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

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.


Obama proposes $1 per pack cigarette tax to fund preschools

Senate Budget committee staffers unpack boxes of President Obama's 2014 budget proposal on Wednesday.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Budget committee staffers unpack boxes of President Obama's 2014 budget proposal on Wednesday.

As expected, President Barack Obama proposed a tax hike Wednesday to pay for his  “Preschool for All” plan. The size of the proposed tax is nearly twice earlier estimates: 94 cent per pack of cigarettes.

This large tobacco tax hike, which would affect all tobacco products, would go into effect as early as Jan 1. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget projects this would bring in $78.1 billion over 10 years, which would more than cover universal pre-kindergarten's estimated $75 billion price tag.

The president first mentioned his plans for universal early education in his State of the Union address in February. Shortly afterward, he traveled to a Georgia school where he made the case for how universal preschool benefits the nation as a whole. Today’s budget proposal represents the third major step as the White House outlined its plan to fund this “Preschool for All.”


California high school graduation rate creeps up to 78 percent

Mercer 12463

John Walker/Flickr

California's high school graduation rate is up to 78 percent.

California education officials announced Tuesday that despite years of budget cuts to schools, the state’s high school graduation rate inched up last year.

"We have positive momentum continuing to build. Graduation rates climbed again last year," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. "We’re now at 78.5 percent of high school students graduating with their class, which is an increase of 1.4 percentage points." 

He said the new numbers are significant because a three-year-old data-tracking system gives educators a more accurate count of who’s dropping out.

Graduation rates in Southern California run the gamut — from San Marino Unified’s stellar 98.9 percent graduation rate to L.A. Unified’s 66 percent rate to Compton Unified’s 57 percent, one of the lowest.


K-12 science education standards get revamp, include evolution, climate change

Sally ride enviro center

Tami Abdollah/KPCC

A student looks into a microscope at the Sally Ride Center for Environmental Science at LAUSD. Tuesday 26 states released new K-12 science standards. California, which last developed its science standards in 1997, helped write the standards.

After nearly two years of study and discussion, California and 25 other states released new K-12 science standards Wednesday, emphasizing critical thinking and including guidelines for teaching climate change and evolution.

The standards move away from memorization-based science learning and toward more hands-on, deeper thinking.

"It's almost a new frontier," said Anthony Quan, a consultant on science, technology, engineering and mathematics for the Los Angeles County Office of Education. "Now it's time to reexamine the way we think about science."

Phil Lafontaine, California's lead on the science standards, said he hopes the new standards will improve student readiness for science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs, which are among the fastest growing in California and across the nation. 


UCLA report: Public school suspension policies do more harm than good

Monica Ratliff District 6

Rebecca Hill/KPCC

A fifth grade classroom at San Pedro Street Elementary School.

A report released Monday by UCLA's Civil Rights Project finds that suspensions affected as many as one-in-nine students beyond the elementary level. The report, titled "Out of School & Off Track: The Overuse of Suspensions in American Middle and High Schools" looked at U.S. Department of Education data for 26,000 schools across the country.

Researchers found that while suspension rates for Asian and white students remained largely unchanged between 1973 and 2010, suspension rates for African-American and Latino students doubled.

The study's co-author, Dan Losen, said the findings reminded him of his elementary school teaching days in Massachusetts 25 years ago.

"When I started teaching I was sending kids to the principal’s office right and left for all sorts of things," Losen said. It was mostly, he said, because he didn’t have good classroom management skills, and little training on how to build positive connections with his students. He said many teachers still don’t get this training. The suspension study he co-authored details how suspensions can derail a student's academic improvement.
"Kids who are already on the fence and maybe are disengaged youth or at risk of dropping out, suspending them — especially for something minor — is going to push them out further," he said.

Losen said the likelihood of dropping out from school can rise to 32 percent for a ninth-grader who's been suspended just once. 

Activist Maisie Chin has been working with parents and students to cut suspensions in South L.A. schools. She’d give L.A. Unified a “C” grade for its effort.
"There’s some great attention being paid to it and there needs to be much more courageous leadership of where the rubber meets the road," she said.

It’s easy to tell schools to cut suspensions, Chin said. It’s much harder to adopt a program to train teachers about why students act out, develop alternative responses, and spend time gathering student and parent input.