Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Yahoo is telling the truth when it claims it tries to keep information secret: it sabotages the websites of paying customers

The lawyers at Yahoo like to do all they can to please law firms like Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz--but they don't have much concern for regular paying customers.

Yahoo took it upon itself to apply prior restraint pursuant to Stutz law firm's defamation case against me, aiding and abetting the violation of my First Amendment rights even after the Court of Appeal found that Judge Judith Hayes was trying to enforce an unconstitutional injunction.

In fact, Yahoo has done some bizarre hacking of my website at the request of Stutz law firm and others.

I didn't mention Yahoo by name on this page, because I didn't want Yahoo to interfere even more with my site. But I will say it now: my hacker on this page is Yahoo itself! And who is the lawyer in charge of Yahoo's legal department? His name is Ron Bell.

Here's a story I posted last January:


I'm awarding good humor points to my hacker, who has become quite playful during the past week. He (or she) is having fun, but doing no harm.

[Sadly, he or she has done plenty of harm in the past.]

Less than a week ago I discovered that this page in my related website had been hacked.


I published this blog post, which the hacker must have read...The grievance merely asked that the district RESPOND to an earlier grievance. It appears that CTA was quite desperate to cover up illegal actions of pals of CVE President Gina Boyd.

Former CVE President Gina Boyd at her deposition.
This blogger has awarded to Gina the Alberto Gonzalez
CRS award for her amazing lack of knowledge and
substantial memory loss: "I don't know"--25 times and
"I don't remember (or recall, etc.)--35 times;
total cognition lapses: 60.

Sometime during the past few days, someone went to work on my grievance image again. But this time, my hacker did NOT hide any information. He (or she) just moved black boxes around! It's actually quite entertaining to examine his (or her) handiwork.

He (or she) enlarged the black box to cover EMPTY SPACE on this page:

and moved the black box sideways on this page!

I actually like my hacker now, but I'm still not terribly fond of the lawyers who ordered the hacking...

Susan Luzzaro refuses to apologize for lapses in journalistic ethics; reveals that her daughter is on the CVE bargaining team

San Diego Reader reporter Susan Luzzaro seems to
have turned her back on journalistic ethics

See all posts re Common Core in SDER blog.

When I called out San Diego Reader reporter Susan Luzzaro on April 15, 2014 for her biased reporting about Common Core testing in Chula Vista Elementary School District, I thought I knew exactly how much she had compromised her journalistic ethics. It turns out, I didn't know the half of it.

I was shocked to read the following in an April 19, 2014 article by Ms. Luzzaro:

"...Chula Vista Elementary’s public relations officer, Anthony Millican, followed up by intimating it was unethical for me, as an author, not to have disclosed in the April 10 testing article that my daughter is a member of the Chula Vista Educator’s bargaining team. Millican also stated in an April 18 email, “You should have got our side of the issue in the first place”...(emphasis added).

Say what??? Susan Luzzaro's daughter is a member of the CVE (Chula Vista Educators) bargaining team?!?

I had no idea! What is going on, Susan Luzzaro??? How could you have concealed that information from your readers when you were attacking CVESD?

(I checked the latest "bargaining update" on the CVESD website, and found that Vanessa Luzzaro-Braito, who seems to have suddenly changed her name to Vanessa Braito, is listed as a member of the CVE team. I'm going to make a wild guess that the reason for the name change is to conceal the fact that she is Susan Luzzaro's daughter. While I'm at it, I think I'll make another wild guess: I bet Vanessa Luzzaro-Braito does not like Common Core. Do I have any takers on that bet?)


I notice that Ms. Luzzaro expresses no remorse about her ethical lapse. Instead, she seems to be offended that Mr. Millican would "intimate" that her behavior was unethical. Ms. Luzzaro seems to believe that it's okay for her to behave as she does, but it's not okay for others to talk about it.

If she really believes that there's nothing wrong with her actions, then why is she upset that people are discussing them?

Ms. Luzzaro's attitude, and certainly the attitude of the San Diego Reader, seems to be expressed in the contemptuous headline of Susan's latest story: "Hey, Chula Vista Elementary School District, test this".


Ms. Luzzzaro has made no effort as of April 22, 2014 to balance the reporting in her April 10, 2014 story, "Standardized tests shunned by South Bay parents." After reading the story, one might be forgiven for believing that ALL parents at CVESD oppose the testing. Ms. Luzzaro does not appear to have made any effort to talk to parents who approve of Common Core and the associated testing.


