Archives for category: California

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.

A small group of billionaires has decided to change public education in Los Angeles. They want half the students in the districts enrolled in privately managed charter schools. This is an astonishing development. Who elected them to privatize large sectors of public education? This is a test of our democracy. Have the 1% gained control of our democratic institutions, to reshape as they wish?

Two important meetings are coming up soon. Please try to attend the “Get the Crooks Out of Public Education” press conference on August 17:

Repeal Charters Meeting And Action In CA

8/16 LA Organizing Meeting Of Repeal Charter Schools Laws In CA
Sunday August 16, 2015 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Coco’s Bakery Restaurant (meeting room) ( Please purchase food)
18521 Devonshire Street
Northridge, CA 91324
Please Register If You Will Be Attending-For Information and registration contact (415)867-0628

8/17Press Conference/Speak Out At Broad Foundation
Stop Destroying Public Education-Repeal California School Charter Laws
Get The Crooks Out Of Public Education
Broad Foundation
2121 Avenue of The Stars, Los Angeles
Monday August 17, 2015 12:00 noon

The Broad Foundation has just announced that it wants to double the number of public funded privately run charters in Los Angeles. This foundation has played a central role in pushing charters and privatization in the US and it has trained people like former LAUSD Superintendent Deasy who have been involved in systemic corruption. This “foundation” has placed not only management in public schools throughout the country but also has placed pro-charter and privatization supporters on public boards and agencies throughout the country. There is a sordid record of financial conflicts of interests and the concerted effort by Broad, Gates Foundation, Bechtel Foundation, Walton/Walmart, KIPP GAP, Pearson Inc, and a myriad of other profiteers to transform our public education system into a profit making scam operation that not only steals from the public but ends up re-segregating education in Los Angeles and the United States.

This press conference speak out will have teachers and supporters of public education speak out about specific violation of the education code, systemic corruption and the need not only to support the repeal of charters in California but for investigation and prosecution of the criminals involved in the massive privatization scam now going on in California and nationally.

This press conference is sponsored by
Voices Against Privatizing Public Education

Ballot Initiative to REPEAL the CA Charter School Act of 1992
For information (415)282-1908

It’s not too late to save public education in California! With Eli Broad and his fellow billionaires poised to privatize education in Los Angeles, it is time to say NO! Join the campaign to repeal the charter law in California.

Join Voices Against Privatizing Public Education’s efforts to repeal the California charter school law

There is a small grass-roots group that has been working diligently to create a ballot proposition to repeal the charter school laws. While a seemingly daunting task, there might not ever be another chance to do this before the privatizers eliminate public schools altogether (Eli Broad just announced his plans to cut LAUSD’s public schools in half). The group has an online petition that now has over 600 signatures. They also have a facebook group. (Open the link.)

Ballot Initiative to REPEAL the CA Charter School Act of 1992

Voices Against Privatizing Public Education

Most importantly, they have picked up a handful of key labor leaders and organizations:

AFT Local 6161 (Palomar Faculty Federation)

North County Labor Alliance

Escondido Public School Advocates

Bill Freeman- NEA Board member for California

Alita Blanc- United Educators of San Francisco

The coalition is working hard to get several more organizations on board, including local Democratic party clubs in several large cities. Please consider getting involved, and perhaps even endorsing the efforts of the group.

The Weekly Standard, a conservative publication, writes that Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento (husband of Michelle Rhee Johnson) is caught up in a growing number of scandals.

Despite little national coverage, scandals surrounding former NBA star and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson have been intensifying over past few months. Monday’s report at Deadspin is a good place to start — things have gotten so bad that Johnson’s allies are accusing a local paper that’s done a lot of damning reporting on Johnson of racism.

As Deadspin notes, there’s “a variety of sexual, financial, and ethical improprieties” swirling around Johnson. Among other things, the mayor is suing — and being sued — by the National Conference of Black Mayors. And Johnson is also accused of using public money and resources for his own personal benefit involving work done for the National Basketball Players Association.

