Entries Tagged as 'OUR SCHOOLS'

The California Legislatures Epic Fail!

$16 Billion deficit….

Who are those legislators that are responsible for the states deteriorating conditions that include our deteriorating water, power, and transportation infrastucture? Responsible for our rising tax rates and fees? Responsible for our pension giveaways to public service unions? Responsible for the loss of business in the state. Responsible for the states falling high school graduation rates, rising drop out rates and limiting school choice? Responsible for rising university tuitions and capping enrollments? Responsible for the destruction of vast public lands to make way for huge solar projects and oversubscribing water supplies? Look no farther:

And we cannot forget the California State Senate…

How many opportunities do you give these folks to improve our lives?  

California’s High School Dropout Clock Keeps Ticking

This is the California High School Dropout Clock.

Tick, tick, tick,…  the dropout clock continuously updates itself over time showing the number of students who drop out of high school in California.

The dropout clock shows just a small sample of our local legislators and the huge number of students that have dropped out during their term of office.  The numbers grow each minute and these and other officials are responsible for it because they could author legislation that could stop it but they don’t.


What has your state representative done to solve the dropout problem? If they have been ineffective as these folks or they have done nothing to introduce effective solutions, maybe it’s time to stop voting for them. It may be they are not introducing bills that are in your interests but instead in the interests of labor unions and pacs that donate so heavily to their campaigns.

Their failure to provide meaningful education reform is having a catastrophic effect on our children.

Westchester’s Dreams of a Local High School Dashed

Fritz Burns had a vision 60 years ago when he developed the 20,000 homes just north of what is now LAX. He knew that if Westchester was going to be a community it would have to have schools, and so he offered up 42 acres to the LAUSD to build the community a high school. 

Well LAUSD has taken that away from the community now. Westchester no longer has a high school as the LAUSD School board voted Tuesday to turn Westchester High School into a magnet school.

Westchester high school will be modeled after Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES) with a fairly strict demographic balance. 30% white and 70% other racial groups equally split. It won’t be like LACES however because one of the schools biggest benefits is that it is a grades 6-12 span school that provides long term continuity to those enrolled there. High school magnets don’t enjoy the same kind of success.

What will that mean to the Westchester community? Through the ‘Choices Program’, the school will probably be sought after by families throughout the district as they try to get their children out of their own badly performing district schools. 59 out of 70 LAUSD high schools do not meet AYP and are designated ‘PI’ schools. That’s a lot of potential feeders schools that may funnel students  into Westchester’s soon to be magnet program. 

For the time being, just about anyone from Westchester willing to give the LAUSD ‘yet another chance’ will have an easy time enrolling but as enrollment goes up, at some level students ‘will need points’ to get in. Westchester families will not have any priority over any other students in Los Angeles. As a magnet, it’s not our school anymore.

As enrollment climbs there will eventually be a shortage of available seats within the strict demographic enrollment structure.  Westchester’s African-American and hispanic students will likely be the first to find out we don’t have a local high school anymore as students from elsewhere in the district find seats in the school. Not accumulating enough points playing the enrollment game, they will be the first to be bused off to Venice, University, Hamilton, or wherever LAUSD officials can find seats.

Not far behind,  Westchester’s white students will also be bused off to other low achieving high schools in the district. It’s only a matter time as each one of these demographic groups fill up the allotted space available.

This is what happened at LACES when it took over Louis Pasteur Junior High School in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles.

Westchester’s magnet school success assumes that the district is able to provide an education that people will value.  That’s is a big IF given this districts poor academic record.

SB268 – Sen. Rodrick Wright’s Bill Aims to Limit Inter-District Permits and School Choice

If Senator Roderick Wright (SD 25 – Inglewood) has his way, choosing your school using inter-district permits will be a rarity should his bill, SB268 become law.

Despite claims by Senator Wright that his bill is only designed to provide “certainty” to the inter-district permit process, SB268 is in fact designed to make failing school districts such as Los Angeles Unified the sole arbiter of your child’s inter-district permit appeal. It provides certainty for the district, not your child.

Wright’s bill, is word for word, cut and paste from an LAUSD Legislative proposal published on December 9, 2010 that essentially turns the appeals process before the independent Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) into a mere three point check list that the LAUSD already follows. It then adds a legislative poison pill that guts the parents right of appeal by limiting what the LACOE may hear and rule on.

How the Permit Process Works

For all sorts of reasons many families need alternatives to the schools in their own district. To accomplish this they must file for a inter-district permit. A permit is required so that Average Daily Attendence (ADA) funding follows the child to the new out-of-district school, known as the ‘school of choice.’