Susan Luzzaro is clearly trying to shift responsibility away from teachers who are having problems teaching basic concepts as required by Common Core. These teachers want to go back to methods that rely largely on rote memorization. See "Teachers who don't know how to teach are complaining about Common Core in Chula Vista Elementary School District."

Photo published by Reader on April 19, 2014.

Instead of retracting the false implication in her April 10, 2014
story that kids may be held back if they do poorly on a standardized
test, Ms. Luzzaro and the Reader reinforce the false impression with
a photo of a child being hoisted up by her mother, holding a sign that
says, “I am not a test score.” The photo dishonestly implies that the
district will change its treatment of the child based on a test score.
Shame on Susan Luzzaro and the Reader—and the parent who created that sign!


All this is causing me to wonder if Dorian Hargrove's "mistake" in this story about Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz v. Larkins was really a mistake. In his story about me, Mr. Hargrove said that I had written a statement about Stutz law firm that was, in fact, written by an anonymous commenter on my blog. I let Mr. Hargrove know about the error right away. When I asked him to correct it, he refused to do so, saying, "It happens."

At the San Diego Reader, such happenings are apparently not considered grounds for an apology or retraction.

NOTE #1:

I will be presenting my oral arguments in Stutz v. Larkins in the Court of Appeal on May 16, 2014 at 9 a.m.. I won in August 2011 in this separate appeal in this same case. This bizarre free speech case has dragged on for over six years. Click HERE to see all posts regarding this lawsuit.

NOTE #2:

I have severely criticized CVESD on numerous occasions, but I support Core and the associated testing because it is in the best interest of students.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This 19-Year-Old Pedophile Has Never Gone Near A Child. And He Needs You To Hear His Story.

This 19-Year-Old Pedophile Has Never Gone Near A Child. And He Needs You To Hear His Story.
Adam Mordecai Adam Mordecai

"This American Life" decided to take on a REALLY hard topic: pedophilia. As a parent of two young kids, just hearing the word triggers a rage in me that I didn't even know I had. This is a hard episode to listen to, but it's really important that you do. Listen to it at work when you are bored at lunch, in your car, wherever. Just please hit "Play."

The definition of pedophilia is "a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children, generally age 11 years or younger."

Note how I emphasized "attraction." To be a pedophile, you don't have to act on your urges. Just thinking them is enough. Which makes sense. The thing is, though, this attraction can start manifesting in kids as young as 12 or 13. And they have no way to talk about these urges or how to prevent them from taking control of their lives without being considered a threat. Talk to a shrink? You risk being reported to the authorities. The scientific community is so afraid of the stigma attached to even researching pedophilia that it's barely been studied it at all. Which seems like kind of a bad idea if we want to prevent the victimization of more young children.

So a 19-year-old kid, an admitted pedophile who has never acted on his impulses, started an online support group. His mom is helping him find solutions. He needs you to hear this, for the sake of your own kids.

"This American Life" was expecting lots of hate mail for this episode. So far, they've received none. It's a really good look at a really hard issue. So please listen.

"Also, directly from Ira, "Though there's nothing graphic in this story at all, victims of child sexual abuse should consider this a trigger warning."

[Link--CLICK HERE to listen] This American Life #522: Tarred And Feathered - Act Two - Help Wanted

"This American Life" is the best podcast on the Interwebs. If I were you, I'd Like them on Facebook.

Reporter Luke Malone spent a year and a half speaking and meeting with members of the support group. You can ask him any questions you might have via Twitter, @bylukemalone, and use hashtag #TarredTAL.

More importantly, if you could tweet and share this so we can prove that audio stories about important and complicated issues can reach a wide audience, I'd owe you one. It's a really painful issue, but it needs to be addressed.

Most importantly, if you have children, the reality is that not all pedophiles are like this guy. So here's a really good article about how to talk to them about it. [To see this article, CLCK HERE and scroll to bottom of page.]

Sunday, April 20, 2014

San Diego County 7th graders are increasing their use of marijuana: kids should be reminded to protect themselves

Today seems like a perfect day for discussing marijuana. (The date is 4-20).

Listen to this:

"Using marijuana a few times a week is enough to physically alter critical brain structures according to a new study..."

The study involved only young people.

Kids should be told about this. But if we want kids to listen to us, we should stick to the truth. If we exaggerate the negatives, kids won't trust us and will stop listening. For example, kids shouldn't be told, "If you smoke you will get lung cancer." They should be told that their risk of lung cancer will increase, and so will the risk of those who breathe their smoke.

Here's a story about a hoax intended to scare people about marijuana. Some of us are not amused by this satirical website. Politico says, "The Daily Currant isn't funny." I have to agree, at least in regard to this story, which was neither entertaining nor enlightening.

