March 5

My favourite definition of an intellectual: ‘Someone who has been educated beyond his/her intelligence’.”
[Sources and Acknowledgements: Chapter 19] ― Arthur C. Clarke, 3001: The Final Odyssey
   It’s still not too late (the polls close at 8 p.m. this evening) to decide who you want to vote for mayor of L.A. in the municipal primary taking place today.  One of the eight candidates running for the position will eventually become the new leader of the city.  Sunday’s L.A. Times has an analysis of their positions and the role the mayor should play vis a vis education:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-mayor-education-20130303,0,7466702,full.story
   If you live in one of the 3 LAUSD school board districts, particularly District #4 which runs from the Westside to the western San Fernando Valley,  you probably noticed an inordinate number of campaign brochures in your mailbox the past couple of weeks.  Why?  The amount of outside money spent on the races exceeded $4.2 million through Friday according to this story in the L.A. Daily News:  http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_22702918/election-2013-reform-at-center-la-unified-race   If you’d like brief profiles of the candidates for the LAUSD board positions check out this item from the L.A. Times:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-bios-20130303,0,5316362,full.story  The contest for the LAUSD school board seats has drawn national attention because it has implications for districts around the country as evidenced by this article in yesterday’s The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/04/education/los-angeles-school-board-race-attracts-national-attention-and-money.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all&
   Peter Dreier, Occidental College Professor of Politics, writes how the Walton family fortune is being channeled into school “reform” in L.A. in this op-ed for the Bill Moyers’ website:  http://billmoyers.com/2013/03/02/why-are-walmart-billionaires-bankrolling-phony-school-reform-in-la/
   The “Ed News” has been tracking the growing movement against the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.  This article from yesterday’s L.A. Times again reviews the mounting number of schools, districts and educational experts opposed to the exams and notes how the issue is seeping into school board races like the one for the LAUSD taking place today:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-teachers-testing-20130304,0,4686481.story
   The San Jose Mercury News is reporting on a great deal of confusion over a new law that took effect in California on Jan. 1 that bans schools from charging fees for supplies and certain activities.  At the end of this article is an interesting copy of the “Legislative Digest” (5 pages) of the new law (AB 1575) and also a “Fact Sheet” (1 page) about it.  In addition, there is a 5-page school fee complaint sheet from the ACLU with FAQs and forms if someone feels they’ve been charged illegally.  Check this out so you or your school or district are not breaking the law:  http://www.mercurynews.com/education/ci_22702203/new-california-school-law-that-bans-fees-causes?source=rss
   As California contemplates making the formal switch to the Common Core Standards in 2014-15 a major concern has arisen–will teachers be properly prepared for the new curriculum?  The major emphasis so far has been on creating materials and assessments that correlate to the new standards with little focus on teacher training.  This SI&A CABINET REPORT takes a close look at the issue and the question of where funding will come from:  http://www.siacabinetreport.com/articles/viewarticle.aspx?article=2715
   Today’s L.A. Times reports that the number of California school districts in financial crisis has dropped by 33% since a previous list was announced in May according to a study released by the State Dept. of Education.  However, the number of districts in L.A. county that are at-risk increased by two to a total of three:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0305-school-finances-20130305,0,3285992.story  One reason why districts are in better financial shape may be due to the passage of Prop. 39 by voters in November.  It changed the way some businesses are taxed in the state and the result will mean many more dollars for schools in the future.  This piece from the CAPITOL WEEKLY provides the details:  http://www.capitolweekly.net/article.php?xid=119hmlpvadxxprs
   The same paper reports on a unique competition among 20 high schools called the “Aspen Challenge” in which students attempt to seek solutions to current problems facing society:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-schools-aspen-20130305,0,4105771.story
   The entire California State Senate is taking a field trip, starting today, to see first-hand the highly successful “linked-learning” program of the Long Beach Unified School District.  Schools tie academics to the world of work and careers in what used to be called career tech education.  The SI&A CABINET REPORT describes the excursion and what the lawmakers hope to learn:  http://www.siacabinetreport.com/articles/viewarticle.aspx?article=2717
   Valerie Strauss describes a Washington Post-sponsored conference on families that U.S. Sec. of Ed. Arne Duncan addressed.  She comments on several points he made during the course of his remarks:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/03/05/arne-duncan-the-newest-rhetoric-vs-the-reality/
   “Is Sequestration the New Normal for Federal K-12 Aid?” is the topic of this blog from EDUCATION WEEK.  The author explains what Congress has done over the past several days to deal with the drastic cuts and what might be in store for the future:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2013/03/is_sequester_the_new_normal_fo.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CampaignK-12+%28Education+Week+Blog%3A+Politics+K-12%29
   Even Diane Ravitch has a link to this blog that Valerie Strauss reprints.  It is written by an English teacher in North Carolina and cleverly uses the language of George Orwell’s 1984 to explain what’s going on with corporate school “reform:”  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/03/04/how-george-orwell-might-explain-school-reform/
   And finally, more and more charter schools are being exposed for more and more problems.  This piece from the L.A. Daily News describes a very successful charter in Studio City that discovered that 12% of its student body was attending based on fraudulent addresses:  http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_22717982/parents-allege-massive-enrollment-fraud-at-carpenter-community?source=rss

 

 

 

Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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