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

Charter school advocacy group endorse LAUSD school board candidates

Mercer 216

David McNew/Getty Images

Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education in April.

The Coalition for School Reform --an advocate for charter schools-- has picked its horses in the three Los Angeles Unified school board races. It's placing its bets on Monica Garcia in District 2, Kate Anderson in District 4, and Antonio Sanchez in District 6.

Monica Garcia, who’s been on the school board since 2006, is defending her seat against five challengers: Annamarie Montanez, Isabel Vazquez, Abelardo Diaz and Robert Skeels. Garcia is backed by the Service Employees International Union but lost the support from the Los Angeles County Democratic Party over her support of charter schools.

Kate Anderson made a name for herself as a parent advocate. She's running against incumbent Steve Zimmer, who is endorsed by SEIU and United Teachers Los Angeles.

Antonio Sanchez is running to fill Nury Martinez’s seat, the only one not contested by an incumbent. He’s picked up support from UTLA, SEIU, and LA County Federation of Labor’s COPE Committee. The 30-year-old Sanchez faces off against Maria Cano, who favors more oversight of charter schools, teacher Monica Ratliff, and Iris Zuniga an executive for the charter school operator Youth Policy Institute.

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Coeducation effort at Deep Springs College dealt setback in Inyo County court ruling

Deep Springs College

Molly Peterson/KPCC

Deep Springs sits in California's high desert. A current student body of 28 men runs a cattle ranch and an alfalfa farm, as well, as a mostly organic garden.

An Inyo County court has dealt a setback to a coeducation effort at an unusual eastern Sierra college that for a century has only admitted men.

A majority of trustees at Deep Springs College approved plans to open admission to women in the fall of 2011. They sought approval from a superior court. Two trustees, alumni who voted against those plans, challenged the action. They argue that one of the school’s organizing documents, the deed of trust, makes explicit the educational purpose of the college’s founder, L.L. Nunn.

In part the deed of trust provides that the college property is to be used for  “the education of promising young men, in a manner emphasizing the need and opportunity for unselfish service, and uplifting mankind from materialism to idealism, to a life in harmony with the creator, in the conduct of which educational work of democratic self government by the students themselves shall be a feature, as is now the case at Deep Springs.”

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How will new testing standards change teaching and learning? (poll)

Alex Wong / Getty Images

California schools superintendent Tom Torlakson unveiled a plan yesterday to completely overhaul the tests K-12 students take every spring as the state moves toward adopting a new curriculum, called the Common Core, by 2015. The tests are meant to gauge mastery of subject matter in each grade. Lawmakers had requested he come up with a new model.

If the legislature approves his plan, two years from now, students will put down the Scantron forms and No. 2 pencils and pick up a mouse instead. He proposes that students use computers for the new test, which would require students to write, analyze, solve problems and provide explanations on how they arrived at their answers.

That’s a significant move away from the current exams students are required to take. STAR — short for Standardized Testing and Reporting — relies heavily on memorizing information.

“The ability to engage in critical thinking and solve complex problems cannot be reliably assessed with the kinds of multiple choice tests that are the centerpiece of our current system,” Torlakson said.

The new test — which he estimates may cost as much as $1 billion to implement — will take time. So Torlakson recommended a dozen interim changes. Some of the bigger ones:

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Parent demand leads Mojave Desert elementary to convert to charter school

School Bonds - 9

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

A Mojave Desert school district has unanimously approved the new operator of the nation's first school to be converted to a charter by parent demand.

The Adelanto Elementary school board Tuesday night voted 4-0 to approve LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy to take over Desert Trails Elementary School in September.

The approval marks the end of a nearly two-year battle by the Desert Trails Parents Union to use California's so-called "parent trigger" law. The landmark legislation allows parents to force radical change at a failing school through a petition. It has inspired similar laws in about six other states.

RELATED: Parent Trigger group wins another legal battle

Teachers and administrators largely opposed the parents group, saying reforms were under way at Desert Trails.

The parents group had to obtain two court orders compelling the district to accept the petition.

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School officials propose overhaul of state standardized tests

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California State schools superintendent Tom Torlakson wants to revamp statewide standardized testing; instead of memorization driven, multiple-choice bubble exams, the proposed tests would assess critical thinking, problem solving, and essay writing skills.

Torlakson said the new test would be implemented in the 2014-15 school year at the same time as the state adopts national Common Core curriculum and phases out the current STAR testing program.

“We’ve been asking our kids to master new skills and so the assessments must change, too,” said Torlakson.

It will take more than a year to implement, so Torlakson is recommending suspending most tests not required by the federal government starting next year. This would put a moratorium on STAR testing of second graders and end-of-course-exams at the state level.

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