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

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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American Ballet Theatre dance school to open in Costa Mesa

Westside Ballet School - 9

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

American Ballet Theatre and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts will open a new dance school in Costa Mesa in September 2015.

One of the country's premier ballet companies is opening its first full-time dance school outside of New York next fall in Costa Mesa. 

The American Ballet Theatre and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts are creating the new school, which will open to 3-14 year olds, the organizations announced this week.

"It's not really just about churn out really talented dancers that are going to become swan queens. It's a deeper educational value put on it," said Kevin McKenzie, the ballet theater's artistic director who is overseeing training and curriculum for the new school. 

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McKenzie explained that the school will have dual purposes. Identifying top talent on the West Coast for a professional ballet track will be a part of it, but serving as a community resource for dance education — to offer what many schools aren't teaching in the classroom — will also play a large role.  

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iPad contract resurrected: LAUSD to spend $22 million on tech

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Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Brayan Aguilar, 17, and Yadira Aragon, 16, use iPads to read electronic books in a literacy class at Diego Rivera Learning Complex.

Three months after the former superintendent axed a controversial contract with Apple and Pearson, interim Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines is planning to spend $22 million in bond money under that same contract to buy more than 20,000 iPads for standardized tests in the spring.

Mark Hovatter, chief facilities executive, said John Deasy's decision to cancel the contract in August only applied to "instructional" iPads that included the Pearson software. He said Cortines is free to use the contract to buy devices for tests.

"There was no need to cancel the contract," said Hovatter. "We believe we got the best value."

Deasy announced the cancellation in August after KPCC found close ties between his office and Pearson executives, calling into question whether the bidding process was fair.  He resigned two months later.

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Can LAUSD learn from Long Beach in addressing teacher performance?

Cabrillo Science Camp

Grant Slater/KPCC

File: Jennifer Garcia, a substitute teacher for the Long Beach Unified School District, instructs a team of mock investigators at a science camp sponsored by Cal State University, Long Beach, in July 2013.

Officials with Long Beach Unified School District, Los Angeles County’s second largest, say their counterparts in L.A. could learn some important lessons from the way they run their schools.

Rather than a contentious relationship with teachers, as was the atmosphere under former LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, Long Beach takes a different approach. The district emphasizes collaboration and teacher training to develop better teachers, its supporters say.

Chris Steinhauser, who stepped in as Long Beach Unified superintendent  in 2002, sets the tone. Deasy supported the ruling in the Vergara vs. California lawsuit that would make it easier to fire ineffective teachers if it stands. Steinhauser doesn't agree with the decision. He believes that more spending on teacher training will produce better teachers.

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LAUSD requiring ethnic studies for graduation

Banda El Salvador - 6

Mae Ryan/KPCC

More than 90 languages are spoken in district schools, including Spanish, Korean, Armenian and Cantonese. L.A. Unified hopes to increase cultural awareness by requiring an ethnic studies course to graduate.

By 2019, every Los Angeles Unified School District high school student will need to take a class in ethnic studies to graduate.

The LAUSD board voted 6-1 on Tuesday to require the courses and increase ethnic studies classes as hundreds of students rallied outside the district's downtown headquarters, shouting "We won!"

District officials estimate the new requirement will cost $3.9 million to roll out to all 140,00 high school students, but the board has yet to be presented with the program's budget.

Ethnic studies, the interdisciplinary study of race, ethnicity and culture, has long been offered in colleges, but has not been widely available in high schools. 

Several ethnic studies courses, such as Chicano Literature or African American History, are already offered at 19 district schools, but fewer than half count towards California university entrance, according to a board report.

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