Archives for category: California

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.

Roxana Marachi, a professor at San Jose State University in California, wrote an open letter to the State Board of Education. She warned them that the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessments, which will be released today, are not valid or reliable or fair. “False data are false data. Period. And to compare future results with current 2015 scores as “baseline” would be just as fraudulent as it would be to promote the 2015 scores as somehow valid.”

Students who are English learners will be harmed significantly by these tests, since SBAC itself predicted a failure rate of 90%, she writes.

These tests violate the most basic principles of the the American Psychological Association:

“We know from decades of research that beliefs matter in student learning and motivation. Without an understanding that the scores are meaningless, students will be likely to internalize failing labels with corresponding beliefs about their academic potential. And unless otherwise informed, families will be likely to believe what the State Department of Education communicates about their children’s readiness for college and career based on an assessment that fails to meet basic standards for testing and accountability.

“Jonathan Pelto has written extensively about SmarterBalanced testing in Connecticut:

“Considering that many of the world’s greatest scientists, authors, actors, teachers and leaders were once English Language Learners one would think the public education system in the United States would be designed to promote and support opportunities for those who need extra help learning the English Language. Moreover you would think education policymakers would be working to find ways to take advantage of the opportunities that having a multilingual population present.”

Marachi writes:

“This seems an ethical dilemma for educational leaders. If they are to be honest with students and families and communicate truthfully that the test scores are meaningless, they would have to acknowledge that the public has been misled (whether knowingly or not) by those promoting the assessments. Acknowledging the current situation would also include accepting the fact that hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted (and are slated to continue to be wasted) should the assessments continue to fail meeting basic standards for testing and accountability.

“Yet, what appears to be the case is that the invalid tests are being falsely promoted as accurate measures of “college and career readiness.” The LA Times just published a piece entitled, “‘Don’t Panic’ Officials Say as California Braces for Lower Student Test Results.” It appears state officials are fully aware of the potential harm and motivational fallout yet “Don’t Panic” is the best message being offered as a remedy rather than full disclosure about the lack of validity of the tests.”

Marachi quotes Dr. Doug McRae, a testing expert, who said:

“Including current scores in student academic records without evidence of validity, reliability, and fairness of the assessments would be “immoral, unethical, unprofessional, and to say the least, totally irresponsible.”

Marachi closes with a Million-dollar Challenge, which should be addressed to every state board member in the nation, as well as to Secretary Arne Duncan, who funded these tests, as well as to David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core standards.

“In closing and in the spirit of critical thinking, I respectfully request that the State Board of Education take on the following challenge. The ultimate endorsement of confidence in your release of SBAC scores would be for each Board Member to publicly take the 11th Grade SBAC Math/ELA tests and to publish your scores at the next State Board of Education meeting. If the assessments are confirmed to be functional and can be verified as accurately, securely, and fairly assessing skills necessary for “college and career readiness”, then every State Board Trustee (all of whom are assumed to be college-educated and career-successful) should receive scores that exceed passing performance. At the very least, this process should allow you the opportunity to fully endorse the assessment product that has been bought and administered to children.

“If this request is declined or somehow otherwise considered unfair, then why would you demand the same of youth entrusted to your care?”

Parents in Laguna Niguel, California, need your help to save their school.

They are asking people to sign their petition against the closure of their school, Crown Valley Elementary, and replacement with a charter school (, to Like their Facebook page (, and to provide other support to stop the closure of their school, which may be voted on as soon as Sept 9. Proposition 39 is the charter school law in California, passed during the administration of Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Proposition 39 is being abused in Orange County

Crown Valley Elementary in Laguna Niguel, CA is being targeted for closure to house a Community Roots Academy, a charter school currently sharing a campus in Aliso Viejo, CA.

Crown Valley is a unique and special school environment with a general enrollment of 385 students, including a large DHH and special education population of over 160. The integration of students, in addition to the wonderful and caring staff help make Crown Valley an ideal learning environment. Relocation will be very stressful for all students and families of Crown Valley, even more so for those that benefit from the DHH and special education programs.

Crown Valley Elementary was built in 1966, and was the first elementary school in Laguna Niguel; CA. Our school is worn, but is beautiful and well loved. Community Roots Academy would not only potentially take over our school site, but also demand improvements. If Capistrano Unified provides CRA with our facility AND improvement it will hit our community especially hard. Capistrano Unified has a school of choice policy and the age of our facilities have been a potential factor in enrollment. Some are not able to look past chipped paint and carpet wear and choose to go to elsewhere. Others realize that appearances are not important. What IS important are excellent teachers, compassionate students, caring staff, and families. THIS is what makes us special, and where we excel.

Community Roots serves students outside of the Capistrano Unified district. It is not ethical that students from outside of the district could potentially displace children within the district.

We do not want our community, or any other with our district to be torn apart. Capistrano Unified schools approved the charter and its expansion without a site. The district must find a solution that does not harm our children.

Access to education should not be dependent on a lottery!
Charter schools were designed to fill an educational gap in underserved areas and provide equal educational opportunities for all Californians

•Charter schools should not have the ability to create elite publically funded private schools in well-served suburban areas.

•Charter schools should NOT have the ability to take over a neighborhood school and deny local children access.