That last scandal is particulary interesting, because it mirrors accusations made against him in 2009, when he was accused of misusing federal grants meant for the Americorps program by Gerald Walpin, the inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service….
Mr. Walpin made a referral to the United States prosecutor in Sacramento, recommending that Mr. Johnson and Mr. Gonzalez face criminal charges and be banned from future contracts.

According to Walpin, the chairman of the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service, Alan Solomont, was a major Democratic fundraiser and was unhappy with his reports pointing out the misuse of federal money. Johnson was also said to be close to the Obamas, and shortly afterward the president abruptly fired Walpin from his job. The firing set off a flurry of inquiries from a bipartisan group of senators concerned that Walpin’s firing had been been politically motivated. There were also allegations that the U.S. attorney in Sacramento, Lawrence Brown, filed an ethics complaint against Walpin to help lift a ban on Johnson receiving federal funds as well as curry favor with the White House. Brown was seeking a presidential appointment to become United States attorney for the Eastern District of California.

Now Johnson remains mired in scandal six years later and is being accused of allegations of corruption very similar to what was first alleged by Walpin. And in the intervening years, the Obama administration has acquired quite the reputation for selectively enforcing laws against compromised allies and for the vigorous prosecution of political enemies on dubious grounds. Johnson’s current troubles certainly suggest that the president was wrong to fire Walpin, and are an unpleasant reminder of the Chicago-style politics that have come to define this administration’s questionable uses of political power.

The Los Angeles Times editorial board sort of endorsed the parent trigger idea, even though the law passed in 2010 has produced no noticeable improvements. The expectation when the law was passed was that only 75 schools would be allowed to implement the “parent trigger,” but less than a dozen have even sought the authority. Efforts to gather parent petitions were spearheaded by a corporate reform group called Parent Revolution, which exists to promote the parent trigger. Parent Revolution received millions of dollars from “reform” foundations, but has produced meager results. There has been no groundswell of popular demand by parents to seize control of their public school.

The idea behind the parent trigger was that parents were yearning to seize control of the school their children attended and to turn it over to a charter operator. The assumption was that the school “belongs” to the parents (who may not be parents in the school next year), but not to the community that built it and funds it.

The editorial says:

The law, passed in haste in 2010 in an effort to empower parents at lower-performing schools, lets them force dramatic change if half or more of them sign a petition. They might demand the replacement of some or most of the staff or vote to turn their school over to a charter operator. They might even close the school altogether. Under the law, the parent trigger is an option only at schools whose scores on the state Academic Performance Index fell below the proficiency mark of 800 and that failed to meet their federal improvement requirements, called Adequate Yearly Progress, for several years in a row. The law limited the trigger option to 75 schools on a first-come-first-served basis to see how it played out; at the time, officials expected the number to be quickly met and expanded.
But that hasn’t happened. There have been only four schools in which parents filed petitions that succeeded in forcing a change. Parents at five more schools used the petition process as leverage to negotiate changes, a much less disruptive process, without ever filing an actual petition.

It is hard to know whether these changes have resulted in improved academic performance because the state has for the moment stopped reporting test scores during the switch to new standardized exams. Yet it’s encouraging to see that parents have some clout, especially low-income parents who felt their children were stuck at problematic schools. That was the original idea: to give deeply frustrated families a chance to take action when educators ignored them.

So, nine or maybe ten schools have used the parent trigger, despite intense efforts by Parent Revolution and major foundations to promote parent takeovers. There is no evidence for improvement in these nine schools. And there is no evidence that students had low scores because “educators ignored” parents.

In Adelanto, where the parent trigger was implemented, the petition was signed by a majority, but many parents did not understand what they had signed and tried to withdraw their signature; a local judge would not permit it. When it came time to pick a charter operator, the parents who had not signed the petition were not allowed to vote. So a minority signed the petition, and a minority of a minority selected the charter. That was not “parent empowerment.”

