So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

After teacher, parent complaints, LA school leaders abandon plan to cut orchestra classes

Roaming music teacher - Linda Mouradian 4

Ken Scarboro/KPCC

Advanced clarinet students practice at San Fernando Elementary School in Los Angeles Unified School District during the Fall 2013 semester.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is reversing course on an unpopular proposal to reduce its elementary school orchestra program from a full year to just one semester.

A district spokesperson confirmed that schools receiving orchestra instruction next year will get it the entire school year - though the district is considering changing how schools are chosen.

KPCC reported in February that officials were proposing to spread the district's 32 full-time orchestra teacher positions among 320 schools starting in the fall. (VIDEO: Watch the committee meeting on the school board's website.) 

Parents and art teachers were furious. 

The change of heart means those teachers will serve 160 elementary schools next year, as they had this year.

Elementary orchestra teachers are based out of their cars, traveling to different schools on different days of the week to expose more students to at least some instruction. The elementary orchestra program has historically lasted an entire school year — though spaces at each school are limited. 

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5 tips for grandparents to engage with tech-savvy kids

Grandparent Tech Training

Brooks Heintzelman / Center for Early Education

Les Frost, a member of Common Sense Media's Board of Advisors, and Marilyn Frost, hunch over their iPad as they learn tips to keep up with their grandchildren at the recent "Bring Your Own Device" training in Hollywood.

Grandparent Tech Training

Brooks Heintzelman / Center for Early Education

Don Fitz-Roy, Technology Integration Coordinator at Westside Neighborhood School, walks one group of grandparents through app technology for children.

Grandparent Tech Training

Brooks Heintzelman / Center for Early Education

Thaddeus Phillips, Regional Coordinator for Common Sense Media Los Angeles, helping some attendees at the Center for Early Education's tech-training for grandparents on April 10, 2014.


Sandy Pressman has seven grandsons and wants nothing more than to be a big part of the boys' lives. But to do that, she has had to constantly reinvent herself, learning a new app or the latest social media craze. (If you're a grandparent seeking some advice, scroll to the bottom of this story for five tips.)

Pressman has had to become a texting whiz (her 18 year-old grandson will only text her), learn the ins and outs of Minecraft (a land the 12-year-old disappears into) and get her own tablet to keep up with the littlest ones.

“The iPad, the iPhone, the computer, are all very popular around this house,” Pressman said.

RELATED: New Study: Fussy babies watch more TV in toddler years

While parents grapple with limiting and overseeing screen use, the problem is even more basic for grandparents, Pressman said.

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So Cal library runs 'shelfie' contest for National Library Week

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

Some people like shelfies more than they like selfies.

Courtesy Commerce Public Library

Courtesy of Beatriz Sarmiento

Commerce Library director Beatriz Sarmiento is supporting a "shelfie" contest to urge people to rethink the mission of a library.


You're familiar with the selfie and the photobomb - but here's one you probably haven't heard of: the shelfie.

“A shelfie is a picture you take of yourself in front of a bookshelf,” said Beatriz Sarmiento, the head of the Commerce Public Library.

She didn’t invent the shelfie, but her library is staging a shelfie contest this week as part of National Library Week, which runs through Saturday. The prize: a pair of mobile/Bluetooth speakers.

To enter, tweet your picture with the hashtag #cocplshelfie. Library staff will chose a winner on Saturday.

The real goal of the contest is to rebrand the library and its contents as useful for people of all ages.

“Libraries are current, they’re there for the community," she said.

The work of the Commerce Public Library, Sarmiento believes, is about reaching the city's large population of Spanish speaking immigrants and their English dominant kids. On it’s web site the library promotes books such as  “Como Sanar de Amores Dificiles” (How to Bounce Back from Difficult Loves, with a prologue by singer Lila Downs) and “The Ghost of the Mary Celeste.”

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Nonprofits get nearly $1 mil to train parents to advocate for their kids' education

JPL CEC

Ashley Myers-Turner/KPCC

A preschool aged boy uses his recess time to play with a word puzzle.

Two Los Angeles area non-profit groups received grants of about $900,000 from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to train families of young children in the Los Angeles Unified School District to advocate for their children in the hopes of improving educational outcomes.

The UCLA Labor Center and the Advancement Project, were among 30 winners nationwide to share $13.7 million to implement “family engagement” projects over three years.

Both Los Angeles groups said they aim to train parents in minority communities to become leaders in schools and influence the school board.

The Advancement Project said it aims to train parents to lobby officials and influence how L.A. Unified spends an extra $332 million earmarked by the Governor to be spent to help improve test scores for low-income students, English-learners and foster kids. Specifically, they will be trained to lobby for early childhood programs, arguing they have a lasting effect on a child's grades.

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Two So Cal charter schools land crucial NEA funding

Gabriella Charter School - 1

Mary Plummer/KPCC

Gabriella Charter School students in teacher Courtney Alexander's class practice jazz moves that incorporate samba techniques.

California organizations raked in nearly $5 million in spring funding grants from the National Endowment for the Arts - and two charter schools were among the local winners. 

"We are all absolutely thrilled," said Liza Bercovici, the executive director of the Gabriela Foundation, which established Gabriella Charter School, a K-8 school in Echo Park.

RELATED: Artists are better educated and gaining ground against unemployment

Bercovici said Congressman Xavier Becerra's office delivered the good news and it quickly spread around the school through a series of emails and virtual high fives. 

"If it weren't for grants from government agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts we wouldn't be able to do what we're doing," Bercovici said. The $25,000 funding grant will go to support the charter's school day dance program, which provides several hours of dance per week during students' regular school day. Gabriella also offers extensive after school dance instruction. 

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