that pairs novice teachers with experienced teachers for an entire year, as a proven example.

Meanwhile, Saul Hinojosa, Superintendent of the Somerset School District in Texas, focused on compensation models that award teachers with additional pay for their individual classroom performance, the performance of their students and school, and for taking on new leadership roles and responsibilities.  “We must recognize and reward teachers who accelerate student learning, take on the most challenging assignments, and serve in leadership roles, rather than basing teacher pay solely on years of experience and degrees earned,” he said.

Another witness, Dan Goldhaber, is the director of the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research at the American Institutes for Research and the director of the Center for Education Data and Research at the University of Washington, Bothell.  He was generally opposed to the compensation methods supported by Hinojosa, which he said have limited impacts on student achievement.  Rather, he cited evidence showing that higher permanent salaries reduce teacher attrition, leading to more experienced educators.

The hearing also exposed another major policy debate between Republicans and Democrats: Title II (preparing and recruiting teachers and principals) and Title IV (creating safe and healthy schools).  The reauthorization discussion draft circulated earlier this month by Senate Alexander would provide funding from Titles II and IV in the form of block grants and allow States to freely transfer funding from one to the other.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) spoke in opposition to the draft’s language, arguing that it would provide States with millions of dollars without requiring that they spend any of the funds on teachers.  “Maybe it will happen sometimes,” Warren said, “but nothing in this proposal requires States to spend a single dollar on teachers.”

In an interview after the hearing, Chairman Alexander was asked whether there might be room for negotiating with Democrats on that issue.  In response, he laughed and said, “That's a traditional difference of opinion between Republicans and Democrats.”

Questions from the Senators also returned to the topic of testing and accountability, which was the focus of the Committee’s first hearing last week.  At one point, Chairman Alexander asked Commissioner Holliday about his stance on the current testing regime and accountability measures.  Holliday said that he favors federally mandated annual assessments, but anyone who thinks that States cannot be trusted to implement their own accountability systems is “stuck in the 80s.”  He also referenced the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a federally-controlled standardized test given every two years in a variety of subjects, saying that it already provides “a treasure trove of data to hold States accountable.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who strongly criticized the number and quality of assessments in his home State at last week’s hearing, asked each witness to approximate how much standardized testing should be reduced.  The witnesses’ general consensus was that students should take about 50% fewer tests.  However, Dan Goldhaber said that reducing the current law's annual testing requirements would hinder the ability of States and districts to judge educator effectiveness.

The HELP Committee will meet again on February 3rd for a roundtable discussion focused on innovation in education at the State and local level.  Chairman Alexander said he still anticipates a completed markup of the reauthorization bill by March, but noted that the process is far from over.  “We have to go to the [Senate] floor for an extended period of debate and discussion.  Then we have to go to conference, and then we have to discuss it with the President.  So this isn't the final word.  This is step one.”

Lauren Camera, “Senate Ed. Panel Unlikely to Require Teacher Evaluations in NCLB Overhaul,” Education Week: Politics K-12, January 27, 2015.
Author: PBA

House Leaders Support Annual Statewide Testing

Last week, Chairman John Kline (R-MN) of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce said that he supports keeping annual assessments in a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  This week, he clarified his comment, underscoring that he supports consistent statewide testing, rather than a mix of State and local assessments.

According to Kline, maintaining ESEA’s current testing regime, under which students take annual math and reading assessments in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, is necessary to provide transparency for parents and local school boards.

Kline’s viewpoint is echoed by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), who was the chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee during the last ESEA reauthorization in 2001.

According to a Boehner spokesman, “The Speaker supports the House approach, which includes annual [statewide] testing, which was in the House bill last Congress and will be in our bill this Congress as well.”

While the testing debate has not yet been decided in the Senate, it appears that the House has made up its mind on the issue, and emphatically so.

Alyson Klein, “Rep. John Kline: Annual, Statewide Tests Give Parents, School Boards Transparency,” Education Week: Politics K-12, January 28, 2015.
Alyson Klein, “Speaker Boehner Supports Annual Tests in NCLB Renewal,” Education Week: Politics K-12, January 28, 2015.
Author: PBA


Senate Committee Passes ESRA Reauthorization

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions voted Wednesday to pass a bill to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA).  The legislation, known as the Strengthening Education through Research Act (S. 227), was adopted by the Committee through a voice vote – a sign of the bipartisan support for the measure, which had made significant progress through the legislative process but did not see final passage before the last Congress adjourned. 
While the bill largely preserves the structure of education research programs, it does make some modifications to the way data is shared and used, requiring the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to provide more timely access to its data, and requiring outcome-based decisions regarding continued support for regional educational laboratories and comprehensive centers.  It would also require ED to reduce the burden on States and ask NCES to collect data on a number of new items, including:

  • Secondary school graduation and completion rates;
  • Postsecondary education completion;
  • The supply of, and demand for, school leaders;
  • School safety that includes data on school climate and in- and out-of-school suspensions and expulsions;
  • Access to, and use of, technology to improve elementary and secondary schools; and
  • Access to, and opportunities for, adult education and literacy activities.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for approval.  It is still unclear whether the House will adopt the Senate version of the bill, or whether it will introduce its own bill and force both chambers to go to conference.  Given the lack of conflict over the bill, however, and the near-identical nature of the House and Senate versions in the last Congress, the former seems more likely. 
Lauren Camera, “Senate Education Committee Clears Education Research Bill,” Education Week: Politics K-12, January 28, 2015.
Author: JCM


Per-Pupil K-12 Spending Continues to Fall, Says NCES

Data released Thursday by the National Center for Education Sciences (NCES) says that national average per-pupil spending dropped in 2012 for the second year in a row.  Schools nationwide spent an average of $10,667 per student in 2012, a decline of 2.8% from the year before (after adjusting for inflation).

The size of the decrease varied from State to State, but thirty-seven States saw their per-pupil expenditures drop by at least 1%.  Wisconsin saw one of the biggest decreases, as funding dropped nearly 9% percent between 2011 and 2012.  Texas also saw a reduction of more than 8% in per-pupil expenditures.  NCES blames the decrease in funding at least in part on the end of federal stimulus funds, which provided billions of dollars in additional federal support after the 2008 fiscal crisis.  At the same time these funds were running out, many local governments saw State-level funding decrease as legislatures cut spending and property tax revenues decreased.

Some States did see increases in spending.  Vermont increased its per-pupil expenditures by 10% between 2011 and 2012, and spending in Delaware rose by nearly 6% over the same time period.

The NCES report is available here.


Emma Brown, “Nation’s per-pupil K-12 funding fell for second consecutive year in 2012,” The Washington Post, January 29, 2015.
Author: JCM


By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News |

North Hollywood High School, Thursday, January 22, 2015. North Hollywood High was one of 11 campuses prioritized by LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines for rehabilitation, as part of the plan to ask the Bond Oversight Committee next month for $4.2 billion. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

North Hollywood High School, Thursday, January 22, 2015. North Hollywood High was one of 11 campuses prioritized by LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines for rehabilitation, as part of the plan to ask the Bond Oversight Committee next month for $4.2 billion. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

01/27/15, 6:23 PM PST  ::  Five San Fernando Valley schools will be fast-tracked under Superintendent Ramon Cortines’ plan to renovate 11 campuses across the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The upgrades will bring additional classroom space, updated technology and the shine of a makeover, with details hammered out later this year in meetings with staff, students and parents. If all goes as planned, the projects should be completed in five years.

North Hollywood High School sits atop Cortines’ list. Built in 1927, the school has grand columns that stretch to wood-framed window panes, neatly tucked below Spanish roof shingles. From Magnolia Boulevard, the campus’ main building appears suited for the campus of an East Coast Ivy League university.

“It’s a really wonderful school,” Assistant Principal Carrie Schwartz said. “I love the architecture.”

