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

Many UC, CSU students aren't ready for college-level writing; USC tries to help

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

USC instructor Brandon Martinez reveals the simple mysteries of good writing to a dozen students in need of remedial writing help before they begin college.

As California’s universities welcome freshmen for the fall term, administrators and students must deal with a problem that won’t go away: significant portions of these young people aren’t writing at the college level.

For 10 years, the SummerTIME program at USC has tried to make a dent in the problem. The 94 students in this year’s program competed to get in from Los Angeles urban high schools with low college attendance rates. For half of their six-hour days, they concentrate on intensive writing courses that offer what few of them have experienced before: one-on-one instruction, peer assistance and revision, revision, revision.

On one day during the program’s last week in July, students are critiquing the title and the arguments of Jazmine Kenny’s essay-in-progress about childhood obesity, her subject for the required 10-to-15-page essay in the course.

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LA Unified plans to ban Styrofoam food trays

bookgrl/Flickr Creative Commons

Los Angeles Unified School District has opted to look for alternatives to plastic foam lunch trays.

For decades, schools across the country have served sloppy Joes, gooey lasagna blocks and all other manner of school lunches on disposable Styrofoam trays. If you can’t picture them, close your eyes and think of a TV dinner tray only made of polystyrene — a material that takes hundreds of years to biodegrade.

But on Tuesday, Los Angeles Unified school board members voted to join a growing list of school districts to ban Styrofoam from all of its cafeterias.

Apparently, the board voted in response to the urging of students and parents who pushed for their removal. It follows similar moves in San Diego, Oakland, Berkeley and Portland.

Superintendent John Deasy will announce the district’s ban at a press conference at Thomas Starr King Middle School in Silver Lake.

There is still no word on what exactly will replace the un-green trays, but opponents of the ban argue any alternative will be more expensive for an already cash-poor school system. And, they contend, there is no guarantee a substitute will be better for the environment.

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School closures, employee cuts, selling land debated by near bankrupt Inglewood Unified

Inglewood Unified School District

Grant Slater/KPCC

Inglewood Unified staff recommends big cuts to avoid bankruptcy and state takeover, including 20 furlough days for employees and district land.

All public school districts in the Golden State have suffered budget cuts this year, but at Inglewood Unified School District administrators are considering some drastic measures to avoid bankruptcy.

The proposals on the school board agenda's Wednesday night include employee furlough days, closing down schools and cuts to employee benefits. Also on the chopping block are the district’s six police officers and police chief, although school board president Trina Williams assures residents the district won't compromise student safety.

The cuts are proposed by Inglewood Unified superintendent Gary McHenry.

"We’ve been suffering for three years now," said Chris Graeber with California Professional Employees Local Union #2345, the union that represents most non-teaching district employees. "We had furlough days. This’ll be the third year we’re in 12-13 with furlough days; last year, we had 20."

School district staff are recommending the school board cut nearly $14 million from this school year’s budget to stay solvent, a huge enough portion that the board has taken steps to declare bankruptcy in January.

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High school football coaches tackle concussion training head on

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Dem/Flickr

Football helmet of the late Owen Thomas, a former University of Pennsylvania football player, brought to the hearing on H.R 6172, Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act by his mother, Rev. Katherine E. Brearley, Ph.D. A CDC study shows concussion rates in athletics have more than doubled in the past decade.

The start of the new school year also means the start of high school football season.

For the players, it means a lifetime of memories — but it could mean a lifetime of health problems for players who suffer from concussions.

It’s become an all-too-common problem in high school football, and high school football coaches know it. That’s why more than 200 showed up for a concussion training session at Helen Bernstein High School in Los Angeles this week.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control released a study that said concussion rates in athletics have more than doubled in the last decade. The CDC says they’ve reached “an epidemic level.”

Estimates vary greatly, but anywhere from 43,000 to 67,000 high school football players reportedly suffer concussive head injuries. Still, the true number is believed to be much higher, as many athletes don’t report symptoms.

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Is USC's 'sketchy neighborhood' reputation fair? Depends on who you ask

Los Angeles Police Department Officer Su

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Los Angeles Police Department Officer Suzan Nelson holds photos of Chinese foreign exchange students Ming Qu (bottom) and Ying Wu (top). The two USC students were murdered in April, about a mile from campus.

The University of Southern California faces an issue that all urban schools have: student safety. Located in a spot just southwest of Downtown L.A., the school has a reputation (deserved or not) for being in a "sketchy" zone. 

That fact dominated coversation around the school in April, when two graduate students from China were shot and killed in what police say was a carjacking gone wrong. Now, students are returning to a USC this week that comes with beefed up LAPD patrols, increased seminars on student safety and the continued presence of private security officers positioned in the most student-heavy blocks around USC.

In the last six months, University Park has had a rate of 226.4 crimes per 10,000 people. Adams-Normandie, to the west of campus, where the two students died, has a lower rate at 123.2 crimes per 10,000 people. By comparison, Downtown's rate was 125.2 crimes per 10,000 people.

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