Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Memphis' Irreplaceables!

Congratulations to Memphis City Schools "Irreplaceables" -- those phenomenal teachers that are changing lives for students every single day!  They demonstrate how great teaching overcomes poverty, dispelling the myth that because of poverty children can't learn.

These are my heroes and sheros, and what every students deserves in every classroom, every year.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Another Attempt At Delaying Student-Centered Reforms

For over three years now, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has attempted to move forward in developing a new and more effective teacher evaluation system – an essential first step in ensuring that students have access to effective teaching, the most significant in-school factor for student success. And throughout these three years, the defenders of the status quo – namely United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) – have taken every effort to obstruct, delay, or kill the effort.

The concern that implementing Academic Growth over Time (AGT), a system for using student achievement data (test scores) to inform teacher evaluations, continues to be their primary objection. Just last month, union president Warren Fletcher ordered robo calls to UTLA members instructing them not to participate in the district’s voluntary performance review system, citing AGT as a flawed system.

In the meantime, community members and parents throughout the district continue to call on LAUSD and the Board of Education to move forward on the new proposed evaluation system with AGT, as it is significantly better than what we currently have in place. They remind LAUSD every time that the futures of 650,000 students are at stake.

Today, as Board Member Zimmer calls for a vote on his very confusing resolution, which both supports and rejects AGT, the community will speak again. Communities for Teaching Excellence (C4TE) appreciates Mr. Zimmer’s focus on expanding ways to look at student achievement, but stands by the community in demanding that the Board move forward, not backwards, as parts of the resolution attempt to do. We stand by the community in their rightful push for support and accountability for teachers and leaders by moving forward with AGT as one of several measures in an individual teacher’s evaluation. And we stand by the community in declaring that continued delays will not be tolerated, as the resolution does by asking that the evaluation process be negotiated with UTLA.

C4TE also applauds the Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times for its editorial, calling on the Board to reject provisions in Board Member Zimmer’s resolution that delay efforts in moving forward ( 

Today, it is time to move forward, not backwards, for the sake of the children.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Calling on LAUSD and UTLA to Address Teacher Quality

Communities for Teaching Excellence applauds LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and UTLA President Warren Fletcher for working collaboratively to design a new agreement that provides schools with increased flexibility outside of the current union contract. This agreement represents an important step forward by providing every school in Los Angeles with the freedom to craft customized plans for hiring, classroom assignments, instruction, and budgeting. It also loosens certain policies - such as the “must-place list,” which forced principals to hire teachers without regard for teacher quality - that have impeded efforts to provide effective teaching for every student, in every classroom, every year in Los Angeles. While clear accountabilities in exchange for these flexibilities are still needed, this moves us in the right direction.

We are deeply disappointed, however, that teacher quality is not comprehensively addressed in this agreement, despite a significant body of research indicating that an effective teacher is the most important in-school factor in raising student achievement. In fact, research shows that access to an effective teacher can literally make or break a student’s chances at success. The critical need to increase students’ access to effective teaching is underscored by LAUSD’s continued low-performance on the Nation’s 2011 Report Card for urban school districts and in the persistent achievement gaps for low-income students, and students of color. We believe the best way to address these achievement gaps and to ensure all students are college and career ready is for the district to fundamentally alter its current approaches to recruiting, supporting, evaluating, and rewarding effective teachers.

We support and commend the district’s pilot program that is working with hundreds of teachers to develop and implement a robust teacher evaluation system. This new system—which relies on multiple measures—is designed to provide a more objective measure of performance, and will ensure more informed decision-making around hiring, placement, and resource allocation. It is only with such a system in place that the district can improve its teacher and leader corps and pursue important reforms in other areas such as tenure and compensation. More importantly, this new system will provide parents information to help guide their decision-making about their child’s education.

We urge Superintendent Deasy and President Fletcher to advance their collaborative efforts and continue working to build a culture of effective teaching. We invite students, parents, teachers and the community to join us in advocating for teaching quality reforms in LAUSD, and to ensure effective teaching for every student, in every classroom, every year.

Monday, August 29, 2011

LAUSD Board Needs to Move Forward, Not Back on Promising Reform

When I was elected to the L.A. Unified School Board in 2007, I promised that I would fight to change a dysfunctional system that served the agendas of the adults at the expense of too-often-forgotten children and families. Change is hard and slow. But I believed change was also possible, even for the LAUSD.

In August of 2009, working with many committed supporters of reform and a chorus of parents demanding change, the LAUSD Board of Education passed the Public School Choice resolution, shaking up the district’s culture of dysfunction, gridlock, and failure.

The resolution allows various education groups, including teachers, community associations, universities, unions, and charters, to submit proposals to run chronically low-performing schools as well as newly built schools. This challenge to the status quo brought hope to thousands of our city’s least powerful and most underserved families, and sent a message that the District would no longer operate these schools in the same old way, with the same tired and tragic results for kids

Unfortunately, school board member Steve Zimmer now wants to eviscerate this powerful reform that has – even in these early stages – shown promising results. Zimmer’s proposal – to be considered on August 30th – would prohibit charter schools from bidding for newly built schools unless it was determined that no other proposals were adequate. This proposal would stack the deck against successful charters and discourage them from competing to turn around not just new schools, but also our most disadvantaged schools.

