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

LA school by school arts instruction breakdown: check your school here

Mary Plummer/KPCC

A screenshot of a map created using data from Los Angeles Unified School District. Blue dots represent elementary schools that offer dance, theater, music and visual arts. Red dots represent elementary schools without all four art forms.

A KPCC analysis of arts instruction at Los Angeles Unified elementary schools found 87 percent won't offer comprehensive access in the coming school year, in violation of California law.

Only about 70 of the district's more than 500 elementary schools will provide all four art forms: dance, visual arts, music and theater. But most of those only provide arts access to a portion of each school's students. 

The California education code requires school districts to teach all children all four art forms every year from first to sixth grade — but it lacks enforcement power or a penalty.

Gerardo Loera, L.A. Unified's lead curriculum administrator, was away on vacation and not immediately available for comment. A school district spokesman declined to provide any other officials to reply to the findings.


Inglewood school funds were used to attack former school board candidate


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Joyce Randall stands in the hallway near her old classroom at Inglewood High School. Documents and interviews show the distribution of a negative flier when she ran for school board was paid for with school district funds.

Public funds meant to educate Inglewood students were instead used to benefit a board member’s re-election campaign, court testimony and interviews show. The expenditures came as the school district began digging itself into a financial hole that ended with a state takeover.

Glenn Brown, the co-founder of a private investigation firm, admitted in court testimony in Los Angeles Superior Court that he billed the school district at least $4,700 for time spent in 2009 distributing fliers to discredit a school board candidate running against then-board member Arnold Butler.

The fliers urged Inglewood residents not to vote for a challenger to Butler’s campaign, characterizing her as a deadbeat who “want[s] to take the students’ money.” Butler won reelection by 488 votes.

At the time, the company, Fu-Gen, had a one-year, $150,000 contract with Inglewood Unified to provide “inspector general” services such as investigations into school district fraud and wasteful spending.


Can art help students learn science and other subjects? A look at an unusual teaching method

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Stage crew members follow the script as their performance starts at Eagle Rock Elementary School. The Macbeth spin-off production was co-directed by their drama teacher and classroom teacher using a teaching method known as arts integration.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

The sixth graders at Eagle Rock Elementary School made their own costumes to prepare for the play.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Eagle Rock Elementary sixth grader Jack Spiewak, left, who plays Macbeth, waits backstage before the school play, a zombie rendition of Macbeth, begins on Tuesday, May 13.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Sixth graders at Eagle Rock Elementary School take a bow after performing a zombie version of Shakespeare's Macbeth on Tuesday, May 13.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Katarina Galambos, left, does makeup for Simone Midby, who plays Lady Macbeth, before their sixth grade play starts on Tuesday, May 13 at Eagle Rock Elementary School.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Sixth grader Jack Spiewak's Macbeth costume was made from a plaid dress found at Goodwill.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Sixth grader Simone Midby plays Lady Macbeth during a school play at Eagle Rock Elementary on Tuesday, May 13.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Carol Tanzman of LAUSD's elementary drama program decided to incorporate zombies into Shakespeare's Macbeth so she could incorporate more students into the production. As a traveling teacher, she says she teachers 2,500 students a year.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Sixth grade classroom teacher Marvilla Bonilla, left, hugs Simone Midby after her performance as Lady Macbeth. Bonilla partnered with a drama teacher on this arts integration project — students learned art alongside subjects like science and literature as they prepared for the production.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Sixth grader Katarina Galambos plays a gentlewoman and packs lighting equipment after Tuesday's performance. Galambos works the lights and costume changes.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Carol Tanzman of LAUSD's elementary drama program leads a question and answer session for students at Eagle Rock Elementary School.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Sixth grader Jessica Perez and the other zombie actors wear make-up and hand-made costumes.

Los Angeles Unified School District is looking to expand a teaching method called "arts integration," which mixes arts instruction with teaching in other subjects and is often used as a way to make the most of arts instruction time with students.

District administrators have outlined a plan that will invest nearly $9 million in arts integration in the next three years.

The method, which has been around for decades but has yet to become mainstream, teaches students multiple subjects at once: a history lesson centered around a famous composer, for example, as students study a piece of music.

In some ways, the plan is a bit of a gamble. Many critics fear the strategy signals a move away from dedicated arts instruction in which students can master an instrument or discover their love for singing in a choir.


How do you teach students to ask questions?


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Teachers discuss a list questions they generated about students in the learning environment during a workshop at Wildwood School. The goal of the workshop was to help educators shift their classroom, allowing students to formulate their own questions instead of only reciting facts.


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Phyllis Castaneda, left, Hali Metelak and Isabel Morales talk over questions they identified during a workshop for teachers and administrators on encouraging students to ask their own questions. The workshop is based around the argument that formulating your own questions is a critical skill for learning.


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Aspire Ollin University Preparatory Academy Assistant Principal Joel Ramirez listens to discussions during a workshop for educators about the importance of students posing their own questions in the classroom.


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Joel Ramirez, left, Joel Karchmer, Phyllis Castaneda and Hali Metelak discuss questions they posed about the learning environment during a workshop at Wildwood School. The workshop was based around the premise of the book "Make Just One Change."


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Isabel Morales works with a group of teachers to identify how they can encourage students to pose their own questions to class material during a workshop at Wildwood School.

It's summer vacation, but a bunch of educators are gathered at Wildwood School in Mar Vista. They spread a poster across a worktable and start listing questions - about why students don't ask more questions.

"Which kids do not ask their own questions?" asked Joel Ramirez, an assistant principal at Aspire Ollin University Preparatory Academy. 

"What squashes a child's curiosity?" asked Isabel Morales, a social studies teacher at Los Angeles High School of the Arts. 

Dan Rothstein is roaming the room, encouraging teachers to keep listing their questions. It's not about getting the answers - at least, not yet. He's walking them through the "question formulation technique" he wants them to teach their students when school starts in the fall.

When done right, he said the results are almost magical.


Civil Grand Jury criticizes First 5 LA's priorities, spending

First 5 LA Logo with URL

First 5 LA Logo

Public agency, First 5 LA, accused of poor budgeting and lack of transparency by LA County Civil Grand Jury.

The Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury has issued a report that takes the multi-million dollar public agency, First 5 LA to task, criticizing it's administrative overhead, planning and follow through on initiatives.

In the report, grand jurors said three-years ago, First 5 LA spent 64 percent of its budget for "place-based" work on operating costs - including public relations and research and evaluations. Last year, the agency was much better, spending 25 percent on overhead.

The civil grand jury said the agency didn't provide enough detail on how much money it spent on each of its 14 target communities, and whether the funds improved the lives of kids under 5, the mandate of the tobacco tax-funded agency.

It also criticized the agency for not spending enough on programs in those 14 communities - just 10 percent of the $17.3 million it allotted to "place-based" program work.