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

House of Blues foundation to give away musical instruments so students can practice at home

Ken Scarboro/KPCC

File: Advanced violin students play their instruments at San Fernando Elementary.

House of Blues has a holiday treat for budding musicians: its nonprofit foundation is handing out free instruments to students.

The campaign, known as "Give Music," is in its second year. Organizers expect this year to distribute about 350 instruments to aspiring musicians age 10 to 22.

"This program in particular is meeting the need to provide the opportunity for young musicians to practice or play music when they're not in school," said Nazanin Fatemian, program manager with the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation.   

RELATED: Outside funding brings 600 new instruments to LA schools

The musical instrument giveaway got its start when staffers noticed students in the foundation's school day programs didn't have enough time with instruments to practice what they learned. Organizers hope that if students practice at home with their own instruments, they will make real progress in their music and fully develop as performers.


How to keep your student from losing ground during the holiday break

Photo by Tom Woodward via Flickr Creative Commons

File: Winter and fall vacations can mean a significant loss in schooling for students, but educators say there are ways parents can keep their kids learning.

Between the Thanksgiving and New Year’s holidays, some students can lose as much as a month of schooling and forget what they've just learned in the fall.

What's a parent to do?

One approach teachers have taken is to create vacation packages that include reading logs, math worksheets and book report forms, said Marco Nava, a longtime Los Angeles Unified School District teacher and principal. 

But in those packages, he said, teachers might also include ideas that students and families can work on together — "different projects, different suggestions that they could do while at home that don’t necessarily involve worksheets or traditional homework.”

For some teachers, vacation packages smack too much of the routine that is de rigueur these days in public schools, where the focus is often on standardized testing and structured class time.


Kindergarteners offer their take on the first Thanksgiving, and Mexicans have a role

Kindergarten Thanksgiving

Deepa Fernandes/KPCC

Kindergarten students at Weemes Elementary in Exposition Park study the first Thanksgiving story, adding culture and flavor of their own.

Kindergarten Thanksgiving

Deepa Fernandes/KPCC

Kindergarten teacher Maria Ramirez Waight created a book with the first Thanksgiving story and students then worked on their own versions.

Kindergarten Thanksgiving

Deepa Fernandes/KPCC

A kindergarten student colors a picture for her Thanksgiving book cover at Weemes Elementary School in Exposition Park.

Kids bring their own life experience to every lesson, at least that's what Weemes Elementary kndergarten teacher Maria Ramirez Waight has learned.

Ramirez Waight's week-long Thanksgiving lesson proved no different.

"I wanted them to understand the actual story [of Thanksgiving] because many of the kids don't know," Ramirez Waight said. "Many are coming from another country and they don't know why we celebrate it."

Drawing from her 14 years of teaching elementary school, Waight designed a lesson where the children would make their own storybooks with their own Thanksgiving story. 

On the last day, before the children headed off to the holiday, the students recited their creations. Ramirez Waight smiled as she listened. The students got the concept and the sequence of the story — and they added extra details relevant for today's kids, she said.


Cramming for finals? What the research says about studying with music


File: Conductor Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Classical music may help students cram for finals, according to researchers.

We’ve all heard about the many brain benefits of classical music — think about the Mozart Effect, for example.

But does listening to Bach or Vivaldi really help with test prep? 

Peter Webster is vice dean for the Division of Scholarly and Professional Studies at USC’s Thornton School of Music, and he says it depends on the music — and the listener.

"Some people will find that [music] distracting. Others, though, who sort of enjoy listening, let’s say to a Mozart opera or something, might find putting that on in the background might in fact encourage their study skills," he said.

Webster says one key to determining whether classical music will help or hurt you is to think about how exciting your brain will find the music. 

Researchers know the brain lights up when music is played – creative thinking and analytical processing are activated. But new music can easily distract you – stealing your brain power away from that physics study.


Before LAUSD travel ban, former superintendent flew 100k miles last year

Damian Dovarganes/AP

File: Former Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy took an average of three trips per month last year.

Former Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy traveled more than 100,000 miles last school year, equivalent to circling the globe four times, according to a KPCC analysis of credit card records.

Before he stepped down, Deasy charged more than 30 business trips to his district-issued American Express card over the course of the 2013-2014 school year, traveling to New York and Washington, D.C., at least five times each. 

LAUSD's contract with Deasy, who remains on the payroll as an administrator until the end of the year, states the district is responsible for his expenses. But the Wasserman Foundation,  a private family foundation headed by Casey Wasserman, ultimately covers the tab, district officials confirmed. 

Deasy continued to travel on district business after he announced his resignation Oct. 16. His decision to step down followed a string of problems with the rollout of key technology projects and growing tension with school board members.