Archives for category: California

The Network for Public Education Action Fund is pleased to endorse Dr. Suzie Abajian for the South Pasadena School Board

Dr. Suzie Abajian is an educator, in every sense of the word. She has sixteen years of experience as a teacher, field supervisor, educational researcher, and professor, and holds a Ph.D. in Education from UCLA. Dr. Abajian taught Mathematics at Loyola Marymount University for four years, and is currently a professor of education at Occidental College. She has been a committed supporter of public education throughout her career, and will bring a profound understanding of education policy, effective teaching, and education research to the South Pasadena School Board.

NPE President Diane Ravitch has offered Dr. Abajian her unqualified endorsement, stating, “Dr Suzie Abajian is exactly the kind of person who should run for school board and be elected to serve. She is a well-informed advocate for students and for educational change. I hope that the people of South Pasadena turn out to elect her for their school board.”

Abajian has already demonstrated that she can successfully work within the system to bring about positive change for students. She was on the steering committee for the Save Adult Education campaign that kept the Adult Education Program in Los Angeles Unified School District open. She is also on the steering committee of the Ethnic Studies Now Coalition that made Ethnic Studies a graduation requirement in select school districts in California.

Teacher, El Rancho School Board Vice President, and fellow Ethnic Studies Now Coalition member Jose Lara has also endorsed Dr. Abajian, stating, “Dr. Abajian championed Ethnic Studies in our schools, which meant that having the literature and history of students of color, Latino, Black, Armenian etc. in the classroom is as essential as expanding STEAM programs.”

“She has been a champion for students and educators from many years now,” Lara continued. “She has been an advocate for equitable funding of public school and maintaining essential programs like Adult Education, music, arts, and expanded Pre-K education.”

A strong proponent of small class sizes, Dr. Abajian stated, ‘Class size definitely matters! Class size should be kept under 20. I will do whatever I can to support legislation and policy changes that reduce class size.”

Dr. Abajian immigrated to the United States from Syria with her family when she was 12 years old. “I can identify with the struggles of students who don’t quite fit into our school district. Our school board needs to have individuals from more diverse backgrounds that better represent the diversity of the city in which we live.”

NPE Action agrees that Dr. Abajian is an ideal candidate for the South Pasadena School Board. Please visit her website to learn more about her, and do what you can to support her campaign by donating or volunteering.

California decided to cancel its high school exit exam. Now the state is trying to locate 32,000 students who were denied diplomas since 2006 because they did not pass the exam, but met all the other requirements for graduation.

Sifting through old high school transcripts and searching for names on Facebook, school officials across California are scrambling to hand out thousands of diplomas to former students, many of whom gave up on graduating and don’t realize they’re now eligible.

The young men and women, some in their late 20s, became sudden qualifiers for a diploma after Gov. Jerry Brown last week retroactively revoked the requirement that all students pass the controversial California High School Exit Exam. With the stroke of a pen, the governor brought relief to up to 32,000 students since the class of 2006 who only needed to pass the test to graduate.

Some districts are using Facebook and other social media to search for former students.

“Sifting through old high school transcripts and searching for names on Facebook, school officials across California are scrambling to hand out thousands of diplomas to former students, many of whom gave up on graduating and don’t realize they’re now eligible.

The young men and women, some in their late 20s, became sudden qualifiers for a diploma after Gov. Jerry Brown last week retroactively revoked the requirement that all students pass the controversial California High School Exit Exam. With the stroke of a pen, the governor brought relief to up to 32,000 students since the class of 2006 who only needed to pass the test to graduate.

The about-face on the Exit Exam began earlier this year when the state Department of Education stopped administering the test while the Legislature considered suspending the graduation requirement.

As The Chronicle reported in August, that left thousands of members of the class of 2015 in limbo, required to pass a test the state no longer offered. An emergency state law waived the Exit Exam requirement for the class of 2015, but did not address what would happen to former students still trying to pass the test and get a diploma years after they left high school.

The new law, signed by the governor Wednesday, not only revoked the Exit Exam graduation requirement going back to the class of 2006, but also suspended it through 2017. State officials now must decide whether to create a new test aligned with the new Common Core standards or come up with another way to verify a level of academic proficiency needed to get a diploma.

