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

Activists concerned about school suspensions plan a series of events

Vanessa Romo/KPCC

Students rally against the LAUSD ticketing system for minors.

A national coalition of youth groups, educators and advocacy organizations is launching the 3rd Annual National Week of Action on School Pushout starting tomorrow.

Events in Los Angeles and Long Beach will take place from Sept. 28 – Oct. 6.

The group says its goal is to raise awareness about the inefficacy of out-of school suspensions that keep more than 3 million students out of schools for at least a day or more every year.

Members of the Dignity in Schools Campaign plan marches, rallies, teach-ins and trainings in more than 20 cities throughout the week.

Here’s a what we know is on the schedule so far:

Tuesday, October 2

Human Rights Training discussing the moratorium on out of School Suspensions

Thursday October 4

PCI (Pacoima Community Initiative) Forum on School Pushout – introduction of the Dignity in Schools Campaign Model Code

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Large federal grants push use of student test scores to grade teachers

The move to factor student test scores into teacher job evaluations in L.A. Unified got a big push Thursday. It came in the form of multi-million dollar grants from the US Department of Education.

The federal agency will give L.A. Unified $16 million to start new teacher and principal training, identify and promote expert educators, and create teacher and principal evaluationa that include multiple measures that include student progress on standardized tests.

Executive Director of L.A. Unified’s Talent and Management division, Drew Furedi, wrote the grant proposal.

“As a former teacher, it was important to me to see how my students were progressing,” he said.

There’s one big roadblock to L.A. Unified’s proposal: its teachers union. United Teachers Los Angeles has opposed using student test scores to grade teachers, saying too many factors beyond their control can affect how well students perform on standardized tests. UTLA hasn’t totally ruled out student test scores in teacher evaluations.  The union and the school district continue to negotiate a new teacher evaluation.

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Governor signs off on California community colleges reforms

California University Cuts

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott told lawmakers that budget cuts to the community colleges have increased class size and made it more difficult for students to get into classes while appearing before a joint legislative hearing at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, Dec. 7, 2009. A new law Gov. Jerry Brown signed Thursday will help address that.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law Thursday that will improve student orientation, create a common assessment, and require students to maintain their grades to receive fee waivers at the California community colleges.

SB 1456, authored by Democratic state Sen. Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach, provides for an intensive orientation to help students establish their educational goals, and the creation of a common assessment that would be administered to students at the start of their studies at one of the campuses.

A common assessment would allow students to take courses at more than one community college, especially as course offerings dwindle, without having to take an assessment at each one.

The law also requires students receiving the Board of Governors' fee waiver to maintain certain academic goals to continue to qualify; if they are on probation for two consecutive semesters, the students would no longer be eligible.

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New CA law will focus less on test scores as part of API

scantron standardized test

timlewisnm/Flickr Creative Commons

A new California law will focus less on test scores in calculating the annual Academic Performance Index measures that are often used by schools and parents to rank their overall performance.

The Academic Performance Index --  a number that educators and parents have obsessed over to rank their schools' performance each year -- will focus less on student test scores and more on a school's overall ability to prepare students for college and the workplace under a new measure Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law.

SB 1458 by Democratic Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento became state law Wednesday. It limits test scores to no more than 60% of the API for high schools and at least 60% in elementary and middle schools. The remainder of the score will factor in graduation rates, students' preparedness for college or technical training and graduates' ability to compete in the global job market.

"For years, 'teaching to the test' has become more than a worn cliche because 100% of the API relied on bubble test scores in limited subject areas," Steinberg said in a statement. "But life is not a bubble test and that system has failed our kids."

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New chancellor for California community colleges

The search for a new Chancellor of california’s 112 community colleges is over. Brice Harris starts his job as head of the nation's largest public college system on November 6.

Harris is a veteran administrator. He retired last month after 16 years with the from the Los Rios Community College district in Norther California; it includes the American River, Cosumnes River, Folsom Lake and Sacramento city colleges. He’ll succeed Jack Scott, who retired earlier this month.

As chancellor, Harris will receive $198,500 a year plus benefits.

Statewide the system is experiencing massive financial and academic crises: Over the past four years, state budget cuts have forced schools to scale back almost a quarter of its course offerings, reduce enrollment from 2.9 million to 2.4 million students, and it’s more than doubled student fees.

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