If Zimmer’s desire is to give internal applicants a greater opportunity to run new schools or improve schools that have been in trouble for decades, then let’s give more weight to internal proposals that include greater support for teachers, are data driven, and embrace educator quality reforms. These might include:

• More effective teacher and principal evaluations that include student achievement data,
• Move tenure for new teachers from two to four years so teachers have more time to develop, and
• Use effectiveness rather than longevity to make employment decisions.

Equally important, LAUSD and United Teachers Los Angeles must be willing to give these internal teams the freedoms they need to be successful, which at present continue to be challenged by both bureaucracies.

Zimmer’s attack on the Public School Choice resolution ignores the positive results that it brought to the District. The data show clearly that the charter applicants that were awarded schools in the first round of Public School Choice helped us bring better schools to children that had been stuck in underperforming schools. Of the four charters that were granted new schools to run, three did significantly better than nearby schools. Synergy Charter Academy in south Los Angeles, for example, had almost 69% of the children proficient in English language arts compared to 29% at nearby Wadsworth Elementary. In math, 90.1% of the children at Synergy were proficient, compared to 46.8% at Wadsworth.

Equally important, these schools are providing models that are pushing adjacent, District-operated schools towards success. Public School Choice not only improved many of the schools that were reorganized under the resolution, but may have improved the entire district, based on the recent across the board growth in test scores throughout the LAUSD.

Zimmer’s resolution is a big slide away from reform and back down a slippery slope to the old, failed way of doing District business. Shall we further limit the choices of minority families that today have the fewest options for a quality education for their children, while affluent families tend to have higher quality schools? Indeed, most black and Latino students have the least access to good schools because they are financially disadvantaged. Their choices are limited to what is in their neighborhood, schools that too often are not offering students a chance at success. Public School Choice pushes on that and offers an opportunity to provide a better-quality neighborhood school – precisely what middle-class and affluent students have.

I believe that this decision is easy; every family should have access to an abundance of good school options, and the Public School Choice Act moves us in this direction. Mr. Zimmer’s resolution takes us backwards, away from our commitment to bring change to the kids we have neglected for way too long.

Fortunately, it is not too late to stop this rollback of reform and to defend the progress we have already made. We can raise our voices and let our Board members hear them. Together, we can make change happen, and keep on putting kids first.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

NCTQ Study Acknowledges Progress, But More Work to Do on Teacher Quality

Today the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) presented to the Los Angeles Board of Education a new study that examines the policies and practices shaping teacher quality in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Combined with the work of the Teacher Effectiveness Taskforce, this report is a powerful roadmap that can change the landscape of teacher quality for students of LAUSD.

The report, developed by NCTQ, the United Way and a coalition of education partners, shines the light on numerous workforce issues and practices that, despite our progress, we’ve failed to address. For example, it is outrageous that we spend 25 percent of our annual teacher payroll to compensate teachers for taking graduate coursework when there is absolutely no evidence that this practice adds to a teacher’s effectiveness. We also have not attended to the best placement of teachers. Rather than placing teachers where their talent is most needed, we instead rely on teacher preference and seniority when deciding classroom assignments. And our seniority system clearly does not benefit children when we do not consider quality over longevity when reductions in force are absolutely necessary.

Our Superintendent, Dr. John Deasy, has firmly committed to transforming LAUSD to be the best in the west and first in the nation. I believe that we won’t be successful in achieving this unless we push ourselves and our partners harder to implement as many of the report recommendations as possible. We must leverage this report to spark the much needed public awareness, engagement and political will to compel LAUSD, its labor partners and our state leaders to do what’s right for kids.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Road Less Traveled: Transforming Education by Investing in Parents & Families

Today the LAUSD Board of Education received an initial set of recommendations from our Parent Engagement Task Force outlining ways the District can transform the culture and practice of parental engagement throughout the District. This work stemmed out of my Parents as Equal Partners in the Education of Their Children resolution, co-sponsored by Board Members Zimmer and Martinez.

The Taskforce recommendations mark a significant step forward in our collective commitment and duty to shift the District’s status quo culture of compliance in the area of parent engagement to one of authentic partnership and respect that acknowledges the central role that parents and families play in their children’s educational success.

The Taskforce – chaired by Antonia Hernandez, President of the California Community Foundation and former President of MALDEF – focused its work on three essential elements of parent engagement, as outlined in our resolution:

• Identifying parent rights and responsibilities in supporting student achievement;
• Building parent capacity as teaching partners, advocates who push for better schools, and decision-makers who choose the best educational options for their children; and
• Addressing barriers to parent and family involvement

Developed by over one hundred stakeholders including parents, school leaders, district staff, educators, nonprofits and university faculty, the Taskforce recommendations emphasize the need to invest in families; the importance of accountability for all stakeholders including parents, teachers, principals and district staff in fostering authentic partnerships; and the need to create systematic communication between parents and schools that is open, equitable and data-based.

Our next step is to receive from our new Superintendent, Dr. John Deasy, a comprehensive Master Plan for Family and Community Engagement that begins to integrate parents and families to the center of all of our reform efforts. This conversation is essential if we are to make good on our promise of educational excellence to our children.

