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

Few LA students using Pearson's iPad software, survey shows

Urban Teens Exploring Technology

Annie Gilbertson/KPCC

Developer Oscar Menjivar sits with student Jesus Vargas, checking out the Pearson education software loaded onto every L.A. Unified iPad.

Most Los Angeles Unified schools are not using the learning software pre-loaded on to iPads as part of the the district's one-to-one technology expansion, according to an interim report commissioned by the school district. 

Staff complained the administration's chosen software simply wasn't "robust." They told researchers lessons were often missing or incomplete. 

"Administrators at three schools said that components of the ELA curriculum were missing (e.g., narrative writing, Grade 3 curriculum), and administrators at two schools said that mathematics components were missing," according to American Institutes of Research, authors of the report, Evaluation of the Common Core Technology Project.

For the study, researchers surveyed teachers, observed 250 classroom sessions and reviewed district documents to study how classrooms integrated the technology. It is not considered a scientific study.


More than 100,000 LA school repairs backlogged; fire safety at risk in some schools


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Dan Sapia shuts off water to the fire sprinklers at Hoover Street Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified school district. His plumbing crew is often pulled from one emergency job, such as repairing this water main leak, to another, leaving little time for outstanding requests.


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Dan Sapia, left, consults Christopher Cadena while working on a leaking water main at Hoover Street Elementary School. The Los Angeles Unified School District plumbing crew estimated that the repair would take three days. Until the water main feeding the fire sprinklers is fixed, the school has someone on fire watch at all hours of the day.


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Christopher Cadena climbs in a hole five-feet deep, unearthing a leaking water main that feeds the fire sprinkler system at Hoover Street Elementary School. A backlog of repair requests show plumbing problems plague many campuses.

From burned out light bulbs and cracked concrete to compromised fire safety systems and exposed electrical wiring, Los Angeles Unified schools are waiting on 116,000 maintenance and safety problems reported since January, records show, and officials said they don't have the staff or money to fix them all.

An analysis of 165,400 repair requests filed with the school district this year showed less than a third have been addressed.

"We are very short staffed," said Roger Finstad, head of maintenance and operations at L.A. Unified. "We're operating at less than half the funding we had just about six years ago." 

Status of 2014 work orders submitted to LA Unified (as of Aug. 8, 2014)

L.A. Unified set aside about $100 million for repairs this year, but Finstad said it would cost about $400 million every year to get all the work done.

The state used to require schools to reserve 3 percent of funds for upkeep. During the recession, that requirement was removed to give schools more flexibility. If the mandate was still in place, L.A. Unified would have to double funds for maintenance and repairs this year.


Some LA Unified students wilting in heat waiting for air-conditioning repairs

courtesy of Karla Johnson

Spanish teacher Karla Johnson takes the classroom temperature at Franklin High School in L.A.'s Highland Park. She says she's been complaining about faulty air conditioning for 10 years.

L.A. Unified says it has air conditioning in all 32,000 school district classrooms, but 2,000 pending service calls have turned the current heat wave into a repair crisis.

On Monday, at Franklin High School in Highland Park, the conditions were sweltering.

"I have a temperature gun and the highest temperature inside the classroom was 92 degrees,” Spanish teacher Karla Johnson said.

That’s too hot for her students to learn.

“They are having problems concentrating, they’re falling asleep, they’re sweating. I can see sweat dripping down their face while I’m trying to teach them,” Johnson said, adding the air-conditioning problems aren’t new. She's been complaining about the situation for 10 years.

What's it going to take to lower classroom temperatures to a level where learning can go on?


AG truancy report: Student absences highest among low-income, black students

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

California Attorney General Kamala Harris unveils a report on chronic absences among elementary school students.

As many as 250,000 California elementary students missed 10 percent of the past school year or roughly 18 or more days, numbers that a report released by Attorney General Kamala Harris called alarming.

Most troubling are high absences among low-income and African-American students, said Harris, speaking at a Friday news conference at the Malabar Street Elementary School in East Los Angeles. 

“Students of color and high-need children are at an extreme risk," Harris said. "What we have found, and new research has unveiled, is that African-American students are far more likely to miss school than their peers.”

One in five black students are absent more than 18 days out of the school year, according to the In School + On Track report. And nearly all of the students who missed more than a month of school per year came from low-income families.


County approves LA schools controversial budget

density quiz 11/17

Jack Lyons/flickr Creative Commons

stay frosty

The Los Angeles County Office of Education approved L.A. Unified's $7.3 billion budget this week after county officials raised concerns the district may be misrepresenting its financial figures.

This school year, L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy is channeling more than half of the $837 million in state funds for low-income students, English learners and foster youth into the special education program, arguing 80 percent of the special education students fall into one or more of the three targeted groups.

Under California's Local Control Funding law, counties are required to sign off on school districts' spending plans for these high-need students. In late August, Los Angeles county officials asked L.A. Unified to "provide rationale that supports the identification of these expenditures."