USC Education Professor Calls it ‘Crazy’ to Hide Student Growth Data from the Public

 USC Education Professor Calls it ‘Crazy’ to Hide Student Growth Data from the Public

Morgan Polikoff is an associate professor of education policy at the USC Rossier School of Education and the author of a new report that argues strongly for California to adopt a student growth model to evaluate schools, something he says the state could do easily. This would give parents a better idea of how well each school is helping students progress academically. Polikoff also believes that LAUSD should share this information with the public. Growth data was a crucial part of the School Performance Framework that LAUSD had originally promised parents it would roll out this month but that Board Member Jackie Goldberg (BD5) is attempting to stop. The board will vote on Goldberg’s resolution to dismantle the SPF on Nov. 5 and will also decide whether to greenlight the release of student growth data. We spoke to Polikoff about his report and what might be keeping the powers that be from sharing this critical information.

Speak UP: You write that 48 states have some kind of model for measuring student growth, meaning how a group of students is doing this year compared to how that same group of students did last year. California is supposed to be really forward thinking. But we’re one of two states—the other is Kansas—that does not have this. Why?

Morgan Polikoff: I don’t think there is an accepted answer for why we don’t have one. The two likeliest reasons are one, that the previous governor was really not a believer in educational data, in general, and test scores, in particular, and so he didn’t want to invest in this. And two, there has been significant opposition to a growth model from the CTA [California Teachers Association] because of perceptions that it is a slippery slope towards some kind of teacher accountability.  

Speak UP: Your report makes a strong argument for using a student level growth model to evaluate and support California’s schools. Why isn’t a fixed snapshot good enough?

Polikoff: A fixed snapshot tells what the average performance is in a school. But it doesn’t tell you how good a job a school is doing at raising performance. What is a school doing during the year in principle? Well, it’s taking kids who come in at a certain point. It’s educating them. And then at the end of the year, it’s seeing how well it did. And when you think about it that way, it’s intuitively clear that what is the measure of school performance is not the average level at the end of the year, rather, how much students learn during the year, which is measured by growth. We also know that just looking at the average performance levels doesn’t work because schools differ so dramatically in the kinds of kids they serve and where those kids come in at. It doesn’t make any sense to compare the average performance levels of a kid from the most disadvantaged neighborhood in South Central with a kid from the most affluent neighborhood in the Valley. Those are different kids and different schools in different contexts. But comparing growth accounts for those differences because you’re comparing each kid to themselves, and you’re really asking, how much are kids at this school learning on average?

Speak UP: The National PTA along with the Data Quality Campaign came out with a brief in September titled, Parents Deserve Clear Information About Student Growth in Schools.  So I assume growth data could be a valuable tool for parents to evaluate school options. How might parents use this information?

Polikoff: They might use it in the same way they used to use API or they currently use Great Schools. These are different ways of rating school performance. But as I just said, API or the way they rate schools on Great Schools, those are based typically on just average performance levels. So what you are telling parents is, the best schools are the ones with the highest average performance levels. Well shock of all shocks, those are the schools that are in the most affluent areas. If you instead present growth data and you explain to people what it represents—it represents how much kids are actually learning in these schools on average—well, first of all, you’re going to see that certainly some of those affluent schools that are highly rated on status are also going to have high growth. But actually a lot of them won’t, and a lot of schools are going to have high growth that you might not think of. It really changes the way people think about school performance away from a system that just says the most affluent schools are the best schools, to a system that actually says the schools that are doing the best job of raising kids’ achievement, those are the best schools.

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Despite Parent Objections, LAUSD Board is Poised to Dismantle School Rating System, While Release of Student Growth Data Remains Uncertain

Despite Parent Objections, LAUSD Board is Poised to Dismantle School Rating System, While Release of Student Growth Data Remains Uncertain

Nearly a dozen parents raised their voices at an LAUSD board committee meeting Tuesday in an attempt to save the School Performance Framework and give parents access to vital data showing how well L.A. schools are helping vulnerable students grow academically in a given year.  

A committee chaired by Board Member George McKenna (BD1), however, voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend a resolution from Board Vice President Jackie Goldberg (BD5) to suspend implementation of the school rating system on the eve of its launch.

The full board is expected to pass some version of Goldberg’s resolution on Nov. 5, reversing course and discarding more than a year’s worth of work undertaken by the district and stakeholders after a 6-1 vote last April to create a rating system to evaluate school performance.   