But after passing through its grand entrance, there’s a hodgepodge of flooring and ceiling tiles from different eras depending on the room and hallway. Stained and frayed carpets contribute to a musty odor.

Below those unsightly but superficial problems lurk major deficiencies in essential systems.

A ranking of 59 schools conducted last year to prioritize the first round of bond spending put North Hollywood High at No. 1. Inspections of the roof, electrical, plumbing and other essential systems revealed the campus was “critical” with 61.7 percent of its systems deficient.

Board member Tamar Galatzan, who represents parts of the San Fernando Valley and four of the 11 fast-tracked schools, commended the superintendent’s efforts to speed up renovations.

“I just don’t want us to study everything to death,” Galatzan said. “We have students and teachers and staff in schools that need attention, and I’m confident the superintendent has taken all of that into consideration when making the priority list.”

San Fernando Valley schools up for renovations are North Hollywood High School, Grant High School, Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley, Cleveland High School in Reseda and Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies in Tarzana.

Rounding out Cortines’ list of 11 schools across LAUSD’s 933 campuses are: Huntington Park High School, Roosevelt High School, San Pedro High School, John Burroughs Middle School, Venice High School and Jefferson High School.

The 11 schools were chosen based on their earthquake safety, space relative to students, security and the number of so-called “portable” buildings.

“It is important that we act now,” Cortines wrote in a memorandum to the school board this month. “This work is well overdue and our students deserve better. District schools are aging and deteriorating and in need of significant upgrades and modernizations.”

The projects will primarily be paid for with Measure Q bonds. Voters authorized the $7 billion in borrowing more than six years ago, as a means to repair and upgrade aging classrooms, according to LAUSD’s Bond Oversight Committee website. The funding was later tapped to pay for iPads under a plan being investigated by the FBI and a federal grand jury for criminal wrongdoing in the contracting process.

Cortines will present his proposal to a school board advisory committee tapped to oversee bond expenditures, then faces an up-or-down vote in March by his elected bosses on the school board.

Preserving current academic programs and historical integrity will be of consideration in meetings to work out specific renovation plans with staff, students and parents to start later this year, said LAUSD’s facilities asset manager, Krisztina Tokes.

“We want to get feedback from the school sites as to what are the concerns they may see that we’re not aware of,” Tokes said.

North Hollywood High, which opened nearly nine decades ago with 800 pupils, has suffered from piecemeal efforts to accommodate far more students than intended. The roughly 2,800 students currently enrolled learn in a maze of portable buildings and bungalows erected behind the school. The roofs on the older bungalows rise and fall like waves — an indicator they need replacing — while more modern portables have short windows near their ceilings covered over with tinfoil, creating sun glare that makes it difficult to read projector screens. The necessity of these so-called “portables” belies their name, as they’ve become permanent fixtures at campuses with more students than space.

Without them, the cramped conditions North Hollywood High senior Jesse Lopez described would pack classrooms past capacity. But Lopez doesn’t think adding more space is the solution.

“They need smaller classes; there’s too many people,” Lopez said. “I remember last year we always had more than 40 people.”

This semester, Lopez only cited his second-period English class as crammed with more than 40 pupils. Former Superintendent John Deasy began class-size reduction efforts with increased state revenue last year. Cortines, who took over in October, has continued, moving to eliminate classes with more than 45 students starting this semester.

But there are perks to attending a charming old campus that has grown with its population. At North Hollywood High, learning in some of those bungalows means a view of the school’s agriculture program: a donkey, alpaca, pigs, chickens and rabbits. The animals, and lush gardens, are tended by students who earn credit both during and after school.

“All in all, we have a really wonderful, beautiful school with many nice things,” Schwartz said. “I’m sure whatever they do is only going to make it look that much nicer.”


●●smf’s 2¢

  • The plan to renovate campuses all over the District is not confined to these 11 schools;  these schools are just the 10 neediest according to priorities the District has been developing+fine-tuning since Measure Q first passed. We have to start somewhere. Jefferson is the exception, it was fast-tracked based on the added scrutiny it got as being the metaphoric iceberg in the MiSiS Crisis – and even then it only jumped from 12th or 13th in priority.
  • Nobody intends to “study anything to death” …though I would argue that study is a desirable thing in any educational enterprise. And as a BOC member I wish we had all studied the iPads program a little more conclusively.  (I'm not sure what “tapped” means in the story above – but no Measure Q money has been spent to date on iPads!)
  • Nobody has approved anything yet. As the article states, the Superintendent will present his proposal to the Oversight Committee in February and the Board of Ed for final approval in March. This is the flag being run up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes!
  • Board member Galatzan has had no more input into the process than any other of the seven;  indeed every effort has been made to keep the politicians+politics out of the prioritization process. To see how bad this can get you don’t need to read very deeply between-the-lines here: The LAUSD process is needs based.
  • However Ms. Galatzan will be appearing on the ballot in March and one can’t blame her for making noise and taking credit – whether or not it’s due.
  • Ms Galatzan was able promote and deliver six shade structures and a lunch shelter for schools in her district totaling $1,211,521 “to address school needs identified by Board District 3”  in action before the Oversight Committee last week …in time for approval by the board  before the election. In fairness, the other board districts had moved ahead with their similar projects long before now.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Transcript for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Telebriefing: MEASLES IN THE UNITED STATES, 2015

“I want to make sure that parents who think that measles is gone and haven't made sure that they or their children are vaccinated are aware that measles is still around and it can be serious. And that MMR vaccine is safe and effective and highly recommended.”


Press Briefing Transcript:

Thursday, January 29, 2014 at 03:30 E.T.


Please Note:This transcript is not edited and may contain errors.

OPERATOR: Welcome and thank you all for standing by. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode until the question and answer section of the conference. Today's call is being recorded.  If you have objections, please disconnect. I would like to turn the call over to Benjamin Haynes.

BENJAMIN HAYNES:  Thank you Holly. Thank you for joining us on the briefing on the U.S. measles outbreak. We are joined by Dr. Anne Schuchat, the assistant surgeon general, United States Public Health Service and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Dr. Schuchat will provide opening remarks before taking your questions.  I will now turn it over to Dr. Schuchat.