Concerned about getting a permit? Find helpful support at the Stop LAUSD from Denying Permits Facebook group.

Before filing however, the parent must find for a suitable school that meets their needs and has space available. Often the child has to meet certain GPA requirements and have a good behavior and attendance records. Before filing for a permit, the parent should get a written acceptance from the school of choice. 

The parent then files for an inter-district permit with the district of residence.  
If the appeal is accepted, a permit is mailed out to the parent and to the school of choice.

District Appeals

If the permit is denied by the district of residence, the parent has 14* days to appeal with the district. This appeal is heard by an appeals committee set up by the district. During this appeal, a parent cites the reasons for transferring out. If this appeal is denied, the parent then has 30 days to appeal again, this time before the independent LACOE.

The LACOE Appeal

The LACOE is a fairer arbiter because not only do they have the students best interests in mind (absent is having to worry about their budget),  they also represent over 80 school districts in Los Angeles County including the LAUSD. They don’t favor one district over the other.

Because of the independent nature of the LACOE, its appeals process for permits is not driven by self interest as school districts can be.  For example, last spring LAUSD District Superintendent Ramone Cortines announced a policy change that would deny permits to 10,000 students in order to make up for a $640 million budget shortfall. The new policy would limit permits to only those who qualify under state law. Because of a loud anxious protest by parents, Cortines was forced to rescind his new policy weeks later.

SB268′s Poison Pill

Having backed off of last springs permit policy debacle, the LAUSD choose the legislative route and found Senator Wright to carry their legislation.  The key to this legislation is paragraph (iv) cited below which excludes from LACOE’s review anything that was already denied by the district during its appeal phase.  The language written by the district would make the LAUSD the final decision maker and limit LACOE to consider information not heard by the district already.

(B) The review by the county board of education of the decision of the district governing board under subparagraph (A) shall be limited to the following questions:
(i) Whether the district acted in accordance with an interdistrict attendance agreement, where applicable.
(ii) Whether the district followed the district’s policy on interdistrict attendance.
(iii) Whether the district provided the parent or guardian with an opportunity to provide information relevant to the interdistrict attendance request.
(iv) Whether there is relevant information that, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, could not have been produced, or that was improperly excluded, at the hearing before the district governing board.

At a Senate Education Committee hearing on March 30th, a Legislative Advocate for the LAUSD, Virginia Strom-Martin sought to describe the districts appeals process as compassionate and fair, citing the 10,000 students that received permits last year. What she omitted however was that only 2,000 students would have received permits if Cortines’s new policy came into effect.

This proposed legislation will affect everyone seeking first time permits.  It will also affect districts that historically accepted students with transfer permits.  Those districts will likely have to lay off teachers if permit students are force to remain in their own districts where opportunities are very limited.

SB268 is a terribly bad ‘education’ bill.  Its sole purpose is to recover some of the $52.2 million in revenues that the legislative analysts says LAUSD lost as students permit out.  Ironically the district is losing over $265 million as students flee to public charter schools taking with them the Average Daily Attendence money.

The bills underlying goal to recover $52 million in a district with a $7.3 billion budget is akin to looking between the sofa cushions for coins. This at the expense of denying students who have found opportunities in their chosen out of district school. Opportunities they can’t find at their local school.

Call your Sen. Roderick Wright and your own State Senator. 

Tell them you oppose SB268 because it will make it more difficult for parents to appeal to the Los Angeles County Office of Education when they are denied a permit by LAUSD.  SB268 takes school choice away from families.  

*revised 4/14 ; was 7 days

Could going charter at Westchester HS mean millions of dollars more?

A Second Chance at Charter

El Camino Real, the valley high school and Decathalon powerhouse is going charter. LAUSD District Supt. Ramon Cortines says that high schools like El Camino Real could increase their budgets by millions of dollars annually by cutting ties to the district.

In the Spring of 2007 there was a nacent effort by Westchester community members and members of the neighborhood council to make Westchester High School a charter high school. That effort however was usurped by the LAUSD, LMU and the UTLA with promises of a self governing family of schools in an independent district called iDivision (later renamed iDesign).  The iDivision promised Westchester a self governing board that could create its own budget, hire its own principals and teachers and develop its own curriculum but it never really happened.

Predictably and like other reforms before it, iDesign all but disappeared. First when the UTLA essentially hijacked the governance election and finally when the district backed away from its promises of independence and fired the new principal without consultation of the high schools governance board.

El Camino Real High School, perhaps learning from others that going charter is the only path to true independence is scheduled to have its charter petition heard this Tuesday in a public hearing before the board. Final approval is expected in six months.

