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

Baldwin Park School District wins #1 spot in closing the Achievement Gap.

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Sixth grader, Reyna Ugalde, at Foster Elementary in the Baldwin Park School District, highlights in pink the edges of her handmade polyhedron.

Recently we reported on two schools in the Baldwin Park school district that have unique programs: a high school that helps teenage parents stay in school, and an elementary school where teaching a dual language immersion program is yielding top results. Now the school district has earned the number one ranking in the state for closing the achievement gap.

The Baldwin Park school district (BPUSD) is nestled in the San Gabriel Valley. 86% it’s students are Latino and 85% are low-income.  It's a population that traditionally underperforms in comparison to school districts in middle and upper income neighborhoods. BPUSD is breaking that mould.

Using district wide report cards and test scores, Oakland-based education organization, Ed-Trust West, evaluated 148 California school districts grades with high populations of Latino, African American and low-income students. This year BPUSD ranked number one for overall test scores.


#Kidreads: Children's books with minority characters are hard to find; here are a few resources

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Children's librarian, Sada Mozer, reads to children at schools, preschools and in her own children's section at Junipero Serra library in South Los Angeles.

Veteran educator Louise Derman Sparks has written volumes on what she calls “anti-bias education” for children. 

Sparks firmly believes that children can start absorbing an anti-bias message just from what we read to them because children’s books are one of the first ways we introduce infants to the world.

“The simplest [way] is to create a very diverse environment with accurate books and pictures of people of this country in their current lives,” Sparks said.

Certainly there's a lot to overcome.

“One of the first stereotypes [children] learn is about Native Americans,” Sparks said. “Native Americans wear feathers or they wear buckskins or they go around shooting bows and arrows or they live in teepees.”

RELATED: #KidReads: Which children's book do you or your child hold most dear?


Iconic LA teacher Sal Castro, who led East LA walkouts in the 1960s, dies

Sal Castro, the Lincoln High School social studies teacher who inspired students to stage mass walkouts from classes to demand better school in 1968, died in his Silver Lake home on Monday. He was 79.

Castro was an educator for decades -- and for years he ran an empowerment group for latino youth. A middle school is named after him. But few events were as important to him as the walkouts, said UC Santa Barbara historian Mario T. Garcia.

"He always believed that that was one of the highlights of his life. That he could help the students think for themselves, that something had to be done, and that they could make history," said Garcia, who interviewed Castro for the book "Blowout!: Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice."

His wife, Charlotte Lerchenmuller, said Castro died in his sleep. He'd been diagnosed with cancer last year, she said.


LAUSD teachers release no confidence vote against Superintendent John Deasy

Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy  sp

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Los Angeles schools Superintendent John Deasy has received an overwhelming vote of no confidence from LAUSD teachers.

United Teachers Los Angeles, the union that represents L.A. Unified’s instructors, announced Thursday a 91 percent vote of no confidence against school district Superintendent John Deasy.

“We need to share with the school board our belief that, in many ways, the educational program is not on the right track,” said union president Warren Fletcher at a news conference to announce the vote results.

Less than 60 percent of the union’s 32,000 members voted at school sites on a ballot that had two questions. One question asked teachers whether they have confidence in Deasy’s leadership. The responses: 16,040 voted no; 1,647 voted yes.

Fletcher said teachers are upset that Deasy’s reforms are creating an environment in which teachers aren’t being treated as education professionals. “The excessive reliance on testing, the excessive reliance on what we in the teaching profession call ‘phony reforms,’ are taking the focus away from what teaching and learning are really about and are harming the district,” Fletcher said.


LAUSD summer enrichment programs reduced again


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LAUSD's summer enrichment programming, which features free art, drama and music activities for elementary and middle school students, will be reduced again this summer.

The Los Angeles Unified School District announced today that funding limits are forcing it to reduce its summer enrichment programming, which includes academic, fitness and other enrichments like art, music and drama activities.

"The access to the enrichment opportunities for our students is becoming less and less," said Alvaro Cortés, executive director of the district's Beyond the Bell branch, which runs the summer programming. "With the budget cuts, art, music and those types of programming is being curtailed, eliminated from a lot of our schools.”

The free summer program will be in about 160 LAUSD schools, down from about 180 schools last summer. Four years ago, L.A. Unified offered the program in more than 300 schools but funding has been cut by about 60 percent since then, Cortés said.