ANNE SCHUCHAT:  Thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. I want to talk to you today about measles and here's why. It's only January and we have already had a very large number of measles cases. As many cases as we typically have all year in typical years. This worries me and I want to do everything possible to prevent measles from getting a foothold in the United States and becoming endemic again. I want to make sure that parents who think that measles is gone and haven't made sure that they or their children are vaccinated are aware that measles is still around and it can be serious. And that MMR vaccine is safe and effective and highly recommended.  From January until January 1 until January 28, 2015, a total of 84 people in 14 states have been reported as having measles. Most of these cases are part of an ongoing large multistate outbreak linked to the Disneyland theme parks in California. CDC is working with state and local health departments to control this outbreak which started in late December.  Many of you know that in 2014, the U.S. experienced the highest number of measles cases we had reported in 20 years, over 600. Many of the people who got measles last year were linked to travelers who had gotten measles from the Philippines, where an extremely large outbreak of over 50,000 cases was occurring. Although we aren't sure exactly how this year's outbreak began, we assume that someone got infected overseas, visited the parks and spread the disease to others. Infected people in this outbreak here in the U.S. this year have exposed others in a variety of settings including school, day cares, emergency departments, outpatient clinics and airplanes. The information that we have is preliminary and the data are changing. We will be updating our website every Monday with the latest total counts. However, based on what we know now, we're seeing more adults than we have seen in a typical outbreak. Children are also getting measles. The majority of the adults and children that are reported to us for which we have information did not get vaccinated or don't know whether they have been vaccinated.  This is not a problem with the measles vaccine not working. This is a problem of the measles vaccine not being used.  Measles can be a very serious disease and people do need to be protected.  Measles spreads quickly among unvaccinated people and can spread quickly from state to state or around the world. We must insure that vaccination rates remain high among children as well as insure that adults receive MMR vaccine if they're not already protected against this virus. I want to briefly review the national measles situation this year and remind you about measles around the world as well as briefly go through the main recommendations for the vaccine.  Thanks to the strong immunization system that we have and high vaccination rate here in the u.s. we declared measles eliminated.  Measles continues to be brought into the country by people who get the disease when they're traveling elsewhere. They can spread the disease to others which can lead to outbreaks.  For several years after measles elimination, our numbers were very low.  Between 2001 and 2010, we saw a median of 60 reported cases of measles each year. In recent years, we have had a higher number of reported cases and as you can see in January alone we have had more cases and was the median for the last decade.  Measles is still common around the world and we estimate about 20 million cases each year. In 2013, about 145,700 people died of measles across the world.  Measles can come into our country easily through visitors or when Americans travel abroad and bring it back. It can be a serious disease for people of all ages, even in developed countries like the U.S. for every thousand children who get measles, one to three of them die despite the best treatment.  In the U.S., 28% of young children who had measles had to be treated in the hospital.  Measles can also result in complications. In children they can develop pneumonia, lifelong brain damage or deafness. Of course measles spreads when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes and people don't always know they are infectious because you can spread the disease before the rash is evident.  Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to the person who aren't immune will also be infected. You can catch it just by being in the same room as a person with measles even if that person left the room because the virus can hang around for a couple of hours. This year so far as I mentioned from January 1 through 28, 84 cases of measles have been reported to us at the CDC from 14 states. There are an estimated 67 cases since December 28, 2014, that are linked to the outbreak -- that are linked to the Disney land reports theme parks.  State and local health departments are investigating the large multistate outbreak related to the theme parks and the initial cases reported visiting the resorts between December 17th and 20th, 2014.  So far we know of 67 confirmed cases of measles linked to the outbreak and they have occurred in California and six other states.  We don't know exactly how this outbreak started but we do think it's likely a person who was infected with measles overseas visited the Disney parks in December while they were still infectious. This reminds us that measles exposures can happen in this country in many settings and insuring age appropriate vaccination for all U.S. residents is very important.  Maintaining high vaccination coverage is very important and it's the best protection we have against disease outbreaks. I'm urging all health professionals to think measles.  Health care professionals do need to know the guidelines for infection control and reporting of measles and they should work that their patients are getting the best protection possible which is on time MMR vaccination to protect them from acquiring this virus whether at home or abroad.  The news this year is concerning and serves as a warning that measles is still coming into the united states and that unvaccinated people can get exposed. These outbreaks the past couple of years have been much harder to control when the virus reaches communities where numbers of people have not been vaccinated and of course when the virus comes into the country and exposing people at venues where many people gather, the chances of exposure are greater. One in 12 children in the United States is not receiving their first dose of MMR on time.  That makes them vulnerable to get measles and spread measles.  9 5% of children are recommended to have received the measles vaccine on time. 17 states have less than 90% of children having received at least one dose.  This sets them up for risk of spread of disease in their communities and in their schools. It's not just young children that need to be up to date on their vaccines and we are starting to see more adults get measles and spread it. For adults out there, if you're not sure if you have had measles vaccine or not or if you have ever had measles, we urge you to contact your doctor or nurse and get vaccinated.  There is no harm in getting another MMR vaccine if you have already been vaccinated.  I do want to remind you that unvaccinated people put themselves others at risk for measles for complications. Young babies cannot get this vaccine but they are very vulnerable to measles and complications. Pregnant women and people with compromising conditions like leukemia can't get the vaccination and they are depending on others to have been vaccinated.  We hope pregnant women have been vaccinated as children but we are learning of some who have not been vaccinated so they have to be protected through other means.  This is not just to protect ourselves and our families but to protect the vulnerable people in our community. If a pregnant woman gets infected it increases the chance of many complications.  We don't recommend pregnant women receive the vaccination but they need to be vaccinated before pregnancy.  For travel abroad, we don't have the cut off of one year, but we recommend children six months and over get MMR vaccine before international travel to make sure they are protected when they go to parts of the world where measles is still circulating widely.  A key reminder about the routine MMR vaccinations.  The routine ones are for children to get their first dose at 12 months of age and a second dose between four and six years of age.  But it's fine for the second dose to be given earlier and doesn't need to wait until the four to six years of age.  And again for those adults and over that age, two doses are recommended for a full series.  This is a wake-up call to make sure we keep measles from regaining a foothold in our country protecting our most vulnerable babies and others by assuring everyone who can be protected from measles is appropriately vaccinated.  The very large outbreaks we have seen around the world often started with a small number of cases.  I have told you before that France went from about 40 cases a year to over 10,000 cases in a year.  It's only January and we have already had 84 cases.  Let's work together to keep these numbers down and to keep measles from returning to plague our communities.  Operator, i think we can go to the questions now.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  If you would like to ask a question, please unmute your phone, press star 1 and regard your full name clearly when prompted.  To withdraw your question press star two.  First question is from Eben Brown with Fox News Radio.  Go ahead your line is open.

EBEN BROWN: Thank you very much for doing the call today.  Doctor, what are -- a couple questions. One, how are our hospitals ready for this and did the need to further prepare hospitals during the Ebola situation late last year, will we have learned something from that with regard to taking care of measles parents should it become more prevalent? And how frustrating is it that there are these groups of people in the united states who question the effectiveness of the vaccine or potential side effect of vaccines and they don't vaccinate their kids or themselves when they grow up? And you know, because as you have mentioned, herd immunity aspects that seems to be working counter to that and there seems to be more and more people getting more and more air time if you will about not vaccinating your kids.

ANNE SCHUCHAT:  Thank you for those questions. We are so interconnected and the Ebola problem in West Africa has reminded Americans about health problems around and world and that our best protection is to fight outbreaks where they originate. The efforts to improve hospital preparedness do have relevance for measles. The importance of taking the travel history when people present with febrile illnesses. It's not just measles and Ebola. Very important to ask about travel history in anyone with fever or rash. A second issue is infection control.  We know with the Ebola concern and with measles that we really need strong infection control in hospitals. That starts with a clinical suspicion of illness, that illness can be spread from infected patients.  And we have seen times where there is hospital spread of measles and a huge effort is needed in the case of hospitals to make sure their workers are protected and to reduce the risk of spread whether it's in emergency departments or on the wards.  But you know there's a huge difference between Ebola and measles.  In measles we have a very safe and very effective vaccine that has been given for more than 50 years so there's an easy way for us to protect our hospitals and communities and I strongly recommend appropriate on time vaccination with the MMR.  It is frustrating that some people have opted out of vaccination. I think it's very important for people to have good information they can rely on about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and for our system to serve people in making it easy, efficient, and convenient to get vaccines. But we do have a number -- really a generation that has not seen these diseases. So whether it's clinicians who have never taken care of measles before or parents who wonder whether this disease still exists, I think it's important for us to educate them and remind them that we have safe and effective vaccines. Most parents are trying to do the best thing they can for their kids and most parents are vaccinating their children against all the recommended conditions.  But some parents have questions and those questions I hope we can answer and I do hope people can realize these viruses and other germs are out there still and our vaccines really are still needed.  Next question?

OPERATOR:  Our next question comes from Anna Edney from Bloomberg News.

ANNA EDNEY:  Hi.  Thanks for taking my question. Are you concerned that the outbreak could get a lot worse with the super bowl coming up in Arizona? We know there are cases there and people have been exposed that might not know it yet?

ANNE SCHUCHAT: We have cases of measles right now reported from 14 states so it's important for people everywhere to be on their guard. Very important for people to make sure their kids are vaccinated and if they are traveling abroad to make sure that they have been appropriately protected. Measles can spread in any setting, especially in places where many people are unvaccinated. I wouldn't expect the super bowl to be a place where many unvaccinated people are congregated. I know it's a highlight that many people are looking forward to this weekend.

