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

Influential UC Irvine scholar Robert Duncan Luce dies

Courtesy UC Irvine

UC Irvine scholar Robert Duncan Luce broke ground in the field of mathematical psychology.

Robert Duncan Luce, an influential mathematical psychologist at UC Irvine, died Saturday. In a career that spanned more than half a century, Luce applied the power of mathematics to describe human behavior.

"We’re talking about an intellectual giant," said UC Irvine economist Don Saari, a colleague of Luce.

Before Luce’s research, mathematics mostly described the physical world, calculating the speed of light or the freezing point of sugar water.

"But when we’re talking in terms of pain, or when we’re talking in terms of hunger, or we’re talking in terms of a lot of the issues that crop up in behavior ... These issues were not carefully defined until Luce and his co-authors tackled [them],” Saari said.

Luce’s research also led to a better understanding of the reasons consumers pick one brand over another and whether many options affect the choice. It does not, he wrote in 1959, when he presented "Luce’s Choice Axiom."


Early start to the school year starts with shopping and a heat wave

school supplies

Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Back-to-school shopping occurs earlier this years since most Los Angeles area students start the new academic year in August, three weeks earlier than the usual post-Labor Day start.


Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Parents search for last-minute school supplies before their students head back to class.


Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Retail stores stock shelves with school supplies as most Los Angeles area school districts start earlier than usual this academic year.

Retail shelves are starting to look bare as parents grab last-minute school supplies for their soon-to-be students, many of whom are starting school three weeks sooner than the traditional September start date.

“It hasn’t changed,” laughed Gina Ginyard, "I’ve been doing it for sixteen years."

Her son (who is 16) starts his junior year of high school tomorrow. Standing in a store aisle, she holds two packs of loose-leaf paper, a couple of folders, some spiral-bound notebooks and a bundle of black ballpoint pens.

“The older they get, the less supplies cost,” she said. 

Other parents roaming the store aisles aren't so lucky. Pamela Briggs' shopping basket is filled to the brim with school supplies. She estimates they'll run her about $80 at the cash register. In her hand, she has a list of supplies her daughter will need —  at school and at home.


Parents attempt to navigate new school district boundaries

Miramonte Elementary School

Grant Slater/KPCC

Miramonte Elementary School was the center of a scandal wherein two teachers were accused of engaging in lewd acts with students, and were later dismissed.

It’s crunch time for parents of school-age children as many districts gear up for their first day this week, but some families say they’re less worried about finding the right supplies and more worried about finding the right school amid confusing attendance boundaries.

When Liliana Guillen learned her two boys would be transferring from Lillian Street Elementary in South L.A. to the newly-constructed Lawrence Moore just a few blocks away, Guillen was thrilled.

“I went and registered them right away,” she says, in Spanish.

Guillen says she could picture her boys in first and fourth grades, happy in the classrooms and on the playground. 

But, during the summer, the family moved five short blocks south — and that was enough of a jump that LAUSD re-assigned her two boys to Miramonte Elementary, the school which dismissed two teachers suspected of child sexual abuse last school year. Neither Guillen nor her husband, Candido Fabian, are happy about that.

LAUSD maintains an open enrollment policy that allows parents to send their children anywhere in the district. A school representative says that when a new school is built, parents learn in the spring where their children may transfer in the next academic year. There’s also a website they can use to check whether the boundaries for their school’s feeder area have changed.

"The most important thing," Fabian said, "is their safety. And making sure they’re being looked after."

Fabian has already grilled Miramonte's security guard about his schedule, and seemed relieved to know all visitors are required to sign in and show a picture ID before being admitted into the brightly painted two-story school.

Still, the father of two says, if they’d known about the district’s boundary line for the new school, they wouldn’t have moved.


Race should be part of college admissions process, UC officials say in briefs

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court will take on the latest chapter in affirmative-action related cases when it hears Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin in October. California and UC, among dozens of others, filed briefs in support of the university's use of race in its admissions decisions.

The state of California, the University of California and dozens of other groups filed briefs today in support of the University of Texas at Austin in a U.S. Supreme Court case challenging its use of race in undergraduate admissions decisions.

Fisher vs. University of Texas at Austin is the latest chapter in a series of affirmative action-related cases that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case will go before the justices in October; amicus briefs were due Monday. Abigail Noel Fisher filed suit in 2008 after she applied to be an undergraduate at UT and was denied admission.

Fisher, who is white, alleges that the UT's use of race as a factor in its admissions process is unconstitutional.

The case has garnered much interest because of the impact such a ruling could have on the continuously changing landscape of college admissions. 


New 'Race to the Top' details officially released; money will go directly to schools

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sp

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaks to the press at the White House in Washington, D.C,, April 20, 2012. The U.S. Department of Education released the application requirements of the 2012 Race to the Top competition, which will allow districts to apply directly to the federal government for funds rather than via their states.

The U.S. Department of Education released details of the 2012 Race to the Top competition today for nearly $400 million in federal dollars that will, for the first time, go directly to school districts rather than their states.

The competition was launched in 2009 and has been lauded by federal education officials as inspiring nationwide education reform and working to improve "student achievement and educator effectiveness."

"We want to help schools become engines of innovation through personalized learning so that every child in America can receive the world-class public education they deserve," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement.

Districts or groups of districts that serve at least 2,000 students with 40 percent or more students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches will be able to apply for the competition.