The only parent member of the committee, Reggie Green from Augustus Hawkins High in South L.A., was the lone dissenting voice on the dais Tuesday. “I think as a parent, if we don’t measure where we are, how do we know where we need to go?” he asked. “I think it just breeds complacency if we don’t have some type of measurement so we know what we need to strive for. I would like to see a number.”

Parents testifying before the board, including many Speak UP members, also expressed frustration over the wasted time and effort spent at nine separate stakeholder meetings to help refine the system, which LAUSD had promised to launch this month in time for the eChoices deadline.   

“I have spent the last year and a half working on this with LAUSD because I believe we as parents deserve to know how students are progressing in our schools, in order to decide the best schools for our children and to help our current schools improve,” said Speak UP’s Raquel Toscano, a parent at MaCES magnet in District 5. “This lack of transparency is exactly what caused measure EE to lose.”

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Kelly Gonez Fights to Save Resolution to Decrease School Segregation

Kelly Gonez Fights to Save Resolution to Decrease School Segregation

A resolution to decrease school segregation and ensure fair access to magnet schools was put on hold Tuesday because of opposition from Board Members Scott Schmerelson (BD3), George McKenna (BD1) and Jackie Goldberg (BD5).

The trio of board members pushed to delay a vote Tuesday on the resolution from Board Member Kelly Gonez (BD6) to collect data on LAUSD enrollment patterns to help make sure all students have equitable access to all schools.

Gonez, however, fought hard to keep the resolution alive.

“There’s a national conversation about increasing segregation in urban schools,” said Gonez, pointing out that “very, very few African American and Latino students” attend one of the top-performing grade 6-12 span schools in her district. “We have to understand, why does that pattern exist? Is there anything we can do to ensure that more students of color who have historically lacked access can go to a school like that?”

Likewise, magnet programs located within comprehensive schools "enroll far fewer English learners and students with disabilities," Gonez said. "I have concerns about why that’s happening and whether there are barriers to entry that we could be addressing.”

After their initial attempts to delay the vote failed, Schmerelson and McKenna voted no on the resolution, while Goldberg abstained. Despite being a co-sponsor of the resolution, Board President Richard Vladovic (BD7), also abstained.

Deprived of the four votes needed to pass, Gonez then vowed to bring her resolution back again next month. The resolution was supported by a coalition of parent and civil rights groups called the Partnership for Equitable Access To Public Schools, which includes Speak UP.

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Parents of Kids With Special Needs Blast the District at Final Independent Monitor Hearing

  Parents of Kids With Special Needs Blast the District at Final Independent Monitor Hearing

About 40 parents expressed deep and ongoing concern over LAUSD’s handling of kids with special needs at Wednesday’s last hearing of the Office of the Independent Monitor, which is preparing its final report before shutting down at the end of this year. 

While the district has been touting the end of independent court oversight after 26 years as a sign of success, parents testified -- some with anger and others in tears -- about a myriad of ways that LAUSD continues to fail their children.

“I’m shocked to hear that LAUSD felt they have met the needs of special-needs students,” said South L.A. parent Mia Marano, who has a third-grade son with autism and still has difficulty navigating the system after six years of advocating, despite having the advantages of a college education.

“How can you say that LAUSD has succeeded in serving special-needs students even though the most advantaged by the system have difficulty getting their children’s needs met?” she asked. Meanwhile, more disadvantaged kids are often neglected. “How is that educational equity for all special-needs students?” 

The Chanda Smith Consent Decree settled a class-action lawsuit filed in 1993 by ordering an independent monitor to supervise the delivery of special education services. Its end means that the district has met the baseline federal legal requirements, but parents testified that mere compliance with the law is not good enough.

“Compliance in a piece of paper doesn’t mean quality education for our children,” said Lisa Mosko, Speak UP’s Director of Special Education and a mother of two kids with learning differences. “I have spoken to over 100 parents in the district for the past year and a half, and I hear horror story after horror story...Clearly compliance, it’s not good enough for our children.”

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LAUSD Board Unanimously Passes $5.5-Million Program to Ease Co-location Tensions After Speak UP's District, Charter Parents Advocate Together

LAUSD Board Unanimously Passes $5.5-Million Program to Ease Co-location Tensions After Speak UP's District, Charter Parents Advocate Together

District and charter parents joined forces to advocate for funding to improve facilities at LAUSD campuses sharing space with charter schools, prompting the Board to more than double the money allocated for the proposed pilot program to $5.5 million, which the Board passed unanimously Tuesday.