ANNA EDNEY:  Are there any special precautions that you are taking just because it is a large event?

ANNE SCHUCHAT:  No -- no.  I think the main thing is that if people are having fever or rash, they need to let their doctor or nurse know about that and that clinicians caring for people with fever or rash need to think measles at this point and take a travel history and take appropriate steps.  I think people really need to know that you can get measles anywhere.  It's invisible.  And we have importations every year.  As i mentioned, 20 million measles cases around the year in the world. So measles is being acquired in a lot of different contexts. We happen to know that there was transmission at the large entertainment venue in California but we know that measles is also being acquired in the community, schools, and elsewhere. What we can do about that is make sure that people are being vaccinated appropriately.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Maggie Fox from NBC News.

MAGGIE FOX:  Thanks so much. Can you tell me a little bit about the hard epidemiology that is being done right now?  How many people are you doing contact tracing on?

ANNE SCHUCHAT:  Thank you for that question. I don't have the actual numbers of the work in progress because I think that the people doing the work in progress are so busy they haven't had a chance to put those numbers together this is a reminder that we are so dependent on the state health work force. They are diligently following up suspect illness to the laboratories are testing people to figure out whether it is measles or not and they are following up the contacts and trying to protect them if they recognize the context within a short period of time. They may be able to make sure they're vaccinated or that appropriate other therapies. This is a huge effort.  It's a big effort with 84 cases being followed up. We really don't want that number doubling and tripling or adding digits to it. So we really want people to be thinking about this now and if there are any questions whether your child is up to date or not, make that appointment.

OPERATOR:  Our next question comes from Erik German with Retro Report. Go ahead your line is open.

ERIK GERMAN:  Thank you. I just wanted to confirm you said at the top that there are 84 cases in 14 states but then later said there are 67 that can be definitely linked to the Disneyland theme park. I just wanted to know if the other additional cases are from somewhere else or if they just -- the link has not been established yet.

ANNE SCHUCHAT:  It's a mixture there are some that might be linked when further investigation is completed.  In a number of instances, we know of travel history or exposure to travelers from a number of other countries. So -- that have another source that is not the Disneyland theme park.  So I would say that so far this year we have a smattering of importations which is actually a greater number of importations than we usually would have in January, but the largest number is linked to the outbreak in California.

ERIK GERMAN:  And that number is 67?

ANNE SCHUCHAT:  Yes and let me clarify. The 67 people associated with the California outbreak includes Californians and people from six other states but it also goes back to December 28th, so it includes a handful of cases from 2014. 84 people i mentioned is the count from January 1.

ERIK GERMAN:  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Our next question comes from Mike Stobbe with Associated Press. Go ahead your line is open.

MIKE STOBBE: Hi. Thank you, doctor for doing this. Back on the numbers. Let me finish that off. You said there’s two time frames here. Of the 84 this year, how many of them are related to the California outbreak and also could you say a little bit more about the 67 confirmed cases? Were any of them in a country that had a recent measles outbreak? You mentioned there are more adult cases than usual. Could you say how many of the 67 were adult versus children and what proportion of the 67 were vaccinated? Did you say there were pregnant woman and how many pregnant women? What proportions have been hospitalized?

ANNE SCHUCHAT: Thank you. The reality is I won't have the answer to most of those questions. The ones that I can answer I would like to get correct. In terms of the outbreak that is related to the Disneyland resorts theme parks in 2015, there are 56 cases that are related to that and in 2014 there were 11. That's where the 67 comes together for the Disneyland issue. The adult and children issue, we don't have all of the details yet about the ages and so there is quite a bit that's pending. I think we will be…of course it is going to be important to put this together. The median age of cases has been increasing. It's over 20 right now. In terms of the hospitalization, so far for the information that we have, which is not on all 84 of these cases, 15 percent have required hospitalization and that is not that different than what we would typically see. I think it's too soon for us to know whether the whole clinical spectrum and severity for this outbreak for this year is going to be different because of the larger number of adults. You know, one question we get is why are we seeing it in adults? I think a good answer is most children are vaccinated. There are a lot more adults than children and adults travel a whole lot more than children do in general. But we will need to wait for the full statistics to come through. As you know, 50 years ago we didn't have a measles vaccine. Those of us who are over 50 were almost universally exposed to measles and got measles and became immune to it. Since then we have had more and more people in the U.S vaccinated and protected. We may be seeing a change in the epidemiology over the next few years and it's an important question. We do have an easy way to not have to get into those questions by just making sure that people are vaccinated and in particular we don't let ourselves get large communities with high levels of unimmunized people where the disease could be harder to control.

MIKE STOBBE: What about if any of the 67 have been to a country with a recent outbreak?

ANNE SCHUCHAT: The 67 -- we don't -- I guess your question is do we know a travel history that will help us understand where measles came from to get into Disneyland whether it's from an American traveling abroad or somebody from abroad visiting Disneyland. We don't have that information. We do know that the genotype of the virus that’s associated with the Disneyland outbreak is causing outbreaks in 14 different countries around the world. So the genotyping won't tell us the specific source yet. But -- and we don't have a travel history from the early case. There may be someone who was here and gone and will never know. But I think the investigation is ongoing. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Dan Childs with ABC News. Go ahead your line is open.

DAN CHILDS: Thank you very much for taking my question. It's sort of a two-part question. We took a look at MMR vaccination rates in the U.S. throughout the decade and they have stayed pretty stable throughout the last few years and definitely higher rates than we saw in the 90s. We saw that California doesn't have a rate -- they are not that far below the national average in terms of MMR. To what extent is this wholly attributed to the pockets of under vaccination and is it that these pockets are getting worse?

ANNE SCHUCHAT: That’s a great question. The national estimates hide what's going on state to state. The state estimates hide what's going on community to community. And within communities there may be pockets. I think we do have some communities with many who have not received vaccines and the -- five of those cohorts are increasing. It's one thing if you have a year where a number of people are not vaccinating, but year after year in terms of the kids that are exempting, you do start to accumulate. We may have a number of communities, but this also may just be that there was a big -- a whole lot of people around the virus in Disneyland and started quite a few individual chains that need to be followed up. We track coverage at the state level and the states track school entry MMR coverage. And things generally look good, but there are some schools and some school districts where things are a problem. I really appreciate the states that have been posting their school coverage data and their school exception data so community members have a chance to see what's going on. But as you see, the overall picture has been getting better, not worse. It's just the micro communities that we think make us vulnerable.

DAN CHILDS: And just one follow up if it's okay. Should we in light of this be revisiting the notion of non-medical exemptions and whether they should be allowed? Also, if we have time, I would like to know what the 14 states are where measles has occurred so far in 2015.

ANNE SCHUCHAT: For the states I think we can get you that in follow-up. It may not be efficient for me to read them off. We will get you them. In terms of the non-medical exemptions, medical exemptions are absolutely essential. A six-year-old with leukemia can do not get the vaccine. But when she is well enough to go back-to-school we really want to make sure that she's not going to get sick from others in the school. There is a reason for medical exemptions. It’s just absolutely essential in terms of not doing harm to a child. A number of states do have other types of exemptions. I know state by state they have been revisiting that sometimes states have made the exemption opportunities easier, sometimes they’ve made them harder. We know the easier it is to exempt, the more people will exempt. When states make it easier to get vaccinated than to exempt, we see higher rates of vaccination. I think it's just important for us to know that vaccines protect individuals and they also protect the vulnerable people around the people who have been vaccinated. Next question?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Rosanna Xia with LA Times. Go ahead your line is open.

ROSANNA XIA: Hi Dr. Schuchat. Thank you for taking our question. Real quick for the other non-Disney related 67 cases, are there any links that you have identified or are they individual cases per state from international travel?

ANNE SCHUCHAT: I believe most of what we are seeing is individuals. You know, of course these are active investigations, but and the incubation periods may not have been followed because it is only January 29th. It may be too soon whether they will be related cases. At this point California’s Disneyland related outbreak is the one we're following closely.