Last week at the United Way Education Summit, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated, “The public school system of Los Angeles is at a crossroads. Community leaders, community groups, unions, parents, educators, and students can continue on the road you have been on. Or you can take the road less traveled, the harder road.”

The Board of Education, with overwhelming parent and community support, made a clear decision to embark upon the road less traveled last December when it passed the Parents As Equal Partners resolution. The passage of the resolution boldly acknowledged that our inability to meaningfully and systematically engage parents posed the greatest threat to the success of our students. It signified that without parent involvement all other educational reform efforts would be fruitless.

With gratitude to Antonia Hernandez, chair of the Taskforce and a long time civil rights leader, and all the members of the Taskforce and sub-committees, we walk firmly and deliberately on the road less traveled. Indeed, today we moved further on that road to honor parents as equal partners in the education of their children.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Decision for Echo Park Kids

This past Tuesday, the LAUSD Board of Education voted on Superintendent Cortines’ Public School Choice 2.0 recommendations. While the Board approved 23 of his 28 recommendations, amendments were offered and subsequently approved by the Board in several instances. This decision-making responsibility (whether to support, not support, or amend) is something I have always taken very seriously as a Board Member.

Throughout my tenure, I have approached each decision the same way – analyzing all available information, asking deeper questions, meeting with appropriate parties for greater understanding, and being guided in my final decision by the interests of children (relative to each individual choice). The thought process behind an amendment I offered on Tuesday for Central Region Elementary School #14 – a new PSC school in the community of Echo Park – highlights the steps I go through when making a decision.

In the case of CRES #14, Mr. Cortines recommended a plan submitted by the Local District 4 and Echo Park Community Partners Design Team. I began by reviewing factors I considered especially important, as well as criteria and guidelines set forth in the PSC process and by the Superintendent himself for recommending a plan, namely: 1) the quality and strength of the plan; 2) the applicant’s track record of success; 3) the likelihood of the plan being fully and successfully implemented; 4) the review panels’ input and recommendations; 5) the Superintendent’s recommendations; and 5) parent input.

In addition, I considered the needs of the students that CRES #14 was built to serve. Specifically, it was built to relieve two overcrowded campuses: Union and Rosemont Elementary schools. The demographics for these schools are roughly 89% Latino students, 6% Filipino, and 1% White, African American, and Asian (each). Almost 60% are English Learners. Further, 91% are low-income and in extreme poverty.

While I was impressed with the collaborative nature of the LD4 and Echo Park Community Partners Plan and their engagement of a number of community members (and the plan indeed had many exciting elements), the plan also fell short in meeting some of the criteria listed above, as was noted by several reviewers on the various review panels. In the end, the LD4 proposal received mixed reviews, with three of six reviewers either not recommending the plan or not giving it a rating at all.

Further, Superintendent Cortines’ recommendation for the LD 4 plan came WITH RESERVATIONS and noted, “the plan lacks depth in many key areas; implementation timelines are vague; and key decisions around curriculum, professional development and assessment are unknown.” His recommendation also states that the LD 4 plan “lacks many important details, especially for English Learner students.” Given the likelihood that the majority of the students served by CRES #14 will be English Learners, this was especially troubling for me.

On the other hand, the Camino Nuevo plan was rated highly and commended by each of Mr. Cortines’ review panels. Indeed, all six reviewers recommended Camino Nuevo for CRES #14, noting the depth of their proposal and excellent results. At the Board meeting, Superintendent Cortines shared that Camino Nuevo is a great partner for the District, as evidenced by the strength of their program and exceptional track record. He lauded their success and effective instruction, and stated that he was “blown away” with what he saw in visiting their classrooms. Elements of the Camino Nuevo plan that were particularly impressive in their depth include the following:

1. The proposal was founded on a strong instructional program that incorporates a proven, research-based bilingual program for core academics, with weekly art, music, dance, drama, and physical education instruction;

2. There was a focus on the “whole child.” What this means is that CN provides case management to ensure families have access to necessary support services. They leverage partnerships to accomplish this. CN serves as a referral hub. They offer wrap around support services to address potential barriers to learning outside the school as well as inside the school. Given these students are predominantly low-income and in extreme poverty, this is essential;

3. There was a strong focus on parent involvement and a “parents as partners” motto that is integral to the school’s culture and practice;

4. The plan incorporates a longer school year (195 instructional days compared to 180 at LAUSD), an extended length school day, and smaller class sizes;

Further, Camino Nuevo’s track record for very similar populations, in the surrounding areas, in similar grades, is outstanding. Consider this:

• 60% of CN students are proficient in English Language Arts and 80% are proficient in math (compared to 42% & 40% in English Language Arts and 52% & 49% in math at Rosemont and Union Elementary Schools, respectively)

• CN is effectively closing the achievement gap between English Learners and fluent English speakers (840 API for ELs in K-8 – compared to 644 at LAUSD, though for K-12 )

• For K-8 schools, CN’s API grew from 651 to 859 in five years (over 200 point increase)

• Their high school API is 788, with a 96% graduation rate; 80% of students are accepted into four-year colleges and universities

My decision also factored in parent input. In this case, there was an outpouring of support from parents for both plans submitted for CRES #14. My staff met with parents supporting the LD4 plan, as well as parents supporting the Camino Nuevo plan. Though each group had a different interest, all were articulate and passionate in what they wanted for their children. I also received hundreds of letters and emails, numerous petitions and postcards, and a few phone messages as well. In reviewing all of this input, there was essentially equal support for each plan.