The resolution from Board members Nick Melvoin (BD4) and Jackie Goldberg (BD5) allows co-locating district and charters schools to jointly apply for a portion of $5.5 million in charter bond funds, roughly $100,000 per campus, to make co-location go more smoothly.

“An adversarial relationship between charters and district schools is never good for children,” Goldberg said in a statement after the resolution passed. “This resolution takes us in the right direction.”

Becky Cunningham, a parent volunteer at Katherine Johnson STEM Academy, the new neighborhood middle school for the Westchester-Playa Vista area, said she hopes the funds can be used to fix a broken PA system in the auditorium at the Westchester High school campus where her school shares space with the upper grades of Ocean Charter and WISH Charter’s middle and high schools.

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LAUSD Board Members Attempt to Collect on Last-Minute Bills in Exchange for Charter Renewals

LAUSD Board Members Attempt to Collect on Last-Minute Bills in Exchange for Charter Renewals

LAUSD dropped large bills on two charter schools over the past two weeks, and then three Board members threatened to deny their renewal Tuesday if they did not pay up, even though the unexpected bills were not yet due.

Weeks after saying he wanted to “depoliticize” the charter renewal process, Board President Richard Vladovic (BD7) vowed to deny the renewal of high-performing Citizens of the World Hollywood elementary and YPI’s Bert Carona High, alongside Board Members Jackie Goldberg (BD5) and Scott Schmerelson (BD3), despite district staff recommendations to approve both schools. 

“I’m not being unfair,” Vladovic said. “We need the money.” 

In the end, the Board voted unanimously to keep the schools open, but only after Board Member Nick Melvoin (BD4) likened the process to extortion, and it became clear there were not four votes to shut down the schools.

YPI Chief Operations Officer Ruben Dueñas, a former LAUSD teacher and administrator, grew emotional when discussing the threat to YPI schools. “I’m nervous. My kids go to these schools. The feeling is -- shut down my schools. Shut down my kids and their opportunity…The conversation is threatening.”

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Votes Delayed on Resolutions to Give Non-Citizen Parents the Right to Vote in School Board Elections and to Ensure Equal Access to Magnet Schools

Votes Delayed on Resolutions to Give Non-Citizen Parents the Right to Vote in School Board Elections and to Ensure Equal Access to Magnet Schools

Votes will be delayed on two resolutions from Board Member Kelly Gonez (BD6) to explore giving non-citizen parents the right to vote in school board elections and to compile data on enrollment trends in LAUSD’s schools of choice to ensure equitable access for all kids.

Both resolutions, which had been slated for votes Tuesday, will now be referred to newly formed board committees first before coming up for a vote in October, Gonez told Speak UP by email Friday.

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Goldberg Seeks to Abort School Rating System, Denying Parents Access to Student Growth Data

Goldberg Seeks to Abort School Rating System, Denying Parents Access to Student Growth Data

LAUSD Board Vice President Jackie Goldberg (BD5) introduced a resolution Tuesday to “suspend implementation” of the new school rating system that parents and other stakeholders helped develop for more than a year. LAUSD was in the final stages of testing the system and had planned to roll it out in October, in time for the eChoices application deadline.

In April 2018, the LAUSD Board voted 6-1 to direct the district to create a School Performance Framework to help identify schools needing support and to help parents evaluate how their schools are doing and make the best choices for their kids.

The system was to rely heavily on student growth data, and each school would receive a single summative rating.

Goldberg’s resolution directs LAUSD to “suspend implementation of the SPF and any launching or utilization of the SPF—including any use of stars, scores, or any other rating system—in or on any District platforms.”

Its passage would deprive parents of vital data on student growth and school performance.

Giving parents this information “can shame, penalize, or stigmatize schools, education professionals, students, and entire communities,” as well as “promote unhealthy competition between schools,” Goldberg’s resolution contends.

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LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner: ‘We All Need to Communicate Better'

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner: ‘We All Need to Communicate Better'

Speak UP sat down with LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner during the first week of school to discuss changes he’s made at the district during his first year on the job, ways to increase funding and whether parents should expect the next round of union negotiations to lead to more strikes.

Speak UP: There have been some layoffs at LAUSD this month. You've also been restructuring some things at district headquarters, and Special Ed is now under another department. What’s going on?