As is often the case, California is forging a different path from the rest of the nation.

You can stop the privatizers in California by signing a petition for a referendum to repeal the Charter School Act of 1992. Charter schools were supposed to serve only the neediest students, but in California they have spread into affluent districts and serve as publicly funded private schools. Now, Eli Broad has a plan to open charters for half the students in Los Angeles. You can help to stop privatization by getting this initiative onto the ballot.

Here is the website:

REPEAL Charter School Act of 1992 in CA Ballot Initiative


Ballot Initiative to REPEAL the CA Charter School Act of 1992

As many of you know the charter school industry is at the heart of the corporate takeover of our public schools.

Charter schools cherry pick students, falsify records, commit enrollment fraud, close down community schools, destroy jobs, bust up unions and segregate students where we now see essentially a three tiered system— charter schools in affluent neighborhoods lacking students with behavior issues, lacking students with special needs and lacking students who are English language learners- these charter schools tend to have highly qualified credential teachers; then there are the charter schools in low income areas where many teachers are unlicensed and the third tier is everyone else in traditional public schools. Charter schools are draining funds from our traditional public school system.

No student should be rejected from our public schools, yet charter schools reject or counsel students out all the time. This is immoral and shameful. These types of severe discriminatory practices need to be abolished now.

Read about the ugly racist history of the charter school movement at this link:…

Charter schools receive public funds but have private, often secret school boards unaccountable to the taxpayers.

The charter school profiteers have essentially stolen our money and destroyed lives. We will never see the huge amounts of money that has been squandered away- it is gone.

Please share the recent report entitled Charter Schools Cheating Communities Out of Millions. See below link:…

Enough is enough.

It is time for the people of California to come together and take back our public schools from the profiteers.

A REPEAL is long overdue. The billionaire game is over and we the people are not going to put up with it anymore.

To place a repeal of the charter school act of 1992 on the ballot will require approximately 370,000 signatures. I know more than this number wishes to vote for repeal, but we need to know who you are so we can make this happen.

So, for those of you who are saying YES, it is about time, we need your help and we need to know who you are.
We need to assess that the numbers are there to support this. So, reach out to your friends, your family, your social and/or political groups..and provide us with names, county of voter registration and contact information.

The way this works is that for now we build support, get contact information because once we file the proposed initiative, a clock starts ticking, and we only have 180 days to gather actual signatures. All the signatures must qualify 131 days prior to a statewide election.

So, for November 2016…we must start gathering names now and obtain organizational support…file by December 2015 just to obtain a Title and Summary that allows us to gather signatures and begin gathering actual signatures to qualify for ballot prior to end of May 2016 .

Keep in mind to qualify for ballot is not enough, we need time to promote the initiative before the actual election as well.

Time is of the essence.

So, even if you might not have the time to help spread the word about this, please let us know who we might contact, who might be able to help in this effort. And please at least give us your name and contact information.

Let’s take back our public schools from the profiteers!

The following organizations and individuals have endorsed this petition and this effort to repeal charter school laws in California:

AFT Local 6161 (Palomar Faculty Federation)

North County Labor Alliance

Escondido Public School Advocates

Wellstone Progressive Democrats of Sacramento

Chicano Latino Caucus of the California Democratic Party

Labor Council for Latin American Advancement-Sacramento chapter

Actor and Activist- Danny Glover

Bill Freeman- NEA Board member California

Alita Blanc- United Educators of San Francisco President

Julian Nava- Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico

Wayne Johnson- Past President of California Teachers Association (CTA)

Francisco Martinez- KPFK Radio Producer (Los Angeles)

Governor Brown has until October 11 to sign or veto legislation that would ban for-profit charter schools in California. it is outrageous to squander taxpayer dollars on profits for investors and outrageous executive salaries. This bill should be a slam dunk for Governor Brown, a man with a keen sense of justice. Now I hope the legislature tightens oversight of nonprofit charter schools and reviews their executive salaries to be sure that they really are nonprofit. And while they are at it, they should ban charter schools in affluent communities, which violate the spirit if the charter movement, which wassupposedto help the neediest kids, not to enable rich parents to create a publicly-funded private school for their children.