I also considered the needs of English Learners. For too long, we have struggled to provide a quality education for these students. When we look at third grade reading proficiency rates for all students at LAUSD – approximately 34% – and then further disaggregate for English Learners, only 11% are reading proficiently. This means that almost nine of every ten EL students are reading BELOW grade level. This is not new, but this also does not have to continue.

After analyzing all of this information and input, it became clear that Camino Nuevo’s plan was the stronger of the two. For this reason, I decided to offer an amendment to have Camino Nuevo operate CRES #14, which was subsequently approved. I chose Camino Nuevo because we owe our children better – especially our English Learners. They cannot wait another year for us to figure it out when we have a proven model available to them right now.

Even so, I appreciate wholeheartedly and am inspired by the work of Local District 4 and the local community members who came together to work on a plan for CRES #14. They provided a good plan that can be made even better. I hope they continue to collaborate, and that we find a way to bring their strengthened plan to other neighborhood schools that need help. They are a visionary and committed group, and my hope is that they form an Education Collaborative and further bridge the divide that has existed in the community. This would be powerful!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Yolie Flores: All of LAUSD's students deserve equality of education

L.A. Daily News editorial, January 20, 2011

Low income students and minority students have been waiting 57 years – since Brown vs. Board of Education – for us to get it right and ensure them equality of education. Yet, despite that victory and despite California’s constitution guaranteeing such equality, the struggle continues. Last May, public school students from three LAUSD middle schools, Gompers, Liechty, and Markham, contended that their right to an equal education had been violated when a disproportionate number of their teachers, nearly two-thirds, were laid off in a period of two years due to budget-based reductions-in-force. The Court agreed with the students’ plea and all involved parties – including LAUSD, the ACLU, and the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools – set to the task of developing a settlement proposal that would ensure that the rights of these middle school students were permanently protected.

I am proud to say that the resulting proposal – expanded and strengthened by the Board of Education – not only preserves the rights of students at Gompers, Liechty and Markham, but also expands these rights to more students, setting the stage for us to ensure equality of education for every LAUSD student. This will be achieved by

• Granting LAUSD the authority to provide layoff protections for up to 45 schools that meet agreed upon criteria

• Ensuring that any future layoffs will be applied proportionally throughout the district

• Requiring LAUSD to provide support and resources, including retention incentives to stabilize and improve schools with high teacher turnover rates.

In October, the LAUSD Board of Education voted unanimously to approve a settlement on these terms and move forward in concluding the lawsuit. However, the teacher’s union, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), has since thrown all of its legal might at thwarting the settlement’s final approval.

For UTLA, teacher seniority and the insistence of their members to remain employed based solely on the length of time they have taught, trumps the research that seniority does not guarantee effectiveness. UTLA’s fierce opposition to the settlement makes clear its preference for the status quo in which our most vulnerable students — students of color and students in poverty — annually suffer from destabilized learning environments and disrupted instruction.

The approval of this settlement is a first step in leveling the playing field. While it does not yet protect ALL students, it ensures that schools that are making significant progress with our most vulnerable students are not undermined by repeated layoffs. It ensures that the promise of our newest schools in some of the toughest neighborhoods will be fulfilled. It allows their administrators and teachers the time they need to establish trust with parents and the surrounding community and prevents them from being sabotaged before they can begin to realize their potential as transformative institutions of learning.

Despite UTLA’s intransigence on this essential issue, I remain hopeful for two reasons. First, LAUSD, together with community leaders and advocates, stand firmly behind this historic settlement proposal. This coalition of allies grows larger every day increasing the urgency and momentum for much needed teacher quality reform, both here in Los Angeles and in Sacramento. We will look to these groups and individuals to aid us as we pursue critical state legislation well beyond the scope of this settlement so that all students are afforded the same basic protections.

Second, while UTLA’s leadership stands opposite us in this case, there is a small but significant example of their collaboration with the district that provides a glimmer of hope that we can and must build upon. Last week, UTLA’s governing body approved our School District Improvement Grant (SIG) which provides critically needed resources to allow teachers and administrators to engage in innovative work related to the improvement of teaching, learning, and the evaluation process at nine different LAUSD schools. Actions such as this, coupled with the emergence of NewTLA, a growing movement of reform-minded teachers within UTLA’s leadership, are hopeful signs of a new direction within the union to address the needs of children as well as the interests of their members.