Beutner: We have put together Student Health and Human Services and Special Ed. We think of those as support for students. In the past, Special Ed has been thought of as its own school system, in effect. You get an IEP [Individualized Education Plan], you're going to Los Angeles Unified, but you're really in a different school system. We want it more integrated with everything we do. So in Local District East here, there are students with IEPs, there are students without IEPs. They're all part of the same system. Many of them need social-emotional support. So we've created the role for a Chief Equity Officer, and that team's responsibility is to deliver the supports the student needs. That support might be extra lesson time, an IEP. It might be counseling because there's trauma at home or trauma in their life, but that's support. To achieve equity, it means the support is there to meet student needs. It might come technically from an IEP or from a different place. Same team doing the work, we've just put them together because there's a lot of cross-collaboration between those teams. Within the Boyle Heights family, there's someone whose responsibility is to bring the services of both of those efforts to this set of schools.  

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Another Broken Promise? District Backs Away From School Rating System To Help Parents Evaluate Schools

Another Broken Promise? District Backs Away From School Rating System To Help Parents Evaluate Schools

Speak UP sat down with LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner to discuss the status of a school rating system that the board voted 6-1 last April to create. LAUSD spent a year developing the School Performance Framework with input from stakeholders, and the new system was tested and slated to launch in October. Beutner, however, is now backing away from that promise, despite the fact that the Advisory Task Force he chaired before he was named superintendent called for the creation of a school report card.   

Speak UP: You’ve been talking about increasing transparency and continuity and trust in LAUSD. The board passed a resolution, almost unanimously, directing the district to create a School Performance Framework with a single summative school rating to give parents clear, easy-to-understand information about how their schools are performing. The point was to identify which schools need more support and to help parents make the best choices. The Los Angeles Times recently suggested that you are trying to back away from that promise.

Beutner: First of all, this was passed before I got here. And there are two parts to this exercise. There is providing more information about what is actually happening with the school. We will continue to do that. I will give you an example: Change versus growth. The State Dashboard will show us for a school what the performance was for students in that school one year to the next year on the state math test. But for children who enter our kindergarten, about half will be at a different school by fifth grade. We serve a population that is inordinately transient. So comparing school to school, when school needs are different, when the cohort of students in each school is different, isn't the right approach.

We think it's growth. We think it's looking at the students themselves. We're not going to identify anything publicly about a particular classroom or grade. It's going to be the school. But we need to be looking at growth. That's very valuable. And that also takes into account the place students start, the factors from their community that they bring into the classroom. So it's an apple-to-apple comparison. Part of that board initiative was to do that. We're doing that. It sounds simple. It's harder than you think. We've been doing that work.

I believe that is entirely separable from a single alphanumeric or summative rating. You know, the state has its own color scheme. Maybe we stay with the state color scheme, maybe we do something different. But the actual summative thing? What does a star do? Does a star take into account that one school might have an elementary population that 80% of kids are transient, not finishing at the same school? Another might have 25%. How does a star take that into account? I'm not quite sure. Does the label help us achieve our goal? Or does the label just label something that they already know? We sort of cast winners and losers before we can do the work.

I want to make sure every school community is as informed as possible. I want to make sure those working in the school know all of the information that we can know, that we can provide. So growth, for instance. English Learners, we had a record year, last year, helping students become proficient [in English]. But there's a lot more to know. Two or three years before, did we get an influx of high school newcomers? Or second-graders proficient in another language before they came? Two different paths they’d each be on. Separable from the stars.  

Speak UP: But the board was very clear that schools should have a single summative rating. You’ve been talking about consistency and transparency. This sounds like more of a broken promise to parents. Stakeholders have been working on this system for a year. You said the board voted before you arrived. That sounds like things change politically. We never finish what we start because there's no consistency and follow through. There’s always a revolving door. Doesn’t that erode trust?

Beutner: I think far and away, the most important thing is to find more information about a school. That should be our obligation and commitment to families, whether it's stars, colors, numbers. The state has a certain approach. Maybe we stay with that approach.

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Beutner Tackles ‘Lack of Trust’ in LAUSD By Creating Smaller, Local Communities of Schools

Beutner Tackles ‘Lack of Trust’ in LAUSD By Creating Smaller, Local Communities of Schools

We sat down with LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner last week to discuss the state of the district at the start of the 2019-20 school year. The interview was conducted at Utah Avenue elementary school, which houses a new Community of Schools office, where local district and central office employees have been redeployed to serve a group of nearby schools. This is part one of a three-part interview.