Sorry, teenagers. It's not looking so good for marijuana: a new study links casual marijuana use with significant changes to parts of the brain

Study: More County 7th Graders Are Smoking Pot
The county's "Report Card on Children and Families" was presented to the Board of Supervisors this week.
Posted by Michelle Mowad (Editor)
April 19, 2014

Teen pregnancy, child abuse and arrests among San Diego's youth declined over the past few years, but alcohol and tobacco use remained prevalent and marijuana use increased among seventh-graders, according to a report presented to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Between 2011 and 2013, researchers compiling the biennial "Report Card on Children and Families" measured progress in 25 areas that indicate health and well-being, including prenatal care, immunization, academic achievement and attendance.

The study is designed to provide elected officials, other policymakers and the public with a comprehensive look at trends related to the health and well-being of the county's children, teens and families.

"The San Diego County Report Card on Children and Families is more than a collection of charts and numbers," board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said. "It helps us step back and take a measure of our most important treasure, which is our children."

The detailed report by the nonprofit Children's Initiative showed improvements in 13 areas and little or no change in 10 others, Children's Initiative CEO Sandra McBrayer said.

More low-income families were accessing nutritional assistance and the number of residents with health coverage held steady. However, poverty in San Diego County also increased, which left more than 142,000 kids living below the local poverty level last year.

This year's report also included, for the first time, five indicators in adults that affected health from childhood -- oral health, obesity, substance abuse, poverty and health coverage. Obesity and oral health figures held steady but were not improving, and poverty and health coverage among adults were moving in the wrong direction. The percentage of adult smokers dropped.

"We're trying to demonstrate in this report card that childhood behaviors last a lifetime," McBrayer said.

The report also called attention to several areas with little available data, including human trafficking, untreated mental health needs and issues facing refugee children. It includes recommendations for improvement in San Diego County and outlines national best practices to make improvements, McBrayer said.

"Communities and heath departments don't have to think up what to do. We actually show them what's proven to be done to improve the indicator," McBrayer said.

—City News Service

Saturday, April 19, 2014

From the dumb administrators file: making a felony case out of going to the bathroom; also, similar incident at VA hospital

Joquan Wallace

Drop felony charges against Joquan. Allow him to graduate with his sister at Paris High.
Stop the school to prison pipeline.
Petition by Brenda Cherry
Paris, TX

Brenda Cherry
Petitioning Gary D. Young

On Feb 2, Joquan Wallace, a student at Paris High School in Paris Texas, asked and got permission from his teacher to use the restroom. Joquan was profiled and followed by the school police officer Joey McCarthy.

McCarthy peeped at Joquan under the bathroom stall and when Joquan was returning to class, McCarthy interrogated him as to why he wasn't using the bathroom closer to his classroom. Joquan told him because he had to do number 2. Joquan had permission to go to the restroom. He was not breaking any school rule, nor was he committing a criminal act.

The incident ended in Joquan being assaulted and injured by both McCarthy and Paris High Principal Gary Preston. Both said they told Joquan to go to the office and he didn't do what he was told. Both Preston and McCarthy claim they were hit when they were placing Joquan under arrest.

Numerous witnesses say Joquan never hit anyone. Joquan ended up with two felony charges and a trip to the emergency room with visible injuries.

Neither Preston nor McCarthy had any visible injuries according to Joquans parents. Joquan was a good student with no discipline problems. He had no prior arrests.

Sign the petition HERE.

He excelled in sports and had won sports awards for the school. He was up for scholarships from numerous colleges. He was suspended from school. He will not be allowed to walk the stage to graduate with his class. He may not receive any college scholarships. People should support Joquan because its time to end the School to Prison Pipeline. A students future should not be destroyed over an incident that school officials instigated. Hold School officials accountable for bad behavior. It can help prevent this from happening to other students.

The school policeman and the principal in the above story remind me of the federal policeman and federal hospital administrators in the following story. I wonder if the hospital is more rational in dealing with patients.

Man’s soda refill costs him $525 and gets him slapped with a federal charge [UPDATED]
By Charlene Sakoda
Yahoo News
April 17, 2014

Man’s soda refill costs him $525 and gets him slapped with a federal charge

A Charleston, South Carolina man is speaking out after receiving a $525 ticket following his soda refill at a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital.

