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

LAUSD school board to consider laying off nearly 200

LAUSD redistricting commission

Tami Abdollah / KPCC

The Los Angeles Unified School Board will take up whether to lay off 194 staff in the 2013-14 school year.

District officials haven’t released any specifics about the proposed cutbacks but UTLA president Warren Fletcher said the cuts target HHS (Health and Human Services) employees. That means schools will lose more psychologists, psychiatric social workers and counselors. Nearly 20 school librarians jobs are also on the chopping block.

“These RIFs (Reduction in Force) are unconscionable at the time when our students are most vulnerable," Fletcher said in a written statement. “In times of tragedy or dealing with everyday stresses, students need access to the invaluable services HHS employees provide on campus." 

The layoff notices would go out by March 15 and take effect June 30. School officials said they're motivated by a budget shortfall.


Valentine's Day lesson plans aren't just for teachers: art, chemistry and word searches can be fun at home

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Candy may be the standard on Valentine's day, but the holiday can also be used to teach chemistry, art.

The Texas-based teacher social network We Are Teachers has some Valentine’s Day classroom lesson plans that aren’t just for teachers. Any parent, guardian, or relative can download these lesson plans. They include op art painting, word searches, and at least one that gets kids to flex their addition and word problem skills.

The lessons appear to be mostly for elementary school age kids.

Let’s not leave teenagers out. There must be some biology and physiology teachers out there taking time to talk about how the amino acids that make up the “love hormone” oxytocin are an essential part of the bodily rush we feel when Cupid’s arrow strikes, when we fall head over heels, or are smitten by that special someone.

The closest I came to finding something like that was a Valentine’s Day chemistry on this list of lesson plans.


Small study says gender stereotypes may still play role in who chooses to teach

Brock Cohen Humanitas

Grant Slater/KPCC

Brock Cohen, a Humanitas program teacher at Grant High School, teaches 11th grade American Literature and 9th grade Humanities. He has been teaching for 11 years.

For a long time, women have dominated k-12 teaching jobs. This article in the British newspaper The Telegraph sheds a bit of light on perceptions of some male teachers that may be behind those numbers.

In a small study, university scholars found that gender stereotypes play a role when men discount going into teaching. Ingrained British class issues may be at play, too, the article suggests.  In the U.K., men represent just 12 percent of the primary school workforce, according to Telegraph.

Certainly that’s not the case in California, right?

To find out, I took a look at the gender break down for California’s teaching force for the 2011-12 school year, the most recent available.  Statistics show 40% of California’s 284,000 teachers last year were male. That’s definitely higher than what I remember seeing in San Diego public schools in the 1970s and 80s.


Transitional kindergarten is on today's agenda

Transitional Kindergarten School Playground

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Vanessa Delgado and Ashley Vargas play during recess at Martha Escutia Primary Center, which offers transitional kindergarten.

Last week we blogged about transitional kindergarten being the bridge program for 4-year-olds not yet old enough for kindergarten. Today I'm at the annual TK conference where more than 400 administrators, principals and teachers are sharing strategies for creating more successful TK programs.

One of the main messages from the conference so far is that TK is about equalizing the playing field when kids enter kindergarten. Principal Friedrich from Stanley Mosk Elementary points out how kindergarten has become very academic in the past decade — as schools move to meet new achievement standards — and this is really leaving some kids behind. TK builds social-emotional skills, fine motor skills, as well as basic literacy and numeracy.

TK should be a more play-and-discovery-based learning environment where children can learn the basics they need to enter kindergarten, experts say.


LA schools misspent $158M of lunch money on sprinklers, salaries, TV staff, state says (PDF)

A cafeteria worker supervises lunches fo


Kids wait in line for lunch at Normandie Avenue Elementary School in South Central Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has been ordered to pay back more than $158 million that was supposed to go for free and reduced lunches but that state officials say was spent on lawn sprinklers, staff salaries at the district's television station and other improper uses over a six-year period.

A report by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes released Wednesday morning said LAUSD was among eight districts ordered to repay funds recently. It was by far the biggest violator, according to audits by the California Department of Education. The other seven districts combined were ordered to repay about $11 million. Two are contesting the findings.

“From my point of view, they are literally taking food out of the mouth of kids,” Richard Zeiger, chief deputy state superintendent of public instruction, was quoted in the report as saying. “They say, ‘Well, we can do it cheaper.’ I say you should do it better.”