Speak UP: Why are we here at Utah Avenue elementary?

Beutner: You've heard me talk about how we have to take the Los Angeles School Unified from the top-down, one-size-fits all, 1,386 schools, to build back from school-up. This is how we do that. So this is the East. [Local District] East would be 100,000 students, roughly 75 square miles. To go from South Gate to the District East office is like going to the moon. So what we've done is to say, "Well, we serve communities." We happen to be in the Boyle Heights community. What we've done is move our leaders. So families come here if they have issues. Ultimately, we want to better connect the schools [to families.] So all the supports are in the community. From the family perspective, we’re closer to where you are. There are all kinds of supports we provide, social-emotional support for the family, understanding their paths. From a service side, we have M&O [Maintenance and Operations] teams now centered here. So maintenance is done for this community of schools. More efficient. They'll know the unique needs of the school. So the school might have second-floor plumbing. The same person coming every time says, "Oh, yes, the leaky valve," not some stranger. It gives those who are supporting the instructional work at each school a much closer connection with the school.

Speak UP: Are you doing this in just a couple of the local districts?

Beutner: We're doing this in Local District East and Local District South. We want to do it deliberately, so we learn.  I'll use an example of the personalization, multi-tiered system of support for the student or the school. Van Deene Elementary went from 11% chronic absence, beginning of last year, to 3% at the end. In the past, Los Angeles Unified would have had a Local Control Accountability Plan for the district as a whole, but it was never local, and the target for all [schools] would have been 11%. We flipped it on its head and said each school serves a unique community, a unique set of students and a unique set of families. What's the right target or goal for that? If you're at 25%, maybe getting to 22% is heroic. If you're at 11%, can you improve? 

The more we can better connect the resources we do have with the unique needs of the students and the schools that they're in, I think we're going to make real progress as opposed to one size fits all from the top. Learning doesn't happen at a school district. It doesn't happen in the local district office. It happens in the classroom. Our goal is to focus on that. The commonality in each of our elementary schools: an experienced principal with the resources and the budget they need to do the job. High-quality instructors in the classroom, social-emotional support for the child and the family. That's the recipe we're trying to replicate in each of our schools. But how you go about it is going to be different.

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Inequity and Parent Fears Remain, as LAUSD Gets Released From Court Oversight of Special Needs Services After 26 Years

Inequity and Parent Fears Remain, as LAUSD Gets Released From Court Oversight of Special Needs Services After 26 Years

When Superintendent Austin Beutner, LAUSD Board Member George McKenna and City Council President Herb Wesson all gathered at Crenshaw High on the first day of school Tuesday to donate computers for a photo op, one South L.A. parent saw it as an opportunity to speak truth to power.

Lawrence Mulligan, an associate preacher at Galilee Baptist Church, was upset the district had transferred his now-10th grade son with high-functioning autism to a new school on the Westside just three weeks before summer break. 

“I felt like I was forced because they didn’t have the supportive services he needed to keep him here,” said Mulligan, who has six kids, three of whom have autism. “I’m from this neighborhood, and I enjoy my son being in the neighborhood. I shouldn’t have to have him transferred way out just to get the supportive services that he needed.”

The district’s decision to put him on a bus to Hamilton High points out inequities that remain in the system at a moment when LAUSD is on the brink of being released from court supervision of its handling of kids with special needs after 26 years.

“Let’s keep it real, [at Hamilton] they cater to more people in the upper class,” he said. “Here, you have people in the community with less money. The funding is less. The programs are less.”

LAUSD is touting the end of the Chanda Smith Consent Decree, which settled a class action lawsuit originally filed in 1993 and mandated an independent monitor to supervise the district’s delivery of services to kids with special needs. A judge recently agreed to end that outside supervision in December.

Beutner believes that’s an endorsement of a job well done. “We are at a standard and a level which exceeds any other school district in the state of California, and probably any other school district across the nation like ours,” Beutner told Speak UP. “We are doing a fantastic – the best possible job we can do for students.”

Many parents of kids with special needs, who often have to hire attorneys to get their kids’ needs met, disputed that notion.