Reading El Camino Real’s charter petition reminds me of what we desired back in 2007:

“We at El Camino Real would like to convert to charter to further develop academic standards and opportunities on campus for all learners at varied levels. We would like to have more control over governance and curriculum so that students may find more opportunities to excel in academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities.”

A new chance at a charter effort at Westchester is occuring right now with the Westchester Secondary Charter School seeking to petition to become a charter school.  

Perhaps someday we will be able to look at our high school and find excellance in academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities. And perhaps the benefits of becoming a school directly funded by the state and finding a ”millions dollars” more in the budget. 

Jerry Brown Education Proposals – A path to disaster

While I try to stay as neutral as possible on WestchesterParents there are times when I have to call people out when they offer a policy plan that flies in the face in reality.  Particularly in the case of education which I often write about and especially when it comes from a candidate for governor who is proposing what he will do  over the next four years. This is one of those times. 

Candidate for California governor, Jerry Brown came out today with a campaign press release aimed at education that is frankly dishonest and contains proposals that are written as if he were closeted away in a monastery for the last twenty years. You can find his plan here:


In his plan he makes a number of claims that I’ll list below. Each one of them I follow up with data that disproves the claim.

Claim 1 – “Despite the fact that many students (at Oakland Military, a school Jerry Brown claims to have started in Oakland as Mayor) come from low income families (80% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunches), this year 25% of our graduates were accepted to the University of California system. In prior years, graduates have been admitted to such prestigious schools as West Point and Yale.”

It wasn’t until the 2004/05 that year the Oakland Military Charter began reporting enrollment data to the California Department of Education (CDE) and only two full years of enrollment data is available to report.

Brown claims that 25% of grads were accepted into the UC system but the raw numbers paint an entirely different picture that is easily hidden behind ‘percentages.’

The first full graduating class that matriculated through grades 9-12 at Oakland Military was the class of 2008 just two years ago. This class reported to the CDE a 43.68 percent drop in enrollment from 87 freshman that began 2004 to 49 seniors that reported back in 2007.

The Class of 2009 saw a larger drop with 81 freshman enrolled in 2005 and saw only 42 students report in their senior year which represented a 48.15% loss of enrollment.

While data from two graduating classes alone are hardly enough to hang your accolades on, a 48% drop in enrollment of which 25% (10 students) went on to a UC or UCS school is terrible.  And did they really go on to a UC/CSU school or did the outgoing students simply state that they were going there prior to graduating? 

Claim 2 – “I also started the Oakland School for the Arts, which is devoted to intensive pre-professional training in the arts within a college-preparatory curriculum. The school, going into its 9th year, is audition based and also serves 600 students from 6th through 12th grade.”

Oakland Arts began reporting enrollment to the CDE back in 2002 and its first class to matriculate from 9th to 12th was the class of 2006. This class began with 102 freshman and ended up with only 61 seniors, a 40 percent loss. The most recent class of 2009 began with 88 freshman students and saw only 45 students reporting for the senior year for a 49 percent loss. Just as disconcerting is the drop in freshman students reporting in 2006, 2007 and 2008 where the number of incoming students fell to 58, 26 and 77 students.  Oakland Arts current enrollment is just 408 students and its highest level was in 2005 with 421 which is a third less than the 600 students that candidate Brown claims.

Claim 3 – “Both schools charge no tuition and are among the top-performing schools in Oakland.”

This claim is simply filler. Charters by state law cannot charge tuition. They are public schools receiving public funding to operate. As for top-performing, see claims 1 & 2 and judge for yourself how well they perform.

Claim 4 – “From my experience in starting and running these schools, I have gained first-hand experience in how difficult it is to enable all students to be ready for college and careers. Student outcomes are a complex interaction of student characteristics, teacher competence, instructional materials, and parental support. Any reforms and state educational policies must take into account this complexity and refrain from oversimplifying the problems and solutions.”

Brown has neither first hand experience nor any solution to enable “all students to be ready for college and careers.” His managing the schools above aptly point that out. 

With a 48% loss in class enrollment, Brown hasn’t had any more success in managing the  ”complex interaction of student characteristics, teacher competence, instructional materials, and parental support” that he claims to have. 

Jerry Brown then went on to state what he will do but his proposals are nothing new. They follow the same path that California has followed since the 1990′s and will simply make things worse.

Brown begins by saying he will “Establish(ed) Minimum Requirements for High School Graduates.” However the State of California already has minimum requirements in place. In fact in 1999 California had raised the bar and instituted a more rigorous college preparation curriculum “for all students.”

This however has had the unintended consequence of exponentially raising the drop out rate and placing diplomas out of reach for many students throughout the state.

Brown proposes raising the graduation requirement even further than it is today!