ROSANNA XIA: In your experience from looking at outbreaks, is the number of cases right now state to state from one specific epicenter like Disneyland, is this rate right now concerning? It seems slower than what a typical outbreak would be. Could you talk a little bit about how well officials are containing this outbreak or whether or not they should be doing more. 

ANNE SCHUCHAT: We have had outbreaks that are of variable sizes. If we look at the outbreaks going back to 2008, you know, a number of the outbreaks were only 20 or 30 cases total and we have already got 67 cases from this and we know the number is going to be somewhat larger at least.  The largest outbreak we had in recent years in the U.S. was related to the Amish community in Ohio.  That was quite unusual because it was a large population where vaccine use was very low at the time.  In most of these other settings, we are not seeing the virus introduced into a very large population with hardly any vaccination.  So, the situation here is that we know that already, a number of states are following up cases related to this and we really don't want chains of transmission to begin in those states or gain a foothold.  We don't expect this to be like thousands but we don't want to give it an opportunity to become that.  And again this cautionary tale that there are countries where they have started with 40 to 50 a year and gone to the many thousands in just another year.  We don't want to let that happen here.  We want people to realize they should be checking vaccine records and thinking about this before they travel. Next question.

OPERATOR: Next question comes from Betsy McKay from the Wall Street Journal.

BETSY MCKAY: Hi and thanks.  I have a couple of questions.  One is, again, on the cases which are not part of the Disneyland resorts outbreak that you said were -- looked like a smattering of importations.  Do you know what countries those are from and in particular, I’m wondering if the -- what you're see something more from the Philippines if that outbreak is still going on.  The second question or if not, is there a big outbreak going on someplace else in the world that is causing a larger number to come into the states right now.  And the other question was about vaccines.  There is a pretty sizable percentage it looks like in Disneyland outbreak who were vaccinated including something like 13% in California who had had two doses of the vaccine so I’m wondering, is there any indication or are you looking into at all into the possibility that vaccine effectiveness or immunity may wane with age?

ANNE SCHUCHAT: Thank you.  Let me read a few countries where we have a history to links of recent measles case with a different country of origin, not to say that the person was of origin of the other country but there was a travel history.  Indonesia, India and Dubai at a minimum and there is probably some additional ones that are under investigation.  That's for the 2015 importations.  So we don't have a definite Philippines travel history in any of our 2015 cases.  Of course last year there were a number of importations that were associated with the Philippines last year.  Now in terms of the vaccine history, the coverage of MMR is very high and the higher the coverage that you have, the more chances that you will have some fully vaccinated people get measles even though the vaccine is highly effective.  We think two doses is probably like 97 percent effective but if you have really, really high coverage, if 95 percent or more are protected you will get some people who are two-dose failures.  We're at too early a stage to measure whether there is a problem of waning immunity or some unexpected vaccine efficacy but based on what we have seen so far we are not suspecting that.  We like to keep an open mind and fully investigate but so far what we are seeing is consistent with a highly effective vaccine and a number of people that have not been vaccinated.  Next question?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Matthew Stucker with CNN.  Go ahead your line is open.

MATTHEW STUCKER: Thank you.  Can you tell me how many people have been quarantined or isolated in this outbreak and of those people, how many did have measles or became infected or who didn't become infected and also if there are still in people in quarantine or isolation?  And also just to go back to the super bowl thing, there is tons of contacts that are still being watched.  It didn't seem like a place where people with measles would be congregating, but i don't think that the people that went to Disneyland expected to get measles.  I'm wondering why there is no precautions being taken there, especially in phoenix where they are still trying to track down 200 people from that hospital.

ANNE SCHUCHAT: Thanks.  I don't have the number of people who are being followed up and interventions that are being recommended for those people.  What i can say is that if you have been vaccinated appropriate to age and are exposed to someone with measles, there is no special steps that need to be taken.  So the easiest thing for the public health departments and families who are traveling is to be appropriately vaccinated and to have documentation of that.  Certainly these are ongoing investigations in terms of what is being done.  We -- we don't have those numbers.  Now in terms of the super bowl, what i can say is that it's -- there are large public gathering in many places and they are cherished and valued events.  The important thing in terms of our usual recommendations is if you're ill, we recommend you not travel that you don't get on an airplane if you're sick or having fever.  Of course it's flu season.  We're seeing an enormous amount of people with illness right now and we are trying to suggest that people who are ill rest and stay away from others so that others can enjoy festivities.  And just a reminder with an event like the super bowl going on that good vaccination can keep you healthy and able to go to these kinds of events.  I think we have time for two more questions.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Jodie Tillman with Tampa Bay Times.

JODIE TILLMAN: the cases where the patients were not vaccinated, were some of them on the so-called alternative schedule where they didn't get their second dose -- had their first dose but delaying their second dose for whatever reason?  If so if you could talk a little bit about the risks of that strategy?  You do hear it sometimes from some of the parents.

ANNE SCHUCHAT: Thank you.  We do know that some of the reported measles cases this year had exempted from vaccines.  We don't have all the details yet to know what proportion had delayed vaccine.  We just, you know, had not yet gotten around to it yet versus who didn't want it.  We do know that the measles cases we have been seeing have generally been in people who have been unvaccinated and many of them not vaccinated due to personal belief exemptions.  We do have some cases where people were at the doctor's office and didn't get the vaccine because of another illness or something.  We recommend you should get vaccinated unless you have a severe illness.  In 2014, 79 percent of the unvaccinated cases of measles in the U.S. were unvaccinated due to personal belief exceptions.  Whether that data will hold up this year we don't know.

JODIE TILLMAN: Do you know, if they have got their children --

ANNE SCHUCHAT: That's a great question.  Because i have spoken to parents who think, oh, you know, 12 months, do i really want to get my baby vaccinated at that age?  Can't i just wait?  The reason that the MMR vaccination is recommended routinely at that age is because babies are vulnerable to measles and complications of measles and 12 months is the age where it reliably works well.  We would give it routinely earlier if it were highly effective at much earlier ages for instance, less than six months.  Between six and 12 months, measles vaccine will protect but it doesn't last that long and you need to give two more doses so we recommend in the setting of outbreaks or if you are traveling internationally babies between six and 12 months babies get a vaccine they will just need two more doses.  People who think my baby is too young to be vaccinated, that's when your baby is at a vulnerable stage.  The concerns that people had about whether the vaccine may not be safe or linked to autism have not borne out at all.  The MMR vaccine, very safe, very effective, really necessary.  And the 12 month routine first dose we strongly recommend.  As we look through cases we have seen a lot of cases in infants and toddlers who were planning to get it but didn't want to get it at the 12 month period and i would revisit that if that's your children that I’m talking about.  Last question?

OPERATOR: Last question comes from Lenny Bernstein from the Washington Post.

LENNY BERNSTEIN: I wanted to follow up on the 79 percent  Do you have any good data of the number of people, the percentage of people in the United States who have chosen not to get the vaccine?  Not the medical reason?  Personal beliefs?

ANNE SCHUCHAT: No.  In terms of the general population, we don't.  We have been tracking a number of things over time.  One of the things we have been tracks something the percent of infants and toddlers who get no vaccines at all.  There is a misunderstanding that when we talk about vaccine acceptance that everybody is dropped out of the system.  We continue to have less than 1% of toddlers in the u.s. have received no vaccines at all.  Almost every toddler is getting vaccinated with some vaccine most of the time.  We don't have data on, for the whole nation on exemptions.  We do track kindergarten entries every state.  And we report that every summer.  Our website has that information.  So state by state you can see what percent of kindergartners have gotten MMR vaccine as recommended and what percent are exempting due to medical or other exemptions.  That is a number that we are following.  Our effort has been to make the data easier to compare state to state and year to year.  Measles is still around with 20 million cases around the world and this year we're off to a bumper start.  I strongly recommend people make sure their children are appropriately vaccinated and that they are vaccinated before travel or are protected against measles.  Thank you for following the story and we will be updating our website on a weekly basis with the latest numbers.  And thank you to the state and local health departments that are working day and night to follow up on all of the cases.