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Beutner Calls For More Transparency and Touts Graduation Rate

Beutner Calls For More Transparency and Touts Graduation Rate

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner delivered his State of Schools address Thursday morning, vowing to support school leaders in the hard work of ensuring every student in the district gets the best possible education, and announcing an all-time record high graduation rate surpassing 78% for the Class of 2019.

“Quite an improvement from 62% just a decade ago,” Beutner said to the nearly 2,000 school administrators, district officials and representatives from community organizations that help LAUSD who attended the annual event held at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles. Only about a dozen parent representatives were present.

Board President Richard Vladovic, who spoke briefly before Beutner, asked the principals in the audience to partner with parents in helping students succeed in this new school year. “More than ever, it’s important that we welcome parents and we make them feel safe,” he said.

Beutner spoke for just shy of 20 minutes but addressed many of the challenges the district faces, including its dire finances and the persistent achievement gap for certain student groups such as English learners and special education students.

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Complaint to State Accuses LAUSD of Improper Handling of Funds for High-Needs Kids

Complaint to State Accuses LAUSD of Improper Handling of Funds for High-Needs Kids

The nonprofit law firm Public Advocates has filed a complaint against the Los Angeles Unified School District on behalf of parents alleging that the district is failing to properly account for $2 billion in funds that are supposed to be directed to needy low-income kids, English language learners and foster youth.

The complaint filed with the California Department of Education asks for immediate intervention from the state to invalidate LAUSD’s new Local Control Accountability Plan – a state-required plan specifying how it intends to help high-needs kids  – which it alleges LAUSD posted on its website June 28, 10 days after a different LCAP was approved by the LAUSD Board.

The complaint said that this new LCAP and budget overview were never vetted by the public, are twice as long as what was approved by the board and made substantial changes to LAUSD’s Foster Youth program without any public review, which is required by law. The complaint also questions whether the additional state funds provided under the Local Control Funding Formula are actually being used to help needy kids.

“To make LCFF really transform our schools, the district has to be transparent about its spending, and they must trust us, the parents, to have something valuable to contribute,” said Ana Carrion, parent of a 12-year-old LAUSD student, one of two parents who signed onto the complaint.

“Tragically, LAUSD’s LCAPs are so rife with fundamental errors that they undermine basic notions of transparency and equity and thwart meaningful efforts at local engagement and accountability,” the complaint said.

The complaint also alleges that the Los Angeles County Office of Education is aware of the problem but has“failed to ensure LAUSD follows the law.”

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Vladovic Takes Helm of LAUSD Board, Promises to Focus on ‘Finding the Money’ and Lifting Student Achievement

Vladovic Takes Helm of LAUSD Board, Promises to Focus on ‘Finding the Money’ and Lifting Student Achievement

With Richard Vladovic taking over as president of the Los Angeles Unified School Board during his final year in office, the board has an opportunity to forge a middle-ground path toward stabilizing LAUSD finances and lifting student achievement at low-performing schools. 

Vladovic (BD7) has long been considered a swing vote on the board, sometimes siding with education reformers and sometimes with union activists, who joined forces this spring to campaign for Measure EE in hopes of bringing more revenue to LAUSD.

Given the failure of Measure EE at the ballot box, Vladovic is taking the helm of the board at a challenging time. The district is expected to lay off employees in August in an attempt to balance its budget and satisfy county overseers, who have complained about the district’s deficit spending and $12 billion unfunded retiree healthcare liabilities.

Vladovic told the board he hopes to bring employee labor unions to the table to discuss ways to fix things, and he struck a conciliatory tone. “I don’t want to talk about cuts,” he said. “We’re going to talk about finding the money.”

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LAUSD Waives Parent Fundraising Fees For One Year

LAUSD Waives Parent Fundraising Fees For One Year

The LAUSD Board voted to temporarily waive fees charged to parent-teacher organizations and booster clubs when they hold one-day school fundraising events on campus.

The decision to waive fees for one year charged to PTAs, PTOs and boosters, as well as to simplify forms and put them online in multiple languages, came out of a working group created to make parent participation easier at LAUSD. It follows a decision by the district to waive fees charged to fingerprint parents who want to volunteer on campus. 

“I really appreciate that the district has listened to feedback from parents about how much red tape exists to support their children’s schools and is taking this step toward bringing families in rather than pushing them away,” said Board Vice President Nick Melvoin (BD4), who has been advocating since he joined the board to change arcane rules that penalize parents and organizations that serve students.