Here is the legislation awaiting Governor Brown’s signature:

“For-profit charter schools: Charter schools run by for-profit corporations would not be allowed in California under the terms of AB 787, authored by Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, which passed the Legislature. Six for-profit charter schools operate in the state, and California Virtual Academies, managed by the for-profit K12 Inc., is the largest. The bill’s author noted that K12 paid its top six executives a total of nearly $11 million in 2011-12, while the average California Virtual Academies teacher’s salary was $36,150, about half of the average teacher pay in the state. The author raised the question of whether a for-profit corporation would try to limit services to students to increase profits.”

The young woman who charged Kevin Johnson with sexual abuse many years ago has come forward to tell her story.

Johnson was a major basketball star at the time. He is now Mayor of Sacramento and is assumed to have ambitions to be Governor of California. He is married to Michelle Rhee, the controversial former Chancellor of the District of Columbia public schools.

The accuser was 15 at the time of the alleged incident. He was 29. She is now 36.

Koba [the accuser] says Johnson cut off contact, but eventually agreed to pay her $230,600—she received an initial payment of $59,000, nearly $92,000 went into a trust, while the rest went to legal fees, her mom, and medical costs to treat her mental health.
The agreement, she says, was signed by her and Johnson, and it’s in a safety deposit box in Arizona that can only be opened if she and his lawyer are there….

Koba says she spent the settlement on tuition and other things on one semester at University of San Francisco. She says she dropped out, saying she didn’t want to look back on her degree knowing Johnson’s money paid for it. She eventually got her degree from the University of Arizona.

Johnson’s office released a statement on Friday saying “These allegations are two decades old. They were thoroughly investigated and rejected by law enforcement and reported in the media. They weren’t true then, and they aren’t true now, period.”

The original story, with greater detail, was reported in Deadspin.

If it is untrue, Mayor Johnson should sue her for defamation. Or he could send his lawyer to open the safety deposit box to prove his innocence.

This article by Dave McKenna is an investigative report centered on the activities of Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento (husband of Michelle Rhee). Johnson was a major basketball star back in the day, and he seems to have a bright political future.

But the article says there are troubling details about his political shenanigans that may cause problems for him.

It is amazing how many of his problems are connected to the charter industry.

McKenna writes:

Johnson is husband to Michelle Rhee, the controversial school-privatization activist, and there is considerable evidence that their shared desire to turn public schools into engines of profit for private actors is what has driven much, if not most, of Johnson’s more recent wrongdoing. Despite, or perhaps because of, this, he’s enjoyed the profile and appointments of a national figure on the make: public appearances with President Barack Obama, portrayal as a latter-day Metternich by The New York Times, and the patronage of serious players like Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates.

A new scandal, though, is putting Johnson’s rise at serious risk. It involves the mayor replacing civil servants with private citizens funded by the Wal-Mart empire and tasked with the twin purposes of working to abolish public education and bring in piles of cash for Kevin Johnson.

The rising star, it seems, set up a fake government—and some people are starting to notice.

This sounds hopeful. California has established a new agency to help and monitor struggling schools, and it will be led by a veteran educator, Carl Cohn.

I know Carl Cohn. He is the paradigm, the exemplar of a sensible and wise leader. He opposes punitive measures. He understands that what matters most is capacity-building and that requires collaboration and trust.

Here is a snippet from the interview linked above:

Cohn says:

“I think this is a dramatic departure from the past. Most of those other efforts were driven by state capitols and the federal government, but this is a major departure. The reason that I’m involved is that it is an opportunity to prove that the state of California has it right to emphasize teaching and learning and support for schools as opposed to embarrassing and punishing and shaming, which is what some have been all about since No Child Left Behind.

“This isn’t a new version of previous CDE [California Department of Education] efforts at intervention. It’s a completely new philosophy and execution independent of the state bureaucracy. It’s designed to listen to people in the field and to bring them together around improvement. It also draws heavily on the principle of subsidiarity where those at the local level actually know better how to rescue kids that we care about. So, I see this as a fundamental departure from what we’ve done in the past.

“Question: How does that look different on the ground? I’ve got the 30,000 foot view.

