September 30, 2009

Top Stories and Commentary for Wednesday, September 30, 2009

By J.M.Brown/Santa Cruz Sentinel

State Sen. Joe Simitian met with three top federal education officials in Washington on Tuesday to assure them that a bill awaiting the governor’s signature would qualify California for a piece of the $4.3 billion Race to the Top fund. The Palo Alto Democrat’s bill would clarify state law to fall in line with eligibility requirements for President Obama’s controversial education reform program, which teachers unions and other critics have likened to the unpopular No Child Left Behind because of its reliance on test scores as a critical gauge of student performance. The Race to the Top funds, which is part of the federal stimulus package passed in February, will reward states that articulate a clear plan for implementing consistent standards and establishing a longitudinal data system that tracks students from the earliest years through college. (more…)

By Bob Egelko/San Francisco Chronicle

Veteran schoolteachers who refuse training that qualifies them to instruct students who speak only limited English can be fired, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday. A San Joaquin County school district that ordered all its teachers to take language training was within its authority to begin dismissal proceedings against a tenured high school music teacher who defied the requirement, said the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento. The teacher, Theresa Messick of Ripon High School, is considering an appeal to the state Supreme Court, her lawyer said. The ruling is the first to address districts’ authority under a recent state law that requires teachers to get special training to work in classes that include students not fluent in English - about one-fifth of California’s total enrollment. (more…)

By Alyson Klein/Education Week

Construction bonding authority—a technical, and often obscure, source of capital funding for school districts—has emerged as a hot ticket for those looking to finance school facilities work under the federal government’s economic-stimulus program. With little stimulus money expected to be left for construction after states make up for recession-driven budget cuts, districts are scrambling for some $24 billion or more in zero- or low-interest bonds under the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal,” said Judy Marks, the associate director of the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, based in Washington. Not only are bonds available, she said, “the cost of construction materials is down, the cost of labor is down, a lot of contractors who would be busy bidding for [office buildings and other projects] are competing for school construction.” (more…)

By Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

A Southland state legislator leads a hearing Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. in Los Angeles to encourage more parent participation in public education. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story. Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: State Senator Gloria Romero says parents these days are more likely to organize protests against cuts in the education budget than bake sales. Still, she adds, some parents still feel unwelcome at their childrens’ schools. Gloria Romero: Schools need to invite parents and encourage parents and make it a warm atmosphere for parents to exercise their rights. Guzman-Lopez: She wants to involve more parents – not because she wants to start a parent revolution. Romero: We know from the research, from academic research, when parents get involved that student outcomes are better, we know that there’s increased student achievement, better school attendance, higher graduation rates. (more…)

By Tracy Garcia/Whittier Daily News

A new report from the Public Policy Institute of California says full-day kindergarten may not be as academically beneficial for youngsters as once believed. However, officials at the Little Lake City School District - the first to implement full-day kindergarten in the Whittier area in 2004 - say their program has indeed helped prepare students for academic success. The recent PPIC study, "Full-Day Kindergarten in California: Lessons from Los Angeles," examined the impact of a longer day for kindergartners in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Much like several Whittier-area districts, LAUSD shifted from a half-day to full-day kindergarten over the past four years. So researchers Jill Cannon, Alison Jacknowitz, Gary Painter and Shannon McConville set out to discover its effect on students. (more…)

Duncan Enlists Odd Allies in Multibillion-Dollar Bid to Shake Up U.S. Education
By Neil King Jr./Wall Street Journal

Education Secretary Arne Duncan invited an odd pair of allies to classrooms in this city to help tout his multibillion-dollar bid to shake up the country’s education system: the liberal Rev. Al Sharpton and the conservative former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "These two guys don’t agree on 96% of everything else, but they do agree on the need for dramatic educational reform," Mr. Duncan said. Rev. Al Sharpton, left, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich at a Philadelphia school on Tuesday as part of a ‘listening and learning’ tour to find out what school strategies are working and why. As the Obama administration forges ahead with the most ambitious federal intervention in education in decades, Mr. Duncan, the former Chicago schools superintendent, needs whatever political support he can get. (more…)

Also Noted for Wednesday, September 30, 2009:

By Shelly Meron/Contra Costa Times

Teachers turned up at four different main intersections in Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo and Hercules, wearing blue United Teachers of Richmond shirts and eliciting honks of support from passing cars. "I’m here because of the injustices the district is doing to its teachers and students," said Lourdes Balderas, a second-grade teacher at Coronado Elementary, who was one of about 70 people demonstrating at the corner of Macdonald Avenue and 23rd Street in Richmond. Balderas said she has four kids, and if the district makes the proposed cuts to benefits, she’ll have to come up with $800 a month to provide health care for her family. "I might have to find another job," she said. "I hope the district realizes what they’re doing to us, and it won’t get to that point." (more…)

By Susan Abram/Los Angeles Daily News

She is here to learn to fly, to catch the moon in her hands. Remember her name. "I used to be alone all the time in my other school," said Natalie Arias, a 14-year-old from North Hollywood who plays an intricate violin concerto as easily as most teens master Guitar Hero. "I didn’t talk much." But at Central Los Angeles High School No. 9, Natalie and 1,200 other students - singers and dancers, musicians and actors - can free their inner Madonna and Baryshnikov, their Itzhak Perlman and Meryl Streep, without fear of ridicule. Here, criticism comes without wounds. Fame comes after it is earned. Built between the Disney Concert Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s landmark visual and performing arts school opened two weeks ago, nine years after construction began. (more…)

Blog by Emily Alpert/Voice of San Diego

San Diego Unified has stopped giving any student information to the military amid complaints from angry parents who said they received forms that were pre-marked to allow their children’s information to be given to military recruiters, instead of allowing them to check yes or no. Activist Rick Jahnkow told the school board that the forms appear to violate families’ rights. While some parents crossed out the "yes" mark on the sheets, "no doubt many parents didn’t realize they could do this," said Jahnkow, a coordinator of the Education Not Arms Coalition, which earlier protested the alleged involuntary enrollment of students in military science classes and rifle ranges on campus. "Some people in this district want to help the military recruit new soldiers more than they want to help us go to college," said Tania Luken, a mother who was outraged by the forms. (more…)

San Diego 10News

As a result of a 10News story, the San Diego Unified School District is questioning all of its principals to find out more about fees being charged for school activities or supplies. Many parents did not know that schools are breaking the law when they ask parents to buy supplies for their children, for both extracurricular and curricular activities, and it ranges from small items like pencils and paper, to more expensive things like cheerleading uniforms. "Is this happening here in San Diego?" asked 10News’ Charisse Yu. "It is, and it’s happening more than people realize," said San Diego School Board member John DeBeck. Schools can’t ask parents to pay for items because a 1984 State Supreme Court ruling made it clear that the state’s guarantee of a free education meant just that. (more…)

By Larry Abramson/NPR

Until a year ago, Beverly Harvey was more familiar with balance sheets than attendance sheets. Harvey had spent 25 years in the banking industry before switching careers and becoming an elementary-school teacher. When banker turned teacher Beverly Harvey signed her contract with Prince George’s County School District, she was thrilled. "This day has finally arrived. This is it!" Harvey said as she signed it. Every year, schools in the U.S. hire a quarter of a million new teachers. Desperate to boost the number of top-quality educators, school districts are luring people from other professions. Beverly Harvey, a former vice president at Citigroup, trained for her new career during a crash course in teaching. Though she had worked in the banking industry for 25 years, she was required to take math classes as part of her preparation. (more…)

Editorial/Concord Monitor

Why are dads taking on more household chores and child-rearing duties than ever before? The first and best answer is necessity. More moms are working outside the home than in generations past, in turn nudging men into roles their fathers and grandfathers had little need to contemplate. But this new household order was not constructed on the stench of dirty diapers alone. Changes in attitudes and priorities have strongly contributed to the revolution. Similar changes will be needed to bring about the kind of change championed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a "Conversation on Fatherhood" forum in Manchester last week. Duncan and others involved with the initiative kicked off by President Obama in June are doing a good job of stressing the need for fathers to be involved in their kids’ education. (more…)

The California Education News Roundup is produced by the Just Schools California project at UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access (IDEA). For the latest research, background and an array of resources on educational justice issues, visit www.idea.gseis.ucla.edu. If you wish to contact us, please e-mail vizcarra@gseis.ucla.edu

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