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

API scores: An educational horse race that will soon change

L.A. County Fair

The California Department of Education will release the Academic Performance Index numbers Thursday in an annual tradition that is perhaps the closest equivalent to educational horse racing — parents and schools obsess over the scores and districts work to make them higher.

The California Department of Education will release the Academic Performance Index numbers Thursday in an annual tradition that's the educational equivalent to horse racing — like oddsmakers poring over a racing form, parents and schools obsess over the meaning of scores; like trainers in search of a winning strategy, school districts sweat to push the scores higher.

But this state measure, as it currently exists, will soon be obsolete.

The API gives schools a score between 200 and 1000 that's calculated from the STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) exam and the California High School Exit Examination results; schools aim for a score of at least 800. 

But educators say that's hardly a full measure of a school's effectiveness. Parents often have to dig for other relevant information such as class sizes and graduation rates.

Read More...

LA Unified makes arts education a 'core subject'

Cheech Marin at LAUSD on arts ed

Tami Abdollah/KPCC

Actor Cheech Marin of Cheech & Chong fame addresses the L.A. Unified school board about the importance of arts education and why it should be a 'core subject.' The board agreed unanimously. (Oct. 9, 2012)

The L.A. Unified school board unanimously approved a measure Tuesday that will make arts education a "core subject," prohibit further cuts to the arts, and ultimately restore some money to arts programs.

The measure, sponsored by board member Nury Martinez, is a recommitment to the arts by a district that has been battered by $1.5 billion in cuts to its operating budget over the last three years as state support for education has dwindled.

"For me this is an issue of social justice and educational equity," Martinez said. "...Children learn in many different ways...we have to recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching and learning doesn't work for all children."

On Tuesday, comic actor Cheech Marin of Cheech & Chong addressed the board in support for the measure.

"Arts education goes to making a whole person, it makes them aware of their divine nature, and gives them sympathy for everybody around them," Marin said. "We as a culture, art is the only thing we leave behind. For the life of me, I can't think of a museum dedicated to the great business deals of the past, but 2,000 years later people go see the pyramids, the 'Mona Lisa,' the Eiffel Tower, and Picasso's 'Guernica.'"

Read More...

$4 million fund drive puts LAUSD arts education on center stage

Arts education

Tami Abdollah/KPCC

The LA Fund for Public Education kicked off Monday a $4 million campaign — and the largest initiative in city history — to revitalize arts education at the Los Angeles Unified School District. About a dozen city buses will feature L.A.-based artist Barbara Kruger's work produced for this effort.

LA Fund for education arts

Tami Abdollah/KPCC

The LA Fund for Public Education kicked off Monday a $4 million campaign — and the largest initiative in city history — to revitalize arts education at the Los Angeles Unified School District. About a dozen city buses will feature L.A.-based artist Barbara Kruger's work produced for this effort.

LA fund for education arts

Tami Abdollah

The LA Fund for Public Education kicked off Monday a $4 million campaign — and the largest initiative in city history — to revitalize arts education at the Los Angeles Unified School District. About a dozen city buses will feature L.A.-based artist Barbara Kruger's work produced for this effort.

Arts education

Tami Abdollah/KPCC

The LA Fund for Public Education kicked off Monday a $4 million campaign — and the largest initiative in city history — to revitalize arts education at the Los Angeles Unified School District. About a dozen city buses will feature L.A.-based artist Barbara Kruger's work produced for this effort.

arts education

Tami Abdollah/KPCC

The LA Fund for Public Education kicked off Monday a $4 million campaign — and the largest initiative in city history — to revitalize arts education at the Los Angeles Unified School District. About a dozen city buses will feature L.A.-based artist Barbara Kruger's work produced for this effort.


With song, dance and star-power tweets by Justin Bieber and Ryan Seacrest, the LA Fund for Public Education launched a $4 million campaign — and the largest initiative in city history — to revitalize arts education at the Los Angeles Unified School District.

At an event at East Los Angeles Performing Arts Academy, dozens of students along with school board member Nury Martinez danced to The Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" and Beyonce's "Move Your Body" to celebrate the new campaign.

"Arts Matter," with CBS Outdoor as a primary sponsor, will feature the work of L.A.-based artist Barbara Kruger on about a dozen city buses and on hundreds of billboards, bus shelters, wall postings, mall media and bulletins, LA Fund officials say.

"You can go from DreamWorks to Amgen, from Boeing to Mattel, they all say their No. 1 challenge is finding creative thinkers who can problem solve and who have the capacity and desire to learn new ways of doing things in an increasingly competitive market place," said LA Fund Chair Megan Chernin.

Read More...

Portrait in numbers of LAUSD's decline in arts education

Graffiti Artist

Grant Slater/KPCC

L.A. plans to unveil a major initiative to save public arts education. Meanwhile, L.A. Unified's school board is looking at a measure that would make arts a "core subject."

In the last three years, Los Angeles Unified has had to cut nearly $1.5 billion from its annual operating budget, which is now roughly $6 billion. "Arts education is one of the most impacted components of LAUSD instruction as a result," according to the district.

I'm still working on getting specific breakdowns on arts education funding from L.A. Unified, but in the meantime, here are some numbers the district had handy.

In 2008, L.A. Unified employed 345 art specialist teachers — the district called that year its "peak." Now there are 204 art specialist teachers for more than 580,000 students (not including those in charters).

That breaks down to about one art specialist for every 2,800 students. The district says that teachers travel from school to school to fill gaps.

Since 2008, the district has cut arts education at elementary schools by 40%.

  • The district says 53% of more than 272,000 students in kindergarten through fifth grade will not receive any arts instruction in elementary school.
  • About 75% of about 129,000 students in the sixth through eighth grades will not receive any arts instruction in middle school. The district adds that "most middle schools have no art teacher (primarily due to budget cuts)."
  • About half the district's more than 180,000 high school students will not receive any arts instruction in high school. 

Read More...

LAUSD considers making arts education a 'core subject'

Mercer 1686

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

LA Unified's school board is considering a measure that would make arts education a 'core subject.'

The L.A. Unified school board will vote on a measure Tuesday that would make arts education a "core subject," prohibit further cuts to the arts, and ultimately restore some money to arts programs. 

The measure, sponsored by board member Nury Martinez, would require Superintendent John Deasy to return to the board by July 1 with a plan on implementing "Arts at the Core" that includes funding strategies, ways to collect data to measure student learning through the arts, professional development for instructors, and benchmarks for success.

Arts education has found itself on the chopping block during district budget discussions as state support for it has declined in the last several years.

This measure requires a restoration of arts education funds to 2007-8 funding levels within five years. Within 10 years it aims to increase the number of arts teachers to match similar urban school districts so that each middle school can offer at least three arts disciplines. 

Read More...