Considering that it is the math portion of the state curriculum and CAHSE that has proven to be so difficult to pass, his proposal to add another year of math will most assuredly raise the dropout rate to well over 40 percent.

Certainly these students (Ferris Buellers Day Off) would not be very impressed with Jerry Brown’s proposals.

Brown goes on to say that he will “Significantly increased investment in K-12 and Higher Education” but education today has already consumed 40 percent of the California budget.

Most of Browns other proposals are related to funding as if to explain that California’s problems with its education system have to do with underfunding. Funding is not the problem. Throwing more money at schools is not the answer. The problem is how to make education relevant to California’s students. The answer is to offer a variety of paths towards a diploma.

Note to our readers: To date I have not yet seen candidate Meg Whitman’s education plan if she has submitted one. When she does submit one I’ll comment on it as well.

Bradford’s misplaced priorities (Part 2)

A spirited defense of Assemblyman Steve Bradford’s (D) Limousine Legislation by Jenny M. appeared in our comments section in Part 1 but it was her initial comment on the state of education (the main point of the article) that was worth a column in itself. Part 2….

(Jenny M.) Unfortunately you cannot legislate students to stay in school. If there was a viable piece of legislation that would make all students graduate high school there is a good chance that would have flown through the legislature by now.

Jenny M is wrong on both counts. It was the legislature and the state board of education that forced students out of school by changing the curriculum. California students once had multiple paths towards a diploma but in 1997-98 that was eliminated reducing it to one single path. The argument then was that elementary and secondary schools should be preparing all students for college and so the curriculum was changed. Vocational paths to a diploma were eliminated and replaced it with two years of college preparatory math. In essence, they legislated a quarter of a million students out of a diploma.

From the California Dropout Research Project:

… students need a wide variety of skills to be successful in college and in the workplace. These skills include both traditional academic skills, but also applied, vocational skills, as well as so-called “soft skills,” such as punctuality, perseverance, and the social skills needed to work in groups. In fact, one recent study found that improvements in a range of non-academic skills were more valuable than improvements in math achievement for increasing chances for enrolling in and completing postsecondary programs, and for increasing earnings eight years after high school.

If California wants to truly prepare its students for life beyond high school, it should examine a full range of academic and non-academic skills and incorporate them in the state’s high school graduation requirements and accountability system so that schools and students are encouraged and recognized for acquiring them.

Finally, the state should consider more options for students to meet the graduation requirements. An increasing number of states have pursued the idea of multiple pathways for students to meet high school graduation requirements, such as through career and technical education (CTE) courses.

There could be a viable piece of legislation that would dramatically turn the dropout rate around and that would be a bill to eliminate the college preparatory math requirement (Algebra 1) and again offer vocational paths to a diploma. Students planning to go on to state universities would still need college preparatory math but those who choose a vocational career or a longer path to a college degree could still earn a diploma.

With multiple paths in front of them more students would be finishing high school, more students would be passing CAHSE and more high school grads would be going on to postsecondary programs such community colleges and state universities. More students would be applying for jobs with a diploma in hand. With multiple paths we could reduce spending on expensive intervention programs that are clearly failing and redirect that money to more meaningful academic offerings.

Today’s legislators are lock-step into group think and Bradford has so far fits neatly into that box. They are unable to seek solutions that put the California’s student’s interests first. Education unfortunately has steered perpendicularly to its stated purpose and goals and instead it has become a jobs program for state employees.

By the end of Steve Bradford’s first year in office, another 80,000 students in California will have dropped out. Students pushed out because the only other path available to them was dropping out.

Bradford’s misplaced priorities (Part 1)

Assemblyman Steve Bradford on right30  to 60 percent of the high school students in Bradford’s assembly district are dropping out and one of his first pieces of legislation is AB 2572 to regulate limousines going in and out of the airport????  Where are his priorities?

Your vote has value. What do you value most?

Time to rally behind REAL school choice

Board resolution on intradistrict permits

On Tuesday April 6th, LAUSD school board members Steve Zimmer and Tamar Galatzan will be proposing a compromise resolution to the school board to allow students already permiting out into neighboring school districts to remain there until they graduate.  The meeting will be held at 1PM at 333 S. Beaudry Ave., Board Rm on 1st Floor, Los Angeles 90017

I hope that you can all be there to express to the school board that education opportunities for students must trump the districts desire to handcuff them into seats of poorly performing schools in an effort to grab for more school dollars.   

Regardless of how the school board vote goes however, there are going to be a huge number of families that will have the door to a quality education shut closed on them unless the board amends the resolution to allow all students intra-districts permits to any districts that have room for them. Short of that, we need to look ahead and start lobbying state representatives to promote legislation that promises real choice in schools and even file law suits if they fail to.

