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

UTLA: 85% of teachers rate superintendent below average

UTLA president Warren Fletcher layoff hearings

Tami Abdollah / KPCC

UTLA President Warren Fletcher in 2012. He says the union's teachers aren't happy with the superintendent's performance.

L.A. Unified's teachers' union has again come out swinging at the superintendent, releasing a survey showing 85% of teachers gave Superintendent John Deasy a below average or poor job performance rating.

“The district is not headed in the right direction,” said United Teachers Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher.

Criticism of L.A. Unified's superintendents has ebbed and flowed from UTLA leadership for more than a decade. Much of the criticism comes at budget time, when the superintendent proposes a spending plan and the teachers union criticizes those initiatives. Most recently, Fletcher and Deasy went head to head over the teachers' union's criticism of the Deasy-led program to serve breakfast in the classroom. Deasy won that skirmish.

The 25-question survey, sent out this spring, asked unionized teachers whether Deasy is spending L.A. Unified's money wisely, evaluating teachers fairly and abiding by the teachers union contract. The final question asked them to rate Deasy’s overall performance.


LA Unified's historical collection: from Mesopotamian artifacts to report cards

Grace Sutherland report card (1896-1897)


A report card from 1896 is just one of more than 30,000 items archived within LA Unified's Art and Artifact Collection.

If you've ever wanted to check whether your great-great-grandmother really was a straight-A student, you may be in luck.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has a public archive of more than 30,000 historical items that date back to 1855, when the district's first school opened. And it includes some report cards.

The Art and Artifact Collection contains a wide variety of items gathered throughout L.A. Unified's history: paintings, sculptures, photographs, antique furniture and even ancient Greek, Roman, Etruscan and Mesopotamian artifacts. 

The collection also includes old academic records, including a report card from 1896-1897. It's for then-fifth grader Grace Sutherland, whose best subject seems to have been Geography.

It also gives a peek into evolving academic philosophy. One of the stranger subjects is "Sloyd," which apparently is an educational system based on woodworking. You can read more about it in an old Woodwork Magazine article


Southern California is big summer destination for Chinese teenagers trying out American education

Chinese students look at a newspaper out

STR/AFP/Getty Images

Chinese students look at a newspaper outside an employment fair in Hefei, in east China's Anhui province.

Dozens of  Chinese teenagers aboard the Boeing 777 that crashed in San Francisco on Saturday were headed to a summer English program in a religious school in the San Fernando Valley.

Though it seemed unusual to those outside the education field, experts said a growing number of Chinese have been attending similar summer classes, particularly in Southern California.

"The market is huge. There are many, many people in Los Angeles doing this," said Kenny Hsu.

After a long career in banking, he founded EduWin five years ago to bring Chinese teenagers to the Los Angeles area for summer English classes. He's essentially a broker.

He charges $6,000 for a three-week program, which includes classes in a private school, housing and airfare. Most of it goes to cover the costs, but Hsu does take a fee. He said it's less than 10 percent.


Website reviews educational apps — with teachers in mind

Teachers, Meet Graphite

CommonSenseEducators (via YouTube)

Graphite is a free review service for educators.

As the Los Angeles Unified School District prepares to give students and teachers iPads, Graphite wants to help teachers figure out what to download onto those shiny new devices. The website is run by a nonprofit and provides independent reviews of educational applications for tables and smart phones.

It expects to have about 650 app reviews up by the time the new school year starts this fall, according to a story on the online business and technology website GigaOM.

Produced by Common Sense Media, Graphite joins other app review sites on the market like EdShelf and EdSurge.

Graphite sorts apps and other digital tools by grade level from pre-K to 12 and allows user to search for both paid and free downloads.

The site has a "Top Picks" page that features its favorites grouped by category. It touts itself as a place to find the best resource tools and high school websites for creativity and the arts, as well as resources that help build vocabulary.


Tensions grow between LA Unified, lawyers in Miramonte abuse cases

Miramonte Elementary School

Grant Slater/KPCC

Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles, where not one, but two teachers were accused of engaging in lewd acts with students. Criminal cases are pending and civil lawsuits are still pending, two years later.

It was a moment every parent would dread. The telephone rings. It's a neighbor, who tells you to turn on the television news. And on the screen is a photo of your daughter's third grade teacher, who had been arrested for lewd acts against children. 

In this case, it was Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt, who is alleged to have fed his students his bodily fluids on cookies and spoons as part of a tasting game.

The parent of a former third grader at the school (who did not want her real name published because it would identify her daughter as a victim of sexual abuse) said after she got a call from a neighbor, she found a photo Berndt had sent home with her nine-year-old. In it, her daughter holds a cookie that is coated with a white substance.

"I broke down," said the woman, who asked to be referred to by the pseudonym Gloria. "I kept going through my whole house, just looking for every single picture."