“Sure, I think as opposed to a lot of dictates and mandates coming from Sacramento, we start with the idea of collaboration, which is very different from what we’ve seen in the past. We start with best practice that is developed and honed at the local level. The idea is a powerful one in that you actually spend time in these places that have been labeled as failing, and you build their capacity.

“In the past, it was a lot of one-off luminaries coming in and regaling people with their skill set, how to reach poor kids, how to reach ELs. In stark contrast, this is about embedding people in schools so that once you leave after an extensive period of time, the locals have the capacity to better serve kids who are poor, kids who are in foster care, kids who are learning English, kids who have special needs. Very different on the ground than what we have seen in the past.”

NEWS RELEASE September 16, 2015

Contacts: For CFT: Fred Glass, (510) 579-3343
For CTA: Frank Wells, (562) 708-5425

For Information on the Civil Rights Groups Brief:
Jennifer Bezoza or Candice Francis, (415) 543-9697, ext. 232

Civil Rights Groups, Researchers, Legal Scholars, and Top Educators
Urge Reversal of Deeply Flawed Vergara Ruling

Amicus “Friend of the Court” Briefs Filed Today Spotlight Harm to Students and Failings of Decision

LOS ANGELES — Some of the nation’s top legal scholars, education policy experts, civil rights advocates, award-winning teachers, school board members and administrators filed five amici curiae, or “friend of the court,” briefs with the California Court of Appeal today. The filings shine a spotlight on the numerous and major flaws that would harm students in last year’s decision striking down important due process rights for California educators, as well as other laws governing hiring and layoffs of state educators. The briefs strongly criticize the Vergara ruling on both legal and policy grounds, urging that the decision be reversed.

Prominent civil rights organizations including the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Equal Justice Society, Education Law Center, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Advancing Justice-LA filed powerful briefs. These organizations argued that a lack of adequate funding, and certainly not the challenged statutes, is the primary cause of educational inequity, and that in order to close the achievement gap, disadvantaged schools and students must have the support and resources they need to succeed. Arguing that money and race influence competition for qualified teachers and the ability of districts to enact proven reforms like smaller class sizes, the organizations urged the Court to reverse the “…plaintiffs’ attempt to lay blame at the feet of the tenure system for disparities that are the product of other factors, including chronically inadequate funding for education.”

Some of California’s most-honored teachers—including 2012 National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki, and 2014 California Teacher of the Year and national nominee Timothy Smith—wrote of the importance of due process and how these laws ensure they are able to teach without fear of discriminatory, politically-motivated, or baseless termination, and how the laws support the risk-taking often necessary to be an outstanding teacher. They also stressed how striking down the challenged statutes would likely worsen teacher turnover in already disadvantaged school districts. The educators were joined in their brief by the American Association of University Professors, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, and the Korematsu Center for Law & Equality.

More than ninety top national education researchers and scholars, including Diane Ravitch, Richard Ingersoll and Eva Baker, took the decision to task for failing to establish any causal link between the challenged statutes and any alleged problems the suit purports to address. These experts argued that current laws play a key role in the recruitment and retention of quality teachers, in a job market where teaching is unfortunately often becoming less and less attractive as a career option for university students. The researchers were also highly critical of the plaintiffs’ proposal to rely on standardized test scores and the “value-added method (VAM)” of interpreting those scores as the major criteria for teacher layoffs due to budget cuts. “VAM scores have been shown to be unstable and to fluctuate dramatically from year to year, so that a teacher could appear very ineffective one year and then very effective the next,” they wrote. “The trial court ultimately failed to consider the possibility that relying solely on VAMs as a way to administer reductions-in-force could drive teachers away from the profession and exacerbate the teacher shortage.”