The ACLU lawsuit is the next step in the struggle for equality. It once again sets the stage for all of us – at the local and state level – to re-examine our priorities on behalf of our children. If we truly are committed to an equal education for all children, we must leave behind old and entrenched political agendas and policies and embrace the truths that every child deserves a great teacher and that great teachers must be cultivated, supported, fairly but properly evaluated, and more justly compensated. To get there, we must change the rules that violate the principles of fairness, justice and equality that we strive to instill in our children and that we guaranteed them too many years ago.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reforming Parent Engagement @ LAUSD

On December 14, 2010, the Los Angeles Board of Education will consider my resolution to reform parent engagement at LAUSD. Below is the resolution:

Parents as Equal Partners in the Education of their Children
Ms. Flores, Mr. Zimmer, Ms. Martinez – Resolution

Whereas, The Los Angeles Unified School District has set forth a vision that every student will receive an education in a safe, caring environment, and every student will be college-prepared and career ready;

Whereas, The Governing Board of the Los Angeles Unified School District has identified “Engaged Parents” as one of its five overarching goals to help the District track progress to meet the vision set forth above and ensure that every child it enabled to meet his/her full potential;

Whereas, Research has shown that parent engagement is inextricably linked to student achievement and success and the District has, therefore, identified family and community, together with students and educators, as part of its theory of change;

Whereas, The District’s Strategic Plan for Parental Involvement and Engagement, created by the 2008 Parent Engagement Leadership Task Force and implemented by the Parent Community Services Branch and the Parent Engagement Steering Committee, has made important progress in creating an infrastructure capable of transforming the practice and culture of parental engagement;

Whereas, Despite these efforts and incremental progress, internal and external parent engagement and Parent Center studies and surveys continue to reflect missed opportunities for authentic engagement and parental support and programmatic imbalance throughout the District;

Whereas, The Board believes that in order to fully engage and equip parents to participate fully in their children’s education at school and at home, school leaders, parents, teachers and students must first be clear and take ownership of each of their roles, rights and responsibilities in ensuring successful student achievement;

Whereas, In order to create the conditions under which parents are likely to become active participants in their child’s education, we must identify and help to remove real life barriers that hinder parental involvement by designing and aligning programs, partnerships and services that reflect the needs and challenges our families face everyday;

Whereas, We must prioritize and maximize the District’s support of parental engagement practices and promote an inclusive culture at all school sites through our office of School, Family and Parent/Community Services; and given the District’s shrinking and finite resources we must fully assess and deliberately (re)direct all our categorical, local, and discretionary investments, in compliance with federal and state laws, to reach this stated obligation to all parents; and

Whereas, Principals are the driving force behind the creation and sustainability of a welcoming school environment and the fostering of a strong culture of parental engagement; now, therefore be it

Resolved, That the Superintendent shall within 30 days deliver to the Governing Board of the Los Angeles Unified School District a report outlining the District’s current parent engagement funding sources, allocations, outcomes yielded from these investments over the last 2 years;

Resolved further, That the Board directs the Superintendent to commission a taskforce representative of District parents, each District-level parent committee, parent advocates, school leaders, teachers, staff, labor partners, key District units including the Parent Community Service Branch, Adult Education, Personnel Commission, Student Health and Human Services, Office of Curriculum, Instruction and School Support, Office of Early Childhood Education and others, key public institutions including County and City departments, universities and philanthropies for the purpose of developing the following:

• A District Parents’ Bill of Rights and Responsibilities
• A Core Parent & Family Center Resource Curriculum and Parent Center (henceforth renamed Parent & Family Center) Accountability Matrix
• A framework and menu of viable delivery models for our Parent & Family Centers and the implementation of a District Family Support Network as a key component of the Parent Centers

Resolved further, That the taskforce shall present their proposal for a District Parents’ Bill of Rights and Responsibilities to the Board for consideration and adoption within 90 days. The proposal, building upon current state and federal guidelines, shall be reflective of the following principles:

• Parents are the first and lifelong teachers of their children
• Parents are knowledgeable and critical advocates for their children
• Parents are equitable partners in education requiring access to all pertinent information about their child’s school environment, instructors, and educational options and school site personnel
• Parents are inseparable from the academic success of their children
• Parents are equally accountable for educational outcomes

Once adopted, the distribution and use of the District Parents’ Bill of Rights and Responsibilities as a tool to improve District-wide parental engagement shall be outlined in the District’s 2011-2014 Strategic Plan for Parental Involvement.

Resolved further, That the Taskforce shall build upon the existing Parent Engagement Toolkit and further develop a Core Parent & Family Center curriculum and Parent & Family Center Accountability Matrix within 60 days. The curriculum shall reflect the tools and resources necessary for parents to participate in and fully support their child’s education.

Programming at all school site Parent & Family Centers, at a minimum, must reflect the core curriculum and Parent & Family Center accountability measures set forth by the Taskforce. Parent & Family Center staff, together with the school principal, shall submit annual Parent & Family Center program plans to the Parent Community Service Branch for review and approval prior to each academic school year. Such plans should be developed in conjunction with a community organization with well-established parent engagement training expertise, reflect clear outcomes and accountability measures, and demonstrate sufficient staffing budget allocations for successful program execution.

Resolved further, That the Taskforce shall deliver within 90 days a framework for the creation and implementation of a District Family Support Network (Network). The proposed Network shall seek to remove barriers to meaningful parent engagement in our schools through the systematic alignment of comprehensive parent and family wrap-around services and trainings through a central access point, e.g. Parent & Family Centers, at every school site.
The Network framework shall set forth the vision, goals and outcomes for a family support system that seamlessly links existing District student and family services, both academic and non-academic, and creates partnerships that connect parents to additional family supports provided by the County, City and other community and government institutions.

Resolved further, That the Taskforce will also develop a menu of viable delivery models under which to operate the Parent & Family Centers and Network. Each model shall include all necessary staffing requirements and/or reconfigurations to ensure successful implementation and long-term sustainability.