BEN HAYNES: Thank you. This is going to conclude today's briefing. A transcript will be available at If you have questions contact the main media line. Thank you.  404-639-3286.

OPERATOR: This concludes today's conference.  Thank you for participating.  You may disconnect at this time. 



L.A. school board election politics equal gutter politics


Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times |


Bennett Kayser

L.A. Unified school board member Bennett Kayser, shown in 2011, is running for reelection. He was the subject of an attack ad paid for by charter school supporters. (Los Angeles Times)

Jan 30, 2015  ::  OK, kids, the L.A. Unified school board election is barely a month away, and you know what that means, right?

Let the gutter politics begin.

On Wednesday night, two out of three candidates in District 5 blew off a community forum that drew 200 people. As I explained in an earlier column, there was, of course, a political backstory involving the eternal clash between the teachers union and the so-called reformers.

LA school board candidates debate

Voters had hoped to hear a debate Wednesday night among the three candidates running for L.A. Unified's District 5 seat, but only one of the candidates, Ref Rodriguez, showed up. (Steve Lopez)

And now there’s plenty of buzz, and ruffled feathers, about a nasty attack on board member Bennett Kayser in a flier put out by charter school supporters.

The flier essentially calls him a bigot.


That’s the screaming headline on a vile, two-page missive in Spanish and English, and the flier includes a lovely photograph of five Latino children sitting forlornly on a curb, as if their world has been crushed by the cruel Caucasian board member.

Kayser condemned the ad, calling it garbage.

“Character assassination and bullying have no place in our school district; these people should be ashamed of themselves,” he said in a statement his staff sent me Thursday evening.

It was no surprise he felt that way, but the flier was so reprehensible, it was also condemned by board member George McKenna. He was listed on the flier as one of four candidates supported by the “Parent Teacher Alliance.” McKenna told me he didn’t know who that group is, did not ask for its endorsement, and did not want it.

“I am unequivocally opposed to it,” he said, adding that he has in fact endorsed Kayser. Friday morning, he issued a statement calling the flier “racially inflammatory” and asking the group to withdraw its support of him.

So what’s this all about?

Same ol’ same ol’.

Another chapter in a long-running war among forces that are incapable of constructive conversations, and compromise, in the interest of students.

image image


<< The Parent Teacher Alliance is in no way affiliated with the PTA – and that name may be a violation of PTA’s trademark protection.
<< “California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) Advocates advances the charter school movement through state and local political advocacy and campaign activity and works in close partnership with the California Charter Schools Association. The organization’s overarching strategy is to leverage the collective advocacy power of the growing charter school movement to achieve our primary objectives, including creating policy and political environments that are increasingly supportive of charter schools and their contribution to improving California’s public education landscape.” |


On one side you’ve got the so-called reformers who believe charters and tougher teacher evaluations tied to student performance are long overdue in public education. On the other side you’ve got teacher unions and other parties arguing that teachers are unfairly under attack, and the real culprits are lack of funding, the socioeconomic challenges of impoverished students, and heavy-handed administrators backed by billionaire agitators.

Kayser is a major ally of United Teachers Los Angeles, which is why the charter school proponents want to blast him out of office. The charter/reform folks would love to see him replaced by candidate Ref Rodriguez, a charter school operator.

And that’s certainly their prerogative, but shame on them for taking the low road. The flier is filled with distortions that are an insult to anyone who makes the mistake of reading it.

"Bennett Kayser has fought to reduce the number of Latino voters in his district,” is one of the charges. And here’s another: “Bennett Kayser tried to stop Latino parents from sending their children to better schools in white areas of the city.”

I’d call it childish, except that most children have higher standards and more integrity.

The flier says it was paid for by “The Parent Teacher Alliance,” with sponsorship and “major funding” by “CCSA Advocates Independent Expenditure Committee.” That’s the California Charter Schools Assn. and its cronies.

So what we’re talking about here is the shadowy world of undisclosed contributors to political campaigns, and we’re not likely to know exactly who put up the money for this flier until after the election.

I called a California Charter Schools Assn. representative to ask who’s doing the bankrolling and why the organization is resorting to such smutty politics, but no call back yet.

In the meantime, a word of advice:

Remove political fliers from mailbox and deposit in trash bin.

I’d say put them in recycling, but no, they belong in a landfill.


Will Huntsberry | National Public Radio Education |

The baggage we carry.

LA Johnson/NPR

IJanuary 30, 2015 7:08 AM ET  ::  n the education world, you see this phrase all the time: "free and reduced-price lunch." What's the percentage at a given school? In a given district or state?

It's not necessarily out of concern about who's getting fed. Instead, it's most often used to talk about concentrations of poverty and how that effects learning.

The phrase refers to students enrolled in the National School Lunch Program — an easily available data point for any school and any district.

But is it the best yardstick for measuring children's economic circumstances? And, a bigger question: Is it a good tool for assessing a child's risk of falling through the cracks of the American education system?

A recent headline in The Washington Post highlights the confusion over using this data as proxy for poverty. The headline informed readers that, for the first time in at least 50 years, a "majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty."

But that's not exactly true. And the story itself was more nuanced. It told readers that 51 percent of students receive free and reduced-price lunch. As critics quickly pointed out, that may not be the same as "living in poverty."

The school lunch program uses as its eligibility requirement families at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level — which calculates out to about $44,000 for a family of four.

So, sometimes this data is being used for something it's not.

"Too many people don't give it a second thought, yet it's the most important measure for the majority of work that we do," says Bruce Baker, an education researcher at Rutgers University and blogger, who tracks assumptions about demographic data.


President Harry Truman signed into law the National School Lunch Act in 1946, in part, as a way to provide meals to low-income students.

In 1966, as part of President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty," the federal government began funneling extra money into school districts with high concentrations of poverty, as a way to blunt its effects.

Along the way, the federal government began using this nutrition program as a stand-in for gauging how many poor or low-income students a school has. Researchers and state education departments soon began using this "F&R" data too, says Baker.

Of course the U.S. Census Bureau measures actual poverty. But it's difficult for researchers to use that data because census tracts don't align with school district boundaries or attendance zones for individual schools.

A 'Blunt Tool'

Factoring poverty into education policy, no matter how it's done, is important. Baker says it's a strong predictor of how well children will do in school. But poverty isn't the only relevant measure. Among other key factors: education levels of parents, their occupation, and immigration status.

But absent reliable, easily obtained data on these alternatives, F&R in eduspeak serves as the de facto measure of the degree to which students are at risk and the basis for making important decisions.

For instance, states that use accountability formulas to evaluate teachers, and sometimes to give bonuses to them, often factor into those calculations the proportion of F&R students they have.

Baker believes lunch-program data is a "blunt tool," but also that it does work on a large scale to understand a district or a school's needs.

Others are seeking a better tool.

Matthew Cohen works at the Ohio Department of Education and heads a working group looking to find alternatives. He says F&R data isn't bad at an aggregate level, but that it has some shortcomings.

First, he says, not all those who meet the poverty guidelines actually apply for the lunch program. Others who don't qualify game the system.

"When we scratch the surface, there might be trivial distortions [to the data] or there may be very important distortions," says Cohen. He hopes to release findings on potential alternatives to F&R this summer.

Here's another complication: A recent federal program allows a school to provide free lunch to all of its students even if they don't qualify. It's called the Community Eligibility Provision, and its designed to help districts reduce paperwork.

It allows schools where at least 40 percent of families qualify for food stamps or other assistance to also provide free and reduced-priced lunch for all students. For researchers, that means a school that would normally count as 70 percent F&R, now shows up as 100 percent.

