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

Arts in schools: Unusual charters use dance, string instruments to motivate students

Renaissance Arts Academy - 1

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Dance Advisor Sarri Sanchez leads a mixed-grade dance class on Tuesday, May 7 at Renaissance Arts Academy in Eagle Rock. The charter school has 350 students ranging from sixth to 12th grades.

Gabriella Charter School - 1

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Fifth grade students in teacher Courtney Alexander's class practice jazz moves that incorporate samba techniques. At Gabriella Charter School most students get nearly five hours of dance per week as part of their normal school day.

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After school students practice as part of different ensembles and orchestras that perform.

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Music Advisor Sharon Ray leads a seven-student class on Tuesday afternoon. All students take classes in singing, music theory, music lab and percussion.

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Ninth grader Rose Webster, left, hugs eighth grader Celina Einem after a dance class at the end of the day. Students each have a concentration in orchestral string or modern and contemporary dance.

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Tenth grader Matteo Celada rolls up carpet where humanities and math classes are held. Underneath the carpet is a sprung floor for dance.

Gabriella Charter School - 2

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Students rest as they get jazz class instruction at Gabriella Charter School.

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After classes each day, students clean and clear the open-area classroom space of furniture so that orchestras and dance ensembles can practice. The school is in a former department store.

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Tenth grader Emmet Webster and twelfth grader Aidan Faith play double bass before an ensemble practice after school.

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Music Advisor Eric Guinivan leads an orchestra practice. Guinivan is part of the Grammy-nominated Los Angeles Percussion Quartet.

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The school is a 22,000 square-foot open classroom and has stage lights hanging from the ceilings.

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The Eagle Rock public charter was named a 2013 California Distinguished School in April. The school won the same recognition in 2009.

When Arturo Haro enrolled in Renaissance Arts  Academy in the sixth grade, his music world consisted of reggae, rap and hip hop.

Then teachers handed him a viola. When he first carried the instrument home to Highland Park, some of his neighbors thought it was a gun.

"I honestly never knew what a viola was until I came here," said Haro, now a junior. "Having that instrument in my hands, it was like, wow, I’ve never had that feeling before."

Learning the instrument has helped him see life differently. At home, he now listens to classical music to help him focus. His grades have improved and his teachers said he's become a more serious student.

Renaissance Arts is an unusual charter school that incorporates string instruments and dance into its everyday curriculum. It is one of a handful of charter schools in L.A. Unified that are using arts not to create the next generation of artists, but to inspire regular students to stay in school.


A teaching approach for slow learners gaining wide appeal

Library Literacy - 9

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Alezander Duran reads "Flyboy of Underwhere" by Bruce Hale. A teaching method used for slow readers increasingly helps all students.

Want to help your kids improve their reading skills over the summer? You may want to try a teaching approach designed three decades ago for slow readers – educators are having success using it with all students.

Reciprocal teaching, deconstructs the reading process into four components:

  • Predicting, which is skimming a sentence, paragraph or passage for a sense of the topic;
  • Questioning, which involves asking questions about the material as you read;
  • Clarifying, which is wondering about information you did not comprehend by reading ahead or asking a teacher, parent or friend;
  • And summarizing, which is recalling the material you just read.

Sounds complicated, but it’s really about sitting down with your kids and reading something aloud with them and interjecting with the occasional question, such as “what do you think will happen next?” or “do you know what that word means?” or “what has happened so far in the story?”


Hawaii's experiment in fixing schools may hold lessons for California

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Hawaii's $75 million school improvement campaign feeling growing pains.

If there was ever doubt about the challenge of school reform, Hawaii’s multi-million dollar campaign is an expensive reminder of how difficult it can be. An ambitious plan to extend the school day by an hour has been scaled back to a small number of schools as the state grapples with growing pains and learning what worked and what did not.

The school-day expansion was funded by a $75 million, four-year Race To the Top grant in 2010. Hawaii was only one of a dozen to receive the grant from the Obama Administration. The state promised to use the money to build better data systems, expand science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and improve academic performance at 19 lagging schools.  Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education lauded the state’s efforts.

As part of the reform efforts, Hawaii ran an extended day pilot program at 19 campuses during the 2012-13 school year. An extra hour was added Monday through Thursday and teachers got another dozen days of training.


Arts Ed UK style: a look at the movement abroad

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High school students dance in an after-school program. In England, lawmakers have debated whether to include the arts in the English Baccalaureate.

American educators aren't the only ones concerned about the loss of arts education in schools. Some lawmakers in England have pushed to include the arts as the "sixth pillar" of the English Baccalaureate, a performance measure for high school students more commonly known as the Ebacc.

The five pillars currently include English, science, math, languages and a humanities subject like history.

Wendy Earle, a researcher at Birkbeck, University of London, recently wrote an essay critiquing the current conversation in England around arts education. She said even arts education has a "get-the-grades emphasis" in England. She argues that the discussion in the UK around arts education has been too narrow and exaggerates the potential of the arts to solve social problems.

Instead, she said arts ought to be taught for its own sake, so children "can learn about some of the greatest artistic achievements of the past and enjoy their own artistic experiments."


Teacher victory in LAUSD board race may not bode well for superintendent

Monica Ratliff District 6

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LAUSD teacher Monica Ratliff won a seat on the LA Unified Board of Education on Tuesday.

Teacher Monica Ratliff’s win of an open seat on L.A. Unified’s Board of Education Tuesday could provide some discomfort for the future of Superintendent John Deasy’s reform agenda.

Ratliff, a lawyer-turned-elementary school teacher, ran a bare-bones campaign. Many who donated money and volunteered were fellow teachers upset with Deasy’s focus on student test scores and charter schools.

“I think he follows an agenda of the so-called school reformists, the business model, very closely,” said adult education teacher Matthew Kogan, who walked precincts for Ratliff. “It’s a very narrow model and there’s a lot of hostile things about it towards teachers."

Kogan likes the nuanced position on Deasy taken by Ratliff, who approves of some of the superintendent's actions, but opposes other policies.