•Charter schools should NOT have the ability to pick and choose a site AND demand that the district make improvements on the site.

•Charter schools should NOT demand facilities that exceed what is provided to other students in the district citing “reasonably equivalent facilities” under prop 39.

•Charter schools should NOT screen or ask questions about special needs and IEP’s as part of their application process.

Bill Raden writes in Capital & Main about the status of the Adelanto elementary school that was converted to a charter school via the “parent trigger.” The article is almost a year old; I didn’t see it sooner. Thanks to reader Jack Covey for bringing it to my attention.

Raden writes:

Throughout 2011 and 2012, the eyes of the education world were focused on Adelanto, a small, working class town in California’s High Desert. A war had broken out there over the future of the K-6 Desert Trails Elementary School and its 660 low-income Latino and African-American students. When the dust settled, Desert Trails Elementary was gone. In its place was a bitterly divided community and the Desert Trails Preparatory Academy, the first (and so far, only) school in California and the U.S. to be fully chartered under a Parent Trigger law, which allows a simple majority of a school’s parents to wrest control of a low-performing school from a public school district, and transform it into a charter school.

Tiny Adelanto’s turmoil reflects a much larger battle now being fought across America between defenders of traditional public education and a self-described reform movement whose partisans often favor the privatization and deregulation of education. At least 25 states have considered parent trigger legislation and seven of them have enacted some version of the law, including Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio and Texas. Though funded by tax dollars, the trigger charter is private, meaning it is not bound by many of the rules and much of the governing oversight or transparency of a traditional public school.

At the end of Desert Trail’s inaugural, 2013-14 school year, a group of eight former Desert Trails teachers hand-delivered a 15-page complaint to the Adelanto Elementary School District (AESD), charging Desert Trails with an array of improprieties and its executive director, Debra Tarver, with unprofessional and sometimes unethical conduct.

Among the most serious accusations are charges that administrative chaos at Desert Trails has resulted in both a stampede of exiting teachers and staff; that uncredentialed instructors have taught in its classrooms; and that Desert Trails had an unwritten policy of dissuading parents of students with special learning needs from seeking special education. The teachers also allege that they had to endure a bullying regime in which, they say, they were continually screamed at, spied on, lied to and humiliated in front of parents and their peers by Tarver and her deputies. Capital & Main spoke with the teachers, four of whom agreed to go on the record for this story. (“The High Desert is a small place and Debbie Tarver has a long reach,” said one teacher who requested anonymity.)

Teachers complained that they had to buy supplies out of their meager salaries.

The teachers interviewed for this story, who were paid about $3,300 a month, claim the school’s extreme miserliness shortchanged teachers and students on basic classroom tools. Over the first year, they said they each spent up to a full month’s salary, and in some cases more, on unreimbursed, out-of-pocket expenses.

“At the start of the year,” recalled kindergarten teacher Bertha Miramontes, “I ended up spending $1,000 because the décor in my classroom, [Tarver] said, was not good enough. I would spend anywhere between $200 to $300 per month to get supplies — writing paper, pencils, construction paper, tissues for my kids’ noses, hand sanitizer, crayons.”

These teachers also say that Tarver, who as executive director of a charter school is paid a salary commensurate to that of a San Bernardino county school district superintendent by both Desert Trails and LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy — a combined annual salary of around $200,000 — ordered the student water fountains shut off for the duration of the bitterly cold High Desert winter, rather than pay for overnight heat to prevent the pipes from freezing.

The biggest problem was teacher attrition, which was unusually high, even for a charter school.

But the scores went up.

One thing on which the two sides do agree is that Desert Trails did post test-score gains.

“We had 47 percent of our scholars who [rated] proficient and advanced,” Tarver said of the California Standards Test results for 5th grade science, “and we only had a 15 percent rate of those that were below and far below [state standards], which is a huge difference from the 30 to 40 percent that school had for the past 10 years.”

More comprehensive, schoolwide scores, she said, wouldn’t be released by the school for another month.

For the ex-teachers, it is a tarnished achievement that came at the terrible price of shattered morale and the stability and consistency that underpin a quality education.

“It wasn’t the holistic, well-rounded education that they were promised,” Salazar asserted. And [teachers leaving] is difficult. It’s hard on the scholars and it’s hard on their families.”

The parent trigger was enacted in 2010. Five years later, this is the result. Some will say it was worth the struggle because the test scores are higher, although the students are not the same as in the Desert Trails school. Others will say the destruction of the school and its community was not worth it. The charter company must surely be happy to have achieved ownership of a multi-million dollar property and the state funding that goes with it.

What bothers me, I must admit, is the promiscuous use of the term “scholars” to describe little children. They are students; they are children. They are not scholars. A scholar is someone who devotes his or her time to the deep study of an academic pursuit to advance the frontiers of knowledge and publishes his or her findings. I truly don’t understand what is gained by distorting language. But then, reformers do this so often that I should not be surprised. When they eliminate bonuses for advanced degrees by teachers, it is “reform.” When they eliminate certification as a requirement for all teachers, it is “reform.” When they close a community’s school and hand its assets over to a private corporation, it is “reform.” Sigh.


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