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LAUSD Votes to Phase Out Random ‘Wanding’ Searches and Tells Parents to Lock Up Their Guns

LAUSD Votes to Phase Out Random ‘Wanding’ Searches and Tells Parents to Lock Up Their Guns

How do we keep kids safe from gun violence in school without making them feel like criminals? That was the dominant question posed by the LAUSD Board Tuesday, which voted 4-3 to phase out its controversial “wanding” policy to randomly search students with hand-held metal detectors, while also voting to tell parents to lock up their guns at home so kids can’t bring them to school.

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Parents Rip District For Failing Needy Students

Parents Rip District For Failing Needy Students

As Los Angeles Unified released new data showing widespread achievement gaps and rising rates of chronic absenteeism, parent leaders serving on LAUSD’s central committees ripped into the district for its budget and accountability plan to help needy students.

“You spend millions and millions on professional development that are not yielding results,” parent Diana Guillen from MacArthur Park told the board in Spanish Tuesday. “We see this reflected in Measure EE that was not approved. Parents are not trustful of the district and how they manage the money. You have already received $800 million for students that have needs. We truly are not seeing academic progress on behalf of the students. There are programs, there are plans, but there are no real results…No one is accountable.”

Guillen was one of several parents from LAUSD’s Parent Advisory Committee and District English Learner Advisory Committee who aired complaints during the public hearing on the Local Control Accountability Plan, which is required by state law to measure outcomes for its most vulnerable kids in exchange for more flexibility on how to spend the money.

LAUSD released an equity scorecard with new data from 2017-18 showing that chronic absenteeism rose from 11% to 15%. The rate of students missing 16 days or more was highest among African American students (25%), students with disabilities (22%) and foster youth (21%), all groups that continue to suffer from large achievement gaps.

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Days After EE Fails, LAUSD Submits ‘Tenuous’ Budget Plan That Freezes Wages and Healthcare Costs 

Days After EE Fails, LAUSD Submits ‘Tenuous’ Budget Plan That Freezes Wages and Healthcare Costs 

Two days after voters rejected a measure to provide new funding to Los Angeles schools, LAUSD unveiled a new three-year budget that freezes future employee wages and healthcare costs, which LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner acknowledged was essentially a fiction generated to satisfy the requirements of county regulators.

 “It’s just not the real world,” Beutner said.

That’s because healthcare costs are actually rising, and the deal to keep healthcare payments flat expires next December, at which point district healthcare contributions are subject to labor negotiations with all its employee unions. Employee wage contracts will also be coming up for negotiations again.

Beutner admitted that this budget was intended to meet the letter of the law while buying more time to find new revenue now that voters have rejected Measure EE.

“As we look at the third year of this forecast, it’s tenuous,” Beutner said. “It’s tenuous because it assumes there are no wage increases. We’d expect to provide a wage increase to those who work in schools. We don’t expect our healthcare costs to remain flat. The third year is probably optimistic in terms of what reality might look like, in which case we don’t have the funding to provide for that third year.”

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Voters Reject Parcel Tax Needed to Pay For Contract Promises Made to Settle UTLA Strike  

Voters Reject Parcel Tax Needed to Pay For Contract Promises Made to Settle UTLA Strike  

Despite 80 percent public support for the United Teachers Los Angeles strike in January, voters on Tuesday decisively rejected Measure EE, the parcel tax that was needed to pay for promises made to settle the strike, such as lower class sizes and more hiring of nurses, counselors and librarians.

With a two-thirds majority needed to pass it, only 45.6% of voters supported the measure, while 54.3% voted no. Some mail-in ballots are still outstanding, but with 100% of precincts reporting on election night, 304,321 of the the 2.4 million eligible voters turned out to vote.

“We are deeply disappointed that Los Angeles voters did not support efforts to increase education funding for L.A. kids,” said Speak UP Founder and CEO Katie Braude. “Our parents worked very hard to pass this, and we will not give up efforts to lift California from its abysmal position near the bottom of states in education funding. I know that we can do better, and our kids deserve more.”

The results are a huge defeat for both UTLA and Mayor Eric Garcetti, who had urged Los Angeles Unified to take a “leap of faith” by making promises to settle the strike that the district could not afford without additional revenue. As a result of EE’s failure, Los Angeles Unified now has no way to pay for the third year of its new UTLA contract and may have to revisit some of those promises or make deep and painful cuts to both programs and staff.

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