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

Federal education officials to fund preschool expansion

Family Literacy

Deepa Fernandes / KPCC

4 year-old Dante, preschool student in the Family Literacy program at Shenandoah Elementary school, doesn't want his program to close. Will preschool expansion grants announced August 13, 2014 by the Department of Education trickle down to LA Unified early education programs?

While it is significantly less than the $75 billion the White House wanted, the Department of Education Wednesday announced $250 million in preschool expansion grants for states.

States that already have robust preschool programs - including California, 33 other states and the District of Columbia DC -  will be eligible to apply for grants of between $5 million and $35 million over four years to strengthen and expand their programs. That'll make up about two-thirds of the spending.

The federal government is setting aside about a third of the money for the remaining 16 states to help them develop and institute statewide early education. 

"States will have to commit to stepping up and making their own investments in improving families' access to high-quality pre-K," said Laura Bornfreund, of the New America Foundation.


To quell high school angst, some schools build a bridge for 9th graders

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

Principal Carla McCullough teaches the College Readiness class in her charter school's one-week 9th grade summer bridge program.

Stealing a page from successful college “bridge” programs to help high school students make the transition, some Southern California high schools are offering similar programs for incoming 9th graders.

The 26- school Alliance for College Ready Public Schools in Los Angeles offer the one-to four-week classes. They said the goal is to get students to meet each other and their teachers and to instill in incoming students the social and study skills they’ll need to excel in high school.

“In middle school you’ve made friends, you’ve been there for three years and then you go to a different high school,” said Cara McCullough, the principal of the Alliance’s Health Services Academy high school.

"The high schools are sometimes bigger, and it’s just new people, and so you’re wondering if you’re going to really be able to make the kind of connections you made in middle school.”


LAUSD Elections: McKenna elected to represent South LA on school board


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Geoffrey Bowyer votes at Angeles Mesa Elementary school in the Los Angeles Unified School District run-off election between George McKenna and Alex Johnson for the board of education seat in District 1.

Retired principal and administrator George McKenna was elected to the Los Angeles Unified school board in a runoff Tuesday, creating a majority coalition of board members backed by the teachers’ union. 

“I’ve had a track record of success everywhere I’ve gone, and I’ve held every position in public education,” said McKenna, who is perhaps best known for his time as principal of Washington Prep High School, a story parlayed into a TV movie staring Denzel Washington in 1986.

McKenna garnered 14,940 votes or 53 percent of the vote. His challenger Alex Johnson, an education policy advisor to county supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, had won 47 percent of the votes.

McKenna benefited from greater name recognition amongst voters.

"I chose McKenna, because I've seen him in the community," said Vanessa Mims, whose granddaughter attends Crescent Heights Elementary School in West L.A. "I've seen him working, and I know what he is about."


Computer glitches make back-to-school a hassle at some LA campuses

hamilton high auditorium

Annie Gilbertson/KPCC

Hamilton High School students waiting for their schedule to be fixed. Without class assignments, other students decided to leave campus.

Los Angeles Unified school district students camped out in auditoriums, cafeterias and libraries on the first day of school Tuesday when a malfunctioning database made it difficult for schools to schedule them for classes.

"Some people were trying to talk to the counselors, but there were just too many people," said Vanessa Hernandez, a senior at Hamilton High School in West Los Angeles. "They didn’t want to deal with it.”

Mid-day, Hernandez walked out of the auditorium packed with one hundred students and went home for the day. 

Parents lined-up at the front office after school's automated phone system erroneously reported their children as absent. 

Tuesday was the first real test for the district's new attendance and grade recording system. Los Angeles Unified officials said it's working at a majority of campuses - and they sent help to struggling schools to get them up and running.


Judge: California education officials responsible for services to English learners


Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

Civil Rights lawyers at a press conference last year announcing a lawsuit against California for allegedly failing to provide mandated help for students who aren't fluent in English.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that California education officials are violating the constitutional rights of English learner students who are not getting specialized instruction in public schools.

"I'm ordering you to do something, anything," James Chalfant told lawyers representing the California Department of Education and other state officials during a one-hour hearing in the Stanley Mosk courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. “All must receive instructional services until reclassified.”

California's massive English learner program serves nearly 1.5 million students who don’t speak English at home - either foreign or U.S. born. Once students are found to know the English they need to understand standard instruction, they’re reclassified.

But in a lawsuit filed last year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California presented state data from 251 school districts showing 20,000 English learner students had fallen through the cracks and were not getting specialized instruction. After a yearlong probe, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement last month siding with the ACLU.