If Not F&R, Then What?

Cohen won't say yet what alternatives he may offer, but getting finer-grained data isn't easy. Parents, he notes, may not want to offer additional information. And even if they're willing, school districts would need new systems for collecting and maintaining data.

Baker has one suggestion that could improve how schools use existing F&R numbers. He separates student groups into two categories: those that receive free lunch, and those that receive reduced-price lunch.

The difference? As noted above, the threshold for a lower-priced lunch is 185 percent of the poverty level, while for a free lunch, it's 130 percent.

When Baker accounts for these differences, he can see that students "on the higher end of low-income" perform better than those at the lower end. Accordingly, he says it could be possible to target more specific resources to schools the more we knew about a school's at-risk population.

In the meantime, he says, people should recognize that free and reduced-price lunch is a helpful, but limited, metric. "It ain't great, but it's what we've got and it is predictive of what we want to know about student outcomes."

Thursday, January 29, 2015


IN THE NEWS as of 5:30 Thursday

  • Over 1000 In Arizona Are Watched For Measles

  • New York Times-3 minutes ago

    Arizona has seven confirmed cases of measles, and officials in three counties in the Phoenix area — Maricopa, Gila and Pinal — are asking ...

    Disney Measles Outbreak Came From Overseas, CDC Says hour ago

    Even If Your Kid Doesn't Get Measles, It's Gonna Cost You
    Featured-Mother Jones-14 hours ago

    The Disney measles wake-up call
    Opinion-Chicago Sun-Times-Jan 28, 2015

    Measles has infected 84 people in 14 states this year
    In-Depth-USA TODAY-2 hours ago

    Rise In Measles Cases Marks A 'Wake-Up Call' For US
    Blog-NPR (blog)-1 hour ago

    Explore in depth (1,116 more articles)

    By Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig | The New Republic |

    January 28, 2015  ::  A recent measles outbreak traced to Disneyland has put anti-vaccination advocates under the microscope once more. With upwards of 80 people now diagnosed with measles, it’s worth asking why this preventable disease has again been allowed to endanger public health.

    According to The Los Angeles Times, only seven of the 39 patients whose vaccination status is known were fully vaccinated at the time of the outbreak. The numbers are not surprising. We know now that anti-vaccination parents tend to live in clusters, grouping in particular states and, in the case of California, particularly affluent parts of the Bay Area. This map from the Centers for Disease Control highlights states with higher vaccination exemption rates in darker shades of blue, and fewer vaccination exemption rates in lighter shades:

    The clustering of anti-vaccination types around certain geographic pinpoints—especially the Pacific Northwest—may suggest that vaccine denial is tied up in subversive, countercultural sentiment. But compare research on Americans who resist vaccination and Swedes who willingly sign up for optional vaccines, and it seems as though anti-vaccination advocates are the most American of us all.

    Consider sociologist Jennifer A. Reich’s 2014 article "Neoliberal Mothering and Vaccine Refusal: Imagined Gated Communities and the Privilege of Choice," published in the journal Gender & Society. Reich researched women who advocate against and refuse vaccines, and the techniques they use to obtain legal exemptions from them. Reich concludes that the well-off moms who skip out on vaccines do so...

    …by mobilizing their privilege in the symbolic gated communities in which they live and parent. They utilize resources that facilitate their choices as informed consumers without feeling compelled to support the health or decision making of other families with fewer resources. They also refuse to acknowledge the role their children play in protecting or undermining systems of public health...

    In other words, parents who opt out of vaccines come to their decisions by prioritizing the very virtues American culture readily recommends: freedom of choice, consumer primacy, individualism, self-determination, and a dim, almost cynical view of common goods like public health. If enclaves of anti-vaccination advocates are limited to the rarefied exurbs of California and Oregon, then the prevalence of this "neoliberal" frame makes all the more sense, as a certain laissez-faire attitude toward matters of mass coordination is associated with wealth and an attendant sense of personal control: Since money affords the wealthy a certain amount of control over their personal affairs, they both experience feelings of control (which may or may not correspond to reality) and feel less concerned with the welfare of others. After all, if one is convinced they can manage their own affairs, why shouldn't everyone else be able to?

    Compare Reich’s data with a similar study published in The Scandinavian Journal of Public Health circa 2013. Conducted by Swedish political science scholar Björn Rönnerstrand, the study sought to understand differences between Swedes who chose to be vaccinated against the H1N1 virus in 2009 and those who did not. Rönnerstrand controlled for a number of factors, including age, sex, gender, education, and even level of concern about an H1N1 pandemic, meaning that the decision to be vaccinated or not couldn’t be confounded by, say, a person’s individual panic level or knowledge of infectious disease.

    So what separated Swedes who sought vaccination and those who didn’t? Rönnerstrand found that those who sought vaccinations had high levels of institutional trust—that is, trust in the Swedish healthcare system—and high levels of generalized trust, or trust in the rest of society. Rönnerstrand notes that in “a promotion campaign during the 2009 (H1N1) pandemic, the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control emphasised that individual immunisation—besides strengthening individual protection—was a way of protecting fellow citizens,” and suspects that this had a major impact on general willingness to be vaccinated. “It is well known,” he goes on, “that Sweden belongs to a group of northern European countries where citizens have high trust in institutions as well as in fellow citizens.” In other words, along with a healthcare system they can rely upon, Swedes are inclined to care about and protect one another, and feel secure that others feel the same about them.

    This ethic is, of course, quite contrary to the American fantasy of rugged individualism, which functions in a feedback loop with American politics: culture influences politics, and laws and political rhetoric in turn influence culture. While conservatives daydream about an American idyll of self-sufficiency and liberty, the new House GOP is set to hold its first repeal vote on the Affordable Care Act, the closest thing to a unified healthcare system the United States has ever known. The idea that everyone should ultimately be individually responsible for her own health directly animates the idea that there need be no unified, reliable healthcare system—and those two ideas preclude anything approaching Sweden's trust in healthcare or society at large. Individualism begets individualist politics, both of which encourage the type of thinking anti-vaccination advocates appear prone to.

    It’s all well and good to roast anti-vaccination sorts in the media, and it isn’t as though they don’t deserve the righteous condemnation of the masses they put at risk when they allow once-defeated diseases to return. But to extinguish large swathes of anti-vaccination sentiment and practice, it appears a more momentous cultural shift is in order, and a pursuant political change. Trust requires mass coordination of efforts, which in turn requires consistent trust—something neoliberal politics in America vastly undervalues. To prevent future outbreaks, we should try to be more like the Swedish.

    KAYSER WON’T APPEAR IN UNITED WAY SPONSORED CANDIDATE FORUMS: 3 stories +smf’s 2¢ + an invitation!


    Kayser cancels participation in two District 5 candidate debates

    Posted on January 27, 2015 10:01 am by LA School Report |


    The debating season kicks off tomorrow night with the first of several scheduled candidate forums for those running in the three contested LA United board districts.

    But it’s starting with a buzzkill.

    LAUSD school board member Bennett Kayser>>

    After committing to appear, board member Bennett Kayser has withdrawn from the first of the District 5 debates, scheduled at the Goodwill Community Enrichment Center in northeast LA. His campaign told organizers that a “scheduling conflict” would preclude him from appearing in that debate and another, on Feb. 10 at the Oldtimers Foundation Family Center in Huntington Park.

    Both events are sponsored by United Way-LA, which is also staging forums for candidates in the District 3 and District 7 races.

    “We believe the constituents in District 5 deserve to hear from all candidates,” Elmer Roldan, a United Way official, told LA School Report. “These forums are designed to give all candidates the opportunity to answer questions from the community and to demonstrate they’re the better candidate running. He and his campaign have a responsibility to prove to communities that he can lead this district.”

    Roldan confirmed that Kayser’s two challengers — Ref Rodriguez and Andrew Thomas —  would still appear in the two United Way debates, and so would all six contenders in the District 3 event and all three in a District 7 event. Tamar Galatzan is running for reelection in 3 and board President Richard Vladovic is defending his seat in 7.