In determining the necessary staffing levels and expertise to ensure robust Parent & Family Centers and the successful implementation and sustainability of the District’s Family Support Network, the Taskforce will, first and foremost, prioritize the interests and rights of parents to advocate for their children and the responsibility of District to support their empowerment to do so successfully. As such, the Taskforce’s staffing recommendations shall reflect exploration of typical staffing positions commonly found in successful parental engagement models around the country, pilot programs and mixed-resourced positions.

Resolved further, That the Parent Community Services Branch, in conjunction with District parent committees, using existing funds shall create an Administrator Leadership Best Practices program that identifies principal leaders who have successfully fostered a culture of parent engagement, disseminates best practices, strategies and models for parental engagement District-wide, and provides additional support for outstanding proposed and existing parent leadership and training programs;

Resolved further, That school sites (i.e. principals and teachers) and Parent & Family Centers shall support the full implementation of critical District parent resources e.g. the School Report Card and Parent Survey, as well as the generation of individualized Parent-Teacher-Student compacts outlining the annual expected academic goals and expectations of individual students and the responsibilities of the parent(s), student and teacher in supporting those goals; and be it finally

Resolved further, That every local district Superintendent will support principals in the development and implement of successful parent and family centers.

Resolved, That the Superintendent will work collaboratively with our Administrators bargaining unit to incorporate the use of multiple measures such as the successful implementation and execution of parent engagement strategies including the use of the District School Report card; accessibility of school site orientations; and successful elementary, middle school and high school student articulation as important and measurable components in the annual evaluation of principal leaders during the 2011-2012 collective bargaining negotiations.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Remembering Mr. Ruelas... And All Our Amazing Teachers

As I read, watch, and listen to the coverage of the memorial services and vigils for LAUSD teacher Rigoberto Ruelas, I can’t help but feel a deep and lingering sadness. The death of any member of our LAUSD family is always met with a heavy heart, but the tragic circumstances and abundant outpouring of love and appreciation for Mr. Ruelas’ impact on the lives of so many young persons has prompted me to reflect on my own life and the role teachers have played in making me who I am today.

I often talk about the impact of some of my teachers: Ms. Smith, Ms. King, Ms. Williams, Ms. Hakansson, and Ms. Loya. These were my LAUSD teachers from Gage Middle School and Huntington Park High School. They were – and still are – the treasures of my public education. They, like Mr. Ruelas, went above and beyond for their students. These teachers loved me… I knew that from the way they looked at me, talked to me, and over-extended themselves for me. I still recall phoning Ms. Hakansson at home whenever I needed help with an algebra problem; she always answered and guided me just enough for me to figure it out. Ms. King dedicated a weekend to take me to Occidental College and later introduced me to the University of Redlands; having no family who could expose me to higher learning, she made college a real possibility for me. Ms. Williams – my ever creative and dynamic history teacher not only made history come alive, but also taught me the critical note-taking and study skills I would need for college. And from Ms. Loya and Ms. Smith, I truly became bilingual; they taught me to not only speak and write well in two languages, but to also cherish my native language, Spanish, as well as the richness of English literature.

This is exactly what I imagine Mr. Ruelas to have been for his students. He seemed to be a lot like my teachers, who I consistently say are the type of teachers every student deserves. The kind of teacher we should lift up and support in every way.

Students like 13 year-old Karla Gonzalez, and many others that have shared their stories, confirm that he was exactly that type of teacher. For Karla, Mr. Ruelas was more than a teacher; he was a father figure who helped her learn to speak and read English when she first came from Mexico. A number of young male students shared that it was Mr. Ruelas who turned them away from gangs and offered them a different path through education. Mr. Ruelas believed in his kids… he helped them learn and he helped them dream.

The premature loss of a teacher like Mr. Ruelas, who has touched and transformed the lives of so many, is nothing short of devastating. While no one will ever know just how many students Mr. Ruelas inspired and uplifted, I can only imagine that over time, it would have been many, many more.

My hope is that his students honor his legacy by reaching their full potential and becoming all that he knew they could be. More importantly, my hope is that we enlist, nurture, and support teachers like Mr. Ruelas – the kind of teacher that every student deserves.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Delivering What We Owe Our Students: Effective Teachers and Principals!

Today our Board of Education approved directing the Superintendent to expedite union negotiations to ensure every student an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective administrator in every school. We also approved a set of principles that lays out what we expect from these negotiations. The vote was unanimous... it was a very proud moment! Read our statement below.

We, the Board of Education of LAUSD, stand united in our belief that our most important role is to set policies that ensure every student graduates college and career ready, regardless of race, ethnicity, primary language, circumstances of poverty, gender, or any other factor that may impact our youth and their families. We know, research tells us, and the experiences of the students of LAUSD demonstrate that the clearest pathway to this goal is through our ability to ensure every student has the opportunity to learn from an effective teacher, in a school led by an effective leader, supported by the highest caliber team of adults working on behalf of their success every day.

That is why we empaneled the Teacher Effectiveness Taskforce, which consisted of all our key stakeholders. This work began in April 2009 and set the course for a thoughtful and deliberate process to reach excellence for all our students. The Taskforce provided us with a set of recommendations based on the best available research and resources, the experiences of the Taskforce members, and their knowledge of the critical steps needed to move us forward as a system.