As reported by WCSC Live 5 News, construction worker Christopher Lewis was working on-site at the downtown Charleston VA Medical center and during lunch in the hospital cafeteria, he grabbed a refill of his drink without paying. Lewis failed to notice posted signs indicating that refills were not free. "As I was filling my cup up, I turned to walk off and a fella grabbed me by the arm and asked me, ‘Was I going to pay for that?’ And I told him I wasn't aware that I had to pay for that," Lewis recalled. The construction worker said that he never saw the posted signs and admitted that he had refilled drinks in the past without paying.

Mr. Lewis then attempted to pay for the $0.89 refill, but he said that he was not allowed to. The officer, who is also the chief of the Federal Police Force that patrols the VA hospital, issued Lewis a ticket for shoplifting. "I never had an option to make right what I had done wrong," said Lewis. "Every time I look at the ticket, it's unbelievable to me, you know. I can't fathom the fact that I made an 89 cent mistake that cost me $525." A hospital spokesperson called his actions theft of government property.

Lewis was also told not return to the property, which effectively meant he was off the construction job. The North Charleston man said, "I'm done there, at the VA hospital. I'm not allowed to go on the premises anymore. Not even, I asked him can I still work on the job site and just bring my lunch and not got to the cafeteria and he said he wanted me off of the premises." WCSC reports that the hospital spokesperson told them that “it was her understanding that Lewis was aggressive during the confrontation.”

The VA Medical center issued the following statement:

“The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center is fortunate to have a highly trained Federal police force to ensure the safety of our patients, visitors and employees. As Federal police they are responsible for enforcing the law. Today a Federal citation was issued for shoplifting in the VA cafeteria to an individual who stated to VA police he had not paid for refills of beverages on multiple occasions, even though signs are posted in the cafeteria informing patrons refills are not free. Shoplifting is a crime. The dollar amount of the ticket is not determined by VA as it is a Federal citation. The citation may be paid or the recipient may choose to appear in Federal court to contest it.”

Lewis does plan to contest the ticket and said, "It's about pretty much I guess you would say, getting your face back. You know, I want everybody to know that I made a simple mistake, that I'm not a thief, that I'm not dishonest. You know, I'm trying to do the right thing."

UPDATE April 18, 2014 8:32 AM PDT:

WCSC reports that hospital officials have decided to give Christopher Lewis a warning instead of the $525 citation. The AP noted that Tonya C. Lobbestael, a VA spokesperson, confirmed that the hospital cafeteria does have posted signs with the price of drink refills and said that failing to pay for them is considered shoplifting.

The VA released this statement on Thursday:

“In reviewing the case, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center has determined a warning in lieu of a citation is sufficient in this case."


Friday, April 18, 2014

Shame on those teachers who are intentionally making kids anxious about standardized tests: parents complain about Common Core at CVESD

I was intrigued by the difference between the San Diego Reader and the Chula Vista Star-News in reporting the implementation of Common Core standards in Chula Vista schools. Star-News Reporter Robert Moreno provided a much more balanced view of the issue than did the Reader's Susan Luzzaro.

Kristin Phatek
Has Ms. Phatek wondered whether there might be a better
solution to her children's problem than getting rid of Common Core?

See all posts re Common Core from CVESD Reporter blog.

UPDATE April 15, 2014:

I just spoke to Anthony Millican at CVESD, and he tells me that it is not at all true that if a student "failed the test he wouldn’t get promoted to the next grade." I hope that Susan Luzzaro at the Reader will publish this fact, since her article offers no contradiction to this quote in its first paragraph.

Mr. Millican notes that many teachers are delighted with Common Core. I'll bet the students of those teachers are also delighted. Why didn't Ms. Luzzaro quote any of them?


I'm sure that there are many classrooms in Chula Vista Elementary School District where confident, competent teachers--and their students--are completely relaxed about upcoming standardized tests. In fact, those kids probably think that taking tests is fun.

But what about the teachers who simply don't know how to teach well? They are having hissy fits, and pointing the finger at Common Core Standards. There is nothing at all wrong with Common Core Standards. It's just that many teachers don't grasp the concept of a basic concept. That's what Common Core is all about: basic concepts.

Historically, a large percentage of teachers have taught mostly by rote, without teaching kids how to think. Also, there are some pretty good teachers who simply don't like to go into depth when teaching a subject. They like to teach a concept and then move on. This method is NOT used in countries with highly successful education systems.

These two types of teachers are intentionally upsetting children so that parents will come in and complain about Common Core instead of complaining about the teacher.

Why isn't this parent asking why 70% of kids don't understand basic facts? Has she not been paying attention for the past decades as student performance has gone down? Does she know during those decades fewer and fewer teachers have come from top colleges? The average