The Los Angeles Times concludes:

A new trigger law should create stricter guidelines to target truly low-performing schools, and should prohibit school closures through petition. Trigger petitions must be made public, with all parents informed, and the larger community given a chance to be involved. When a petition prevails and parents are considering proposals for changing management of the school, all parents should have a voice and a vote in the decision, not just those who signed the petition.

The parent trigger remains an intriguing if so-far-unproven idea, but the time has come to start imagining a more thoughtful version.

I disagree. I don’t believe that users of a public service should be given the option of privatizing it on behalf of the public that paid for it, past and future. This is akin to allowing riders on a public bus to vote to sell the bus to a private bus company, or letting tenants in public housing vote to sell the project to a developer. A local public school belongs to the community, not to those who are using it this year.

The parent trigger is fairy dust. California should get rid of a bad law and concentrate on proven strategies to improve schools and improve the lives of children and families.

“Students Matter,” the Silicon Valley-funded group that launched the Vergara lawsuit to block teacher tenure in California, is now suing 13 school districts for their failure to use test scores in evaluating teachers.


The goal is to compel the entire state to use value-added-modeling (VAM), despite the fact that experience and research have demonstrated its invalidity and lack of reliability.


The Southern California school systems named in the latest filing are El Monte City, Inglewood Unified, Chaffey Joint Union, Chino Valley Unified, Ontario-Montclair, Saddleback Valley Unified, Upland Unified and Victor Elementary District. The others are: Fairfield-Suisun Unified, Fremont Union, Pittsburg Unified; San Ramon Valley Unified and Antioch Unified.
“School districts are not going to get away with bargaining away their ability to use test scores to evaluate teachers,” said attorney Joshua S. Lipshutz, who is working on behalf of Students Matter. “That’s a direct violation of state law.”


The plaintiffs are six California residents, including some parents and teachers, three of whom are participating anonymously.


In all, the districts serve about 250,000 students, although the group’s goal is to compel change across California.


“The impact is intended to be statewide, to show that no school district is above the law,” Lipshutz said.


The plaintiffs are not asking the courts to determine how much weight test scores should be given in a performance review, Lipshutz said. He cited research, however, suggesting that test scores should account for 30% to 40% of an evaluation.


The current case, Doe vs. Antioch, builds on earlier litigation involving the Los Angeles Unified School District. In 2012, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the school system had to include student test scores in teacher evaluations. But the judge also allowed wide latitude for negotiation between the union and district.


The court decision was based on the 1971 Stull Act, which set out rules for teacher evaluations. Many districts had failed for decades to comply with it, according to some experts.


Will the Silicon Valley billionaires help to find new teachers when the state faces massive teacher shortages based on the litigation they continue to file?





Early returns show Scott Schmerelson defeating Tamar Galatzan, and Ref Rodriguez defeating Bennett Kayser.   Galatzan and Rodriguez are the preferred candidates of the California Charter School Association.   Big money came from CCSA and another PAC to defeat Bennett Kayser. It appears that big money won, unless there is a last-minute surge in a low voter turnout.

The big money didn’t pour so much into the Schmerelson-Galatzan race.

We always hope that David can defeat Goliath, and sometimes he does. But not always.

So, the election–if current trends continue–is a wash. Not a victory for the charter industry, not a loss for public education. A wash.

Seth Sandronsky and Duane Campbell respond to an article in The. Sacramento Bee that blamed Democrats and public school teachers for urban riots and uprisings.

They write:

“Public schools, teachers and their union lobbying efforts at the state Capitol are unable to address what really ails low-income households. There are too few jobs with livable wages in California. Nearly 1.3 million adults are officially unemployed, while California’s poverty rate is tops in the nation.

“At the same time, the Golden State also leads the United States in the number of billionaires – 131, up 23 last year, Forbes reports. We have an oligarchy amid broad-based poverty and inequality. Is this the fault of public education?

“Deindustrialization of Oakland, like that of Baltimore, creates a group of citizens who have no place in the mainstream. Police and prisons are their bitter fate in our new Gilded Age.

“Why are public schools, teachers unions and Democrats to blame for that?”

Read more here:


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