Because ratings based on a single measure cannot determine the effectiveness of a teacher, LAUSD is endeavoring to use several different methodologies to more effectively evaluate our teachers. We share the sense of urgency with the multitudes who have voiced qualified support of a more professional and data-informed culture of teacher and leader performance reviews. We also firmly believe that the ultimate determination of an individual teacher or administrator’s level of effectiveness must be comprised through thoughtfully using multiple measures of performance, including such measures as: observation by well-trained professionals, contributions to the school community, stakeholder feedback in a form such as surveys, and measures of student achievement over time. It is also important for this process to be developed with teachers and administrators and not done to teachers and administrators.

That is why we are asking the Superintendent to expedite negotiations immediately with United Teachers Los Angeles and Associated Administrators of Los Angeles to develop a fair and valid process by which we can employ multiple measure reviews that differentiate between performance levels of our educators, allowing us to better target our support, interventions and resources, and offering the opportunity to better leverage the amazing teachers and leaders throughout the district who are too often unrecognized.

As part of this effort, we have issued a set of principles that make clear our expectation from district staff as they begin negotiations in earnest with our union partners. These principles form our core beliefs surrounding this work and, as such, must be fully embraced by the eventual agreement. This Board will accept nothing less. The principles are as follows:

1. Our new evaluations must include multiple measures, including a balanced use of appropriate value-added data.

2. Our new evaluations must differentiate levels of instruction and performance, including actual good instruction/leadership.

3. Our new evaluations must place strong emphasis on evidence of student learning over time, offering feedback to instruction rather than feedback to simple routines.

4. Our new evaluations must mean something to the employee; ratings must always be useful to teachers and administrators. They must result in timely, specific feedback on all levels of performance, be used to establish a roadmap for needed supports, and to improve instructional dialogue at the school level, not just provide summative judgment.

5. Our new evaluation ratings must inform all employment decisions, including tenure, hiring for specialist or leadership positions, new hires, or when restructuring a school.

6. Our new evaluation ratings must include and reflect meaningful parent engagement that will result in multiple evaluation measures that address the needs of parents to understand student and teacher performance and to make informed decisions about their children's education.

This Board supports all of our employees. The recent results of CST scores, CHSEE exams, and Parent Surveys suggest that our employees are working harder than ever and are fully committed to the academic success of students. We will not rest until we reach success for all our students by having an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective administrator in every school.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

ALL Our Students Deserve An Effective Teacher!

The Los Angeles Time’s article, Who’s Teaching L.A.’s Kids?, touched upon the very heart, the lifeline, of our education system: teachers. Both in LAUSD and throughout the nation, teachers share the awesome privilege and responsibility for nurturing the social, academic and psychological development of our country’s greatest asset, our children. For this reason, I commend the Los Angeles Times for putting a spotlight on the critical issue of teacher effectiveness.

Most of us can draw upon our own personal experiences as to the importance of a good teacher. He/she was the one who nurtured our intellectual spirit, challenged our self-imposed limitations, fostered confidence, expected nothing but the best from each of us and, in turn, changed our lives for the better. National research supports what we have experienced to be true: that the positive impact of an effective teacher can have multi-dimensional and lasting effects on a child’s academic achievement and well-being.

Conversely, research also shows that just one year of ineffective teaching can have devastating and equally lasting negative consequences for students. I believe that we, as a District, have fallen short in providing an effective teacher in every classroom. We have not, as The Times points out, used the data at our disposal to inform our evaluation and professional development processes. That needs to change.

It is for this reason I authored a resolution in 2009 to create a Teacher Effectiveness Task Force. My desire was to advance this issue in the most thoughtful and aggressive manner, for both teachers and administrators. Since passage of the resolution, the Task Force (which included teachers, principals, parents, union and community leaders, as well as District and education experts) has worked to develop a provocative blueprint for reform and set of recommendations in five key areas: tenure, compensation, evaluation, support mechanisms and legislative action. The Task Force made public its final recommendations in April of 2010 and rightly concluded that, first and foremost, LAUSD needs a robust evaluation system that employs multiple measures for addressing effectiveness, including standardized test scores. Other measures - such as peer-to-peer review, principal assessments, and parent and student input - were also identified as equally critical.

The premise of our developing evaluation system is this: when we gauge our own children’s development, we do so through a comprehensive lens considering many factors such as physical, cognitive and psychological growth. So, too, must we apply a comprehensive lens when evaluating our children’s educators. A major challenge in looking solely at test scores is that we expect and need more from our educational system than what standardized tests alone can measure. We expect and need our system to develop and nurture global citizens with skills to communicate effectively, negotiate, think critically and rationally, understand national and global trends, speak multiple languages, and enter the world with confidence and goodwill. We have set to task in developing an evaluation system that credits and learns from teachers who are successfully imparting these seemingly intangible, yet indispensable, skills that are central to a quality education.

This idea is neither new nor revolutionary: it is simply common sense. Other parts of the country such as Pittsburgh, Memphis, New Haven and Hillsborough County are in the process of implementing multiple measure evaluation systems to maximize teacher effectiveness and student achievement. More compelling, perhaps, is that these school districts and their teacher’s unions are each working hand-in-hand to make the necessary institutional changes to their educational systems, so that they better reflect the needs of their students rather than the adults they employ.

