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

California schools earn Bronze when it comes to serving healthy school lunches

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Mark Ralson/AFP/Getty Images)

Cafeteria workers prepare lunches for school children at the Normandie Avenue Elementary School in South Central Los Angeles on December 2, 2010.

The results of the latest HealthierUS School Challenge for schools are in, and California schools didn’t do too badly. They didn’t do too well, either, garnering mostly bronze medal certifications. Compared to some school districts nationwide, where many schools swept up a Silver or Gold medal, it might give parents of public school children in Los Angeles pause.

Here’s the skinny.

The brainchild of First Lady, Michelle Obama, in 2010, the USDA began an award system for schools based on the food served to children. To earn a Bronze medal (and $500 cash) a school needs to serve at least one fruit and vegetable with every meal, as well as one whole grain food three times a week, and serve only low-fat or fat-free milk. Many LAUSD schools met this criteria. But few went beyond that.

To earn a higher medal (silver or Gold), schools need to be providing daily whole grain foods, legumes, peas, and multiple green or orange fruits and vegetables. No pizza, hot dogs or processed chicken nuggets.


Steve Zimmer and Kate Anderson face off on AirTalk

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Attorney Kate Anderson is challenging one-term incumbent and career teacher Steve Zimmer for the Los Angeles Unified School Board.

Attention Pass/Failers: LAUSD School Board candidates for District 4 will be on AirTalk at noon today.

Larry Mantle will be hosting the 20-minute debate between incumbent Steve Zimmer and Kate Anderson, who are vying to represent the west-side district.

If you have questions you’d like to have Larry ask either of the candidates call in at 866-893-5722. 

Cheat notes for the debate

District 4 covers the area from the Westside, east to Hollywood, and north into parts of the San Fernando Valley.

This race is the most hotly contested and scrutinized so far because it will definitely be decided on Tuesday with only two candidates.

Some argue if one-term incumbent Steve Zimmer, the sole swing vote on the evenly split board, loses to Kate Anderson, that could clear the path for Superintendent John Deasy’s aggressive policies, which include a charter-friendly environment and the use of student test data in teacher evaluations. 


School districts can't charge parents for basic education; must create complaint process

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Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Out of necessity, cash strapped schools have for years been asking parents to cover some of the most basic classroom needs:  craft supplies, a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, an Algebra book.

But it turns out that is illegal and California school districts have until Friday to draw up procedures for parents to complain if they feel their school is charging them for educational activities. 

The guidelines should provide parents and students a modified uniform complaint process so concerns can be resolved at the local level, without costly litigation. 

The deadline was established in Assembly bill 1575 signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown last fall.

The passage of the bill lead to the dismissal of a class action lawsuit, Doe v. State of California, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The suit alleged that the imposition of such fees violated the state Constitution, which has guaranteed children access to free public schools since 1879.


New survey finds teachers aren't prepared for upcoming Common Core standards

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Dave Einsel/Getty Images

A teacher prepares her classroom. A new survey found that more than half of teachers surveyed reported three days or less of Common Core standard training.

Starting in 2014, students in California and 45 other states will face a whole new set of standards called the Common Core. They represent a major shift in K-12 education across the country.

How prepared are teachers to impart the knowledge required? A new survey by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center found that a majority of teachers have received, at most, three days of training on the new standards.

The study, out today, called the shift to Common Core standards a “critical challenge.” It was based on responses from about 600 teachers nationwide. 

Only one in five teachers surveyed said they felt “very prepared” to teach the new Common Core standards. Almost 60 percent reported receiving three days of training or less.

Teachers said they need better textbooks and classroom materials to help teach the new standards – more than half of respondents disagreed that the current teaching materials were adequate.


Americorps to send volunteers to nation's worst schools

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan

 Struggling and low performing schools are about to get a little help. 

U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has announced a $15 million grant to deploy Americorps volunteers to some of the worst schools in the country. Schools have a little more than a month to apply for the volunteers—and there is a string or two attached.

Duncan made the announcement at the Building a Grad Nation Summit in Washington D.C. He said the volunteers’ will focus on improving reading and math skills, raise graduation rates, and boost college enrollment.
“Turning around our nation’s lowest-performing schools is challenging work that requires everyone to play a part – from teachers, administrators, and counselors to business leaders, the philanthropic sector, and community members,” Duncan said.

The program will send 650 Americorps members to 60 rural and urban schools over three years.
The grant is open to public and private nonprofit organizations, including faith based groups. It’s funded by the Department of Education and the Corporation for National Community Service, which is seeking private funds to shore it up.
Duncan said he’s looking for applicants that focus on increasing parent and family engagement in education. Applications are due by April 2.