Past and present school board members, as well as school administrators, filed a brief that argued making teaching a more attractive profession is in the best interest of students. Vergara would make teaching a less desirable profession and would exacerbate a growing teacher scarcity, especially in light of the fact that it is just one among many ongoing orchestrated attacks on educators. Among supporters of the appeal were Kevin Beiser, board member of the San Diego Unified School District; Joan Buchanan, former state lawmaker and trustee of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District; and Steve Zimmer, board president of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Perhaps most devastating to the decision was the brief by some of the top legal scholars in the country, among them Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and Catherine Fisk of UC Irvine Law School, Charles Ogletree of Harvard Law School, and Pam Karlan of Stanford Law School. These experts said there was simply no basis in the law for finding the challenged statutes unconstitutional or that any causal link had been demonstrated between the statutes and a diminished education for any student. They argued that striking down the statutes could in fact make things worse for students. They wrote, “In this case, the trial court substituted its judgment about desirable education policy and the best way to improve education for students without regard to the harms its policy choice might cause and without regard to the evidence or the law about the cause of educational inequities and the likelihood that the court’s injunction would redress it. The trial court exceeded its role in our constitutional system and its ruling must be reversed.”

Attorney General Kamala Harris, representing the State of California as defendant; and the intervening parties, California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers, had filed separate appeal briefs earlier this summer. The amici curiae briefs filed today, as well as a complete list of signatories, can be seen here.

The test scores for most charter schools, like most public schools, declined sharply on the new Smarter Balanced tests of the Common Core.

Rocketship charters, in particular, did poorly.

The typical response of charter leaders was not to complain that the tests are biased and unreliable (which they are), but to say, showing grit, “We will have to up our game.” I suppose that means they weren’t trying hard enough until they got the scores.

Will the sobering news burst the charter bubble? Of course not. Too much money riding on their proliferation.

Howard Blume reports today that the achievement gaps among children of different groups widened on the Smarter Balanced Assessment tests whose results were just reported.

The tests are “harder,” “more rigorous,” and so the students who already had low scores have even lower scores.

This is akin to raising the bar in a track event from 4 feet to 6 feet. Those who couldn’t clear the 4 foot bar will certainly not clear the higher bar.

If anyone remembers, we were told repeatedly that the Common Core would close achievement gaps between whites/Asians and Blacks/Hispanics, and between upper income/low income students.

It hasn’t, and it won’t.

The tests were designed to fail a majority of students of every group. Here are the cut scores for the SBAC tests. The developers predicted mass failures last fall.

Let’s just say that the Common Core and the tests aligned to them are a disaster for American education. Kids don’t necessarily try harder when they fail again and again. They may give up.

Many people suspect that the purpose of all this manufactured failure is to make parents eager for charter schools and vouchers. They may be right.

Blume writes:

“This is going to show the real achievement gap,” said Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. “We are asking more out of our kids and I think that’s a good thing.”

At the same time, he added, “there’s no question that when we raised the bar for students that we’re going to have to support our lower-achieving students even more so than we are now.”

Although scores declined for all students, blacks and Latinos saw significantly greater drops than whites and Asians, widening the already large gap that was evident in results from earlier years, according to a Times analysis.

Under the previous test, last given to public school students two years ago, the gap separating Asian and black students was 35 percentage points in English. The gap increased to 44 percentage points under the new test. Asian students’ results dropped the least on the new tests, which widened the gap between them and those who are white, black or Latino, the analysis showed.

White students also maintained higher relative scores than their black and Latino peers.

A similar pattern occurred with students from low-income families. Their scores in math, for example, declined at a steeper rate (51%) than those of students from more affluent backgrounds (16%). In the last decade, all ethnic groups made significant academic gains compared to where their scores started. But the gap separating the scores of blacks and Latinos from whites and Asians changed little….

In that subject, 69% of Asian students achieved the state targets compared to 49% of whites, 21% of Latinos and 16% of blacks.

Although even Asian students have room to improve, their relative performance stood out. In math, the percentage of Asians who met state targets declined 12%. White students went down 21%, Latinos 50%, black students 54%. More than half the students who took the test were Latino.

The future of California, Lucia said, will depend on students of color graduating from schools with the skills they need to succeed in college and careers.

A top-performing school district was San Marino Unified, which is located in a mostly high-income area and enrolls 56% Asian students; 84% of students met state learning goals in both English and math.

L.A. Unified, which enrolls a majority of low-income, minority students, fared much worse overall. Achievement gaps widened less in L.A. Unified than in the state as a whole but that’s largely because its white and Asian students declined more, according to the analysis.

In L.A. Unified, 67% of Asian students met state targets in English, compared to 61% of white students, 27% of Latinos and 24% of black students.


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