In California and Los Angeles, we need to step up to the plate and do the same. It is simply irresponsible for our union leaders to continue to fight every effort that signals change for our children. Further, our state legislators must find the political courage to draft and pass legislation that allows school districts to move from a seniority-based system to one that includes measures of effectiveness when making employment decisions. And parents must be fully engaged and be equal partners in the education of their children, demanding great teachers for their children, but also ensuring that learning does not cease when the school day is over.

Until we close the shameful achievement gap, particularly for poor children and children of color, we cannot rest and we cannot just keep going along. No institution, no union, no government is worth protecting that does not take care of its children.
I invite you to view this Sunday’s Los Angeles Times series in the online Op-ed section of the paper. The series features various points of view on how to determine and ensure an effective teacher in every classroom, including my own. I encourage continued discourse on this important matter so we can make good on our promise to provide a quality education for all students.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's Time to Change the Rules to Benefit Kids

As most of us know, the rules we have in place within our educational system do not – by and large – favor children. Mostly they benefit adults. This is certainly the case that the ACLU made in its recent lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District and the State Department of Education. Indeed, when faced with decisions to lay off teachers because of the draconian state budget cuts, the rules and practices benefited teachers with longevity in their employment with the District and not the needs of students.

While it should not have to take the courts to move us to do the right thing, this is how social change frequently comes about. In the case of the ACLU lawsuit, the District will now be required to address the needs of students at three middle schools: Markham, Gompers, and Leichty.

But we need to change the rules for ALL kids, not just some. This is why I am introducing a resolution asking the Superintendent to 1) immediately begin working with partners and advocates to urge the State to act on needed legislation to give districts needed flexibility to allow lay-offs based on criteria other than seniority; 2) work with UTLA to reform and improve all aspects of our union contracts that impede the stability of effective teaching staffs; and 3) work with reform partners to revise and improve procedures affecting staffing at school sites.

Ensuring equal access and opportunity for all our students is our moral imperative – but this requires that we change the rules to benefit students, first and foremost. Both the ACLU lawsuit and this resolution attempt to do just that. Please stand with me tomorrow and over the coming weeks as this resolution is debated. The message is simple: make the rules work for kids!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

An Amazing, Effective Teacher for EVERY student!

Today, the children of LAUSD will be front and center of one of the most important reform discussions that our Board of Education has had in terms of teaching: how to ensure an amazing and effective teacher for every student.

On Tuesday, April 27, 2010, the Board of Education will be presented with recommendations from the Teacher Effectiveness Taskforce, a taskforce I called for last year to look at issues of evaluation, seniority, tenure, and pay — not only for teachers, but for principals and administrators, too.

At my inauguration almost three years ago, when I was sworn in as a school board member, I spoke of my commitment to explore these issues and foster a meaningful discussion on them. Clearly, they are controversial issues, but our children deserve no less than to at least have the conversation. At that moment, I had no idea that we would be faced with historic budget cuts and decisions to lay off thousands of teachers. I had no idea that the issue of seniority would be so prominent during my time. But it happened, and it made the discussion on the issues of evaluation and seniority more relevant and urgent than ever. Indeed, we were making decisions to lay off teachers without any regard to how amazing they are in their profession.

Every day, our children go to school and their parents expect that they will learn and progress. But we have little in place to guarantee this. And, data and research highlight that the difference between an effective teacher and an ineffective teacher can be as much as one year of learning growth for a typical student (Goldhaber et al, 2009). As the Teacher Effectiveness report asserts, multiply that differential impact over even a few years and it becomes clear why effective teaching matters.

I know that my amazing LAUSD teachers – Ms. Penny King, Ms. Bonnie Williams, Ms. Susie Hakansson, Ms. Linda Loya, Ms. Bernice Smith – all made a huge difference for me. Well, I want a Ms. King, Ms. Williams, Ms. Hakansson, Ms. Loya, and Ms. Smith for every single student. Nothing less should be acceptable.

Today’s report takes us one step further to reaching the goal of every student having an effective and amazing teacher. The recommendations are thoughtful and meaningful. Now it is be up to the Board and the Superintendent to move this agenda forward with urgency and resolve.

For a copy of the report, go to

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Office of Civil Rights Launches Investigation

Today, the Office of Civil Rights, under the leadership of Assistant Secretary Russlyn Ali, launched an investigation to review LAUSD's efforts to educate English language learners. The investigation will focus on two local districts -- one of which I represent: the southeast communities. This is a welcomed gift! Why? For years, the LAUSD has failed to serve this population well. Consider this:
  • Only 9% of English Learners in third grade are reading at grade level
  • Only 3 out of 100 English learners score proficient level in English and math in high school
English learners are also the largest group of drop outs and the least likely to be prepared to go on to college.

This shameful denial of a future to children is unacceptable. I am certain that this investigation will find a culture of low expectations, inadequate allocation of resources, an unlawful state-mandated cookie cutter approach, and racist practices that contribute to our unintended but complicit actions that deny children their right to a quality education.

Indeed, THIS is the civil rights issue of our time, and I thank the Office of Civil Rights for partnering with our community to bring educational justice to thousands and thousands of students.