    Sarah Bradshaw, Kayser’s chief of staff, confirmed that Kayser intends to participate in three other debates for the District 5 candidates, all of them in February.


    Why Did LAUSD School Board Member Bennett Kayser Pull Out of Two Debates?

    By Hillel Aron, LA Weekly |

    Bennett Kayser

    Bennett Kayser

    Wednesday, January 28, 2015   ::  School board elections don't get a lot of attention, in part because the job pays less than $45,000 and sounds like the rough equivalent of student council vice president. But it's the governing body of the second largest school district in the country, responsible for opening and closing schools which educate one in ten children in California. Despite that power, the board remains obscure.

    And in contrast to, say, the nearly unanimous voice of the 15-member L.A. City Council, there's actually a deep idealogical divide on the seven-member school board. That means a lot can ride on the outcome of a single race.

    That's especially true on March 3, the first school board election after John Deasy resigned as Superintendent. The resulting school board will, eventually, pick his successor (former supe Ray Cortines is doing the job temporarily), and there's quite a bit on the line. Teachers want a raise even as LAUSD student enrollment continues its long drop. And the courts could soon upend the long process for firing ineffective teachers in California. Oh and there's still that whole iPad mess to sort out.

    The pivotal race this year is expected to be over the District 5 seat held since 2011 by Bennett Kayser. The affable, soft-spoken Kayser is the number one ally of the teacher's union, UTLA, and was the number one critic of Superintendent Deasy. He's also done more to fight new charter schools in Los Angeles, schools that are politically controversial but highly popular among parents of all social classes.

    And so the "school reformers," who want to make it easier to fire teachers and support the proliferation of charter schools (and who loved John Deasy), have taken aim at Kayser, making his defeat their top priority.

    That's a tall order. Incumbents to political office are notoriously difficult to weed out in Los Angeles. The small percentage of people who vote based on name recognition. And reformers, though well financed, have lost their last two school board races, against George McKenna and Monica Ratliff (plus the state superintendent race in November).

    Yet the L.A. Unified school board remains delicately balanced, dominated by idiosyncratic, independents like Board President Richard Vladovic (also up for reelection, though he should win easily) and Steve Zimmer. Get rid of Kayser, and reformers stand a chance of hiring a Superintendent with a Deasy-esque ideology, if not a Deasy-esqe hothead temperament. 

    Andrew Thomas

    Andrew Thomas

    The reformers seem to have found an impressively strong rival to Bennett, in Ref Rodriguez, a 43-year-old son of Mexican immigrants and the founder of Partnership to Uplift Communities, or PUC (pronounced puck.) He opened his first charter school in Eagle Rock and now has a network of 15 in Los Angeles. Unlike some candidates recruited by the reform side to run for the school board, including Alex Johnson and Antonio Sanchez, he's steeped in education experience. Nor is he some political crony.

    A third candidate running for the same seat is no slouch either, Andrew Thomas, an educational researcher and co-founder of the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center, one of the top preschools in the area (known for teaching the children of non-Jewish hipsters all about Shabbat and yamakas).

    So it's gonna be interesting to see these three guys in a room together at a debate.

    That was supposed to happen tonight, January 28. But last Sunday, the blog LA School Report broke the news that Kayser wouldn't be attending two candidate forums he'd committed to, both sponsored by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles.


    "Scheduling conflicts," his aide Sarah Bradshaw said.

    That's the standard line politicians give when they want to ditch something. When asked what exactly Kayser's scheduling conflicts were, we got radio silence.

    Maybe Kayser really did have better things to do, and to be sure, he's still promising to participate in debates on February 5 and February 18.

    But why pull out of both United Way forums?

    One possible explanation is that United Way isn't exactly neutral. The organization has tentatively aligned itself with the reform movement and charter schools. David Tokofsky, a former school board member and consultant to the LAUSD administrator's union, who backs Kayser, says, "Anybody who thinks the United Way has run even-handed candidate forums should look into buying land in Florida."

    A spokesman for United Way, Elmer Roldan, said he's "disappointed" that Kayser dropped out, especially on short notice.

    "If he really wanted to engage community members, this should be a priority," he said. The forum will continue without Kayser.

    Ref Rodriguez, his rival for the seat, said in a statement:

    "It’s disappointing that the public won’t be able to hear from Mr. Kayser, but I’ll be there to talk with the community and outline my plan to transform our school system.” 

    Ref Rodriguez

    Ref Rodriguez

    When told by L.A. Weekly that Kayser was bailing on the debate, the other rival candidate, Andrew Thomas, said: "That doesn’t surprise me at all. I think he thinks that he doesn't come across well in a forum. He has a quiet voice. He doesn’t project himself loudly."

    Thomas avoided mentioning what is rarely mentioned now in news coverage, that Kayser has Parkinson's disease, which causes his hand to tremble at times, and at school board meetings he sometimes struggles to make arguments.

    It's a delicate subject among reporters, politicos, and other people who watch the school board. Kayser has a disability, and he's written eloquently about it. He certainly shouldn't be persecuted or marginalized for having an illness.

    On the other hand, critics feel that Kayser has generally kept himself far from the public eye, perhaps to avoid scrutiny. Skipping out on debates will only add to that sentiment.

    Of course, as the frontrunner, Kayser might simply be following in the footsteps of other incumbents, who almost always enjoy the status of frontrunner – staying above the fray, playing it safe.


    LAUSD board election ‘debate’ becomes Ref Rodriguez show

    Posted on LA School Report  at January 29, 2015 10:54 am by Craig Clough

    Ref Rodriguez @mandelljasonIt was supposed to be the first debate of the LA Unified school board races, but it wasn’t: Only one candidate showed up.

    With board member Bennett Kayser and challenger Andrew Thomas pulling out, the floor for the District 5 forum belonged to candidate Ref Rodriguez, who had all the time he liked last night to make his case to a packed room at the Goodwill Community Enrichment Center in northeast LA.

    The lack of a debate didn’t keep people away as about 200 reportedly showed up to hear Rodriguez.

    The forum was the first in a series of campaign events sponsored by the United Way–Los Angeles. After committing to the debate, Kayser announced earlier this week that “scheduling conflicts” would prevent him from participating in it and in a second United Way event, Feb. 10 at the Oldtimers Foundation Family Center in Huntington Park. In response, Thomas also cancelled, saying he would not appear at any forum that did not include all three candidates.

    Elmer Roldan, an organizer of the forum, told LA School Report, “The event really went well considering all the improvisation. We had a packed house with 200 residents in attendance.”


    ●●smf’s 2¢: Let us consider two things:

    • THE SOURCE: Two of these stories come from the LA School Report – LASR’s Fair+Balanced reporting is well documented here. The other story comes from Hillel Aron – who reports and expands upon the LASR article. And Aron is a former reporter for LASR!
    • THE UNITED WAY: The United Way is not the United Way of old, an alliance of do-gooders and charities like the Girl and Boy Scouts, Salvation Army and March of Dimes  who combined their efforts for the  common good - successors to the Community Chest.  Mayor Villaraigosa made over the United Way of Greater Los Angeles as a politically active, nonpartisan stealth delivery system for community action in his image – which includes $chool ®eform, Privatization, Union Busting and Charter Schools. 

    I have nothing against political activism or having an agenda – I am guilty of both.

    In the last school board election I attended a couple of UW/GLA’s candidate forums;  they were well-engineered affairs with loaded questions and were generally favorable to certain candidates. And during that election season ®eform aligned candidates were notably absent from community debates sponsored by true grass roots rather than AstroTurf community organizations.

    There will be an all-candidates District 5  debate next Thursday Feb 5th  at 7 o’clock at Eagle Rock High School sponsored by seven neighborhood councils and public radio station KPCC. | C’mon down!