So far state and federal “school choice” legislation has been very limited in scope and have provided very little real opportunity for us.

For instance, Senate bill SBX5_4 which we all hear about is limited to 1000 lowest performing schools and no district may have more than 10% of its schools on the list.  In a district with 587 schools, only 59 of LAUSD’s can be on the list and those will be spread out over elementaries, middle and high schools. 56 of LAUSD’s high schools alone are PI schools. Clearly SBX5_4 like other legislation before it falls far short of choice.

If there has been one benefit handed to us since Cortines ill-advised policy announcement, it has made us realize just how precarious our rights to school choice and quality education really is and in turn has provided us an opportunity to rally thousands of parents and students together at Stop LAUSD From Denying Permits For Inter-District Student Transfers!!  It took just one guy (Cortines) and a memo to the school board to take away our opportunities to quality education. It will take a thousand angry mom’s, dad’s and students to get it back.

We must take advantage of this opportunity and demand that our legislators write meaningful school choice legislation for all.

Cortines pulls the trigger on transfer students.


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Stop LAUSD from denying permits

In a press release announced today, [Daily Breeze story] LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines pulled the trigger on intra-district transfers for families seeking quality schools.  No new out of district permits and students on existing permits will have them denied next year. [See Cortines new transfer policy]

Make no mistake about it, this is all about money. Your child’s education takes a back seat to LAUSD’s money woes.

“Just about every school district in the Los Angeles area is experiencing massive budget deficits but ours is the largest at $640 million,” said Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines.

Ramone-Cortines-headClearly Ramon Cortines best days are behind him. In his first tenure as LAUSD superintendent he bucked heads with the establishment setting up mini-districts in an effort to decentralize the top heavy districts and bring more autonomy to local schools.  For many of us at that time he was a hero. But we were soon disappointed when he walked away from this interim job before he finished the job of reforming the district.  

An education reformer? Not anymore. Upon his return, Cortines has not only inherited the problems left by his predecessors Roy Romer and David Brewer, Cortines has become an integral part of the problem. Under Cortines supervision, the school district has amassed a $640 million debt,  seen its dropout rates climb hover around 50% and graduation rates fall below 40%. Now he’s ready to throw a tiny segment of the districts student population representing just over 1%, under the bus by forcing them to leave schools that are better managed and offer far more opportunities than their home district. Force them to enroll in schools that have been targeted by the state as having persistently failed to meet state standards.

“It is time to bring our students home to LAUSD where we still have plenty of excellent schools for them to attend and we have great teachers to instruct them.” – Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines

Still have plenty of excellent schools? 

This is Ramon Cortines world view of excellent schools:

  • 359 of the districts k-12 schools have persistently failed to meet the states academic targets for multiple years. Up from 292 schools in 2008.  These Title I schools are designated as “PI” schools and are on the states watch list.
  • 56 of his 71 high schools (78%) are “PI” schools and are on the states watch list.
  • Another 11 schools (14%) have persistently failed to meet AYP but are not targeted (yet) because they are not Title I schools.
  • Only 8 of Cortines 76 high schools are in the upper 50th percentile and 6 of those are in the San Fernando Valley.  Only four have earned a state ranking of 7 and above.
  • The entire school district is in year 3 as a “PI” district having failed to repeatedly meet state targets. It enters the “corrective action” phase where the California Department of Education must take more aggressive action to turn the district around including abolishing or restructuring the district.
  • An average district dropout rate of  49.75%
  • 422,654 students in the district are enrolled in “PI” schools and are eligible to transfer to non-PI schools. Up from 364,027 in 2007/08.
  • The total number of “PI” schools in the district has increased from 313 to 359 between 2008 and 2009.

Ramon Cortines school district is financially broke.  $640 million broke, so he’s looking under the sofa for loose dimes and quarters.  It’s highly doubtful he will find enough coins to benefit a district that is in a downward spiral and losing enrollment to charter schools. What he will do is turn kids and their families lives upside down. 

Because there are so few schools above the 50th percentile, students that find themselves having school choice taken away from them will soon find letters like this in their mail boxes after they enroll in their “new and improved” school advising them that it has not met the states AYP and they have the option to be bused to a non-PI school, if they can find space for them. 

If they do find a seat at a non-PI school it will likely be a long bus ride paid for by the district to a  distant community served by the LAUSD, to a school that will be only half as good as the school in the district that once welcomed them.

Simply stated, Cortines does not have enough seats in quality high schools available to him. And what few seats that are available should be going to the students already trapped in his under performing schools.