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

Local research project exploring the arts as a tool to teach science

Alex Ray/ESCAPE

Fourth-graders at West Orange Elementary warm up with teaching artist Dawn Dyson-Platero before an arts and sciences dance lesson on weathering and erosion. The lesson is part of a new project funded by the National Science Foundation.

University of California, Irvine, researchers are in the midst of a five-year project to develop and study the effectiveness of a new curriculum designed to help students better learn science through the arts. 

The effort, backed by $6.4 million from the National Science Foundation, is targeting eight school districts in Orange County: Irvine Unified, Anaheim City, Capistrano Unified, Orange Unified, Ocean View, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified, Tustin Unified and Westminster. 

“This is on a very broad scale," said Brad Hughes, the project's executive director. Hughes also directs science education and media for UC Irvine's school of biological sciences. "It has not been funded at this level before."

RELATED: KPCC survey finds arts instruction limited in SoCal schools

Over the five-year life of the project, which launched in 2013, researchers hope to reach about 21,000 students, many of whom are learning English.

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Federal funds reauthorized to provide child care for low-income families

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Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

File: A young boy at a Children's Institute facility in Imperial Gardens in Watts puts on his shoes before taking a nap. The program offers a safe haven for children who may live in housing projects known for drug activity and violence.

More federal funds are in the pipeline to help low-income families following President Obama's signing of the Child Care Development Block Grant reauthorization on Wednesday.

The $5.3 billion program funded child care for about 1.5 million children last year. Child care agencies and organizations that receive grants out of the appropriation also provide training, professional development and quality-improvement services to those in the field.

California received $542 million of this funding in fiscal year 2012, the latest numbers available from the state Department of Education. 

Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund national advocacy group, applauded Congress and the president for the reauthorization. She called it a “hopeful indicator” of bipartisan commitment to funding more early education programs.  

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Report: Charter schools' requirements for parent volunteers preventing enrollments

alexbcthompson/ Flickr

File: A student graduating from a Green Dot charter high school. Public Advocates, a civil rights group, said it found charter schools violate the state's guarantee of a free public education when they require parents to volunteer.

Policies of nearly a third of California charter schools reviewed by a civil rights group violate the state’s free public education guarantee by requiring parents to volunteer up to 40 hours each school year, according to a report released Thursday.

If parents can’t volunteer the hours, Public Advocates lawyer Hilary Hammell said, some charter schools demand parents either pay about $25 for each hour they can’t volunteer or donate learning supplies to the school.

“It’s a nice idea that parents should volunteer and we certainly support that, but it crosses the line when it becomes, basically, a form of tuition,” Hammell said.

The volunteer requirement, she said, discourages many parents from enrolling their children in the publicly funded charter schools.

Hammell said there are many kinds of barriers to volunteering: parents may work several jobs, are undocumented but need to pass a background check to volunteer in the schools, or care for young children or elderly relatives.

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Inglewood teachers lash out at schools chief for insensitive remarks

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

Inglewood Unified school trustee Don Brann came under harsh criticism Wednesday night for his remarks to KPCC expressing concerns for his safety in the city.

Inglewood Unified School District teachers, staff, and parents blasted schools trustee Don Brann Wednesday night at the first public meeting following his remarks that he felt unsafe in the city.

“Dr. Brann, I’ve been really, really angry this past month or so. What have we done to make you scared of us?” asked 6th-grade teacher Aba Ngissah during public comments at the monthly board of education meeting.

Brann serves as the school board in his capacity as trustee. He was appointed to the position by recently reelected state schools superintendent Tom Torlakson after the state took control of the failing school district two years ago.

In an interview with KPCC in September, Brann justified his $135,000 security detail by saying he didn’t feel safe in Inglewood. The city's population is mostly black and Latino. 

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Investigation finds LAUSD student tracking system 'grossly inadequate'

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

The LAUSD inspector general's report on the trouble-prone student data system called MiSiS calls for an outside party to monitor the work of district software developers.

Most of the Los Angeles Unified campuses surveyed are struggling to print report cards, submit accurate college transcripts and even determine how many students attend the school, says a new report released Wednesday by the district inspector general.

The scathing review called the district's student data software development and its rollout "grossly inadequate" and recommended that administrators bring in an outside party to double-check the developers' work, as is the industry's standard practice.

Despite the system's significant problems, Inspector General Ken Bramlett said he's confident the district is capable of reviving its software called MiSiS, or My Integrated Student Information System.

"The district is doing everything they can to correct it and also make sure it doesn't happen again," Bramlett said.

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