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

ACLU: state, school districts failing English learners

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

ACLU attorney Jessica Price says school districts up and down California are failing to enroll all English learners in the instruction mandated by law.

More than 20,000 students whose first language isn’t English are not getting proper instruction according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which threatened California education officials with a lawsuit Wednesday. 

Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of the ACLU of Southern California, said 251 school districts are failing to provide the basic instruction English learners need.
“It violates the federal law," he said.  "It violates state laws that specifically state that EL services must be delivered to these children.”

He said kids who don't speak English are supposed to attend special classes until they catch up. But ACLU lawyer Jessica Price said some of the districts are in such disarray they don’t know where to begin.
“We’ve spoken to teachers and administrators confidentially who’ve told us things like, we don’t even know who the English learner children in the classroom are so we have no idea how to provide them the specialized services,” she said.

Nearly a quarter of California’s six million students are labeled English learners. The vast majority speak Spanish. Vietnamese is a distant second, followed but a bunch of other languages.
UCLA researcher Patricia Gandara says California officials have done little to adopt findings that would help English learners, such as using bilingual teachers.

“There’s substantial evidence now that those children that have the advantage of a teacher who can actually, not only instruct them in a language they understand, but simply even informally assess what they’re understanding, that would go a long way toward helping.” Gandara said.

The ACLU wants the state to hold the districts accountable. California education officials say courts have ruled the state’s already meeting its obligation toward English learners.


Fontana schools police get high-powered rifles for 'attack on a campus'

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Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Semi-automatic assault style rifles on display at a gun show in Virginia.

Fontana school police force has acquired semiautomatic rifles for officers to bring to campuses under a controversial safety program.

Fontana Unified School District police purchased 14 of the Colt 6940 rifles last fall, well before the Connecticut school massacre.

The $1,000 rifles were received last month. School police Chief Billy Green says the guns are stored at police headquarters but trained officers can take them to campuses and keep them locked in their offices during school hours.

Superintendent Cali Olsen-Binks says they're only to be used if there's an attack on a campus in the district located in San Bernardino County.

Critics say such guns have no place on campuses and the $14,000 should have been used to restore counseling programs.


Azusa elementary school found lunch after recess improves diet and concentration

Murray Elementary

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

Murray Elementary says students eat more of the improved school lunches because recess comes before lunch.

For years, students at Murray Elementary School were like most others, they saw lunch as an easy obstacle to overcome to get to the important part of the school day: recess.

But five years ago the school decided to move lunch – and the school's principal said it has paid big dividends.

“When we were doing recess after lunch – we can’t make the kids eat their food – so they were eating a bite or two, not drinking their milk and they were throwing the whole dish away so that they could go play,” said principal Saida Valdez.

And their next meal wouldn’t come for at least another five hours, said Valdez, which mean the kids were starving by 3 p.m.

Very little learning can happen on a mostly empty stomach, said Steven Mittleman, a pediatric endocrinologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
“Kids who are hungry, first of all, have a hard time focusing and paying attention because they’re thinking of being hungry,” Mittleman said.

Now students in this San Gabriel Valley school play their hearts out during recess, mellow out as they sit down for lunch, and then go back to class.


University of California President Mark Yudof to step down in August

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AP / Paul Sakuma

University of California President Mark Yudof speaks during a news conference at UC offices in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Nov. 8, 2010.

University of California President Mark Yudof said Friday that he plans to step down in August, citing a "spate of taxing health issues."

Yudof, 68, said he plans to end his tenure on Aug. 31, about five years after he became head of the 10-campus system. The former law professor plans to return to teaching law on the UC Berkeley campus.

"The prior 18 months brought a spate of taxing health issues," Yudof said in a statement. "Though these challenges have been largely overcome, I feel it is time to make a change in my professional lifestyle."

In June 2008, Yudof replaced Robert Dynes as leader of the UC system, one of the world's leading research universities with about 220,000 students. He was chancellor of the University of Texas system from 2002 to 2008 and president of the University of Minnesota system from 1997 to 2002.

Yudof has led the University of California through a tumultuous period, when deep cuts in state funding led to sharp tuition hikes, cuts to academic programs and rowdy campus protests.

The university's finances are expected to stabilize. In his 2013-2014 budget, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed increasing state funding for UC by $250 million, an increase made possible by the November passage of his Proposition 30 tax initiative.

"Now, it appears the storm has been weathered. We are not fully in the clear, but we are much closer than we were even a few months ago," Yudof said.


Parents invoke trigger to shake up failing LA Unified school


Vanessa Romo/KPCC

Parents of children at 24th Street Elementary held up placards for passing motorists as they descended upon LAUSD headquarters Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 to deliver a petition to take over the failing school.

Hundreds of parents from a West Adams elementary school on Thursday invoked the “Parent Trigger” law to take over the failing 24th Street Elementary school. It's the first attempt to use the controversial law in L.A. Unified since it was passed in 2010 -- and could mark a turning point for parent-reform advocates. 

Amabilia Villeda, the leader of the Padres de 24 Parent Union leading the effort, handed Superintendent John Deasy some of the signatures she’d been gathering over the last nine months in a door-to-door campaign.
“I hope now you’ll hear us,” she said.

The school in the Historic West Adams neighborhood has a slew of problems. It’s one of the worst performing in the state and in the bottom 2% of the district. Two in three students can’t read at grade level and it has the second highest suspension rate for elementary schools in all of LAUSD. Villeda said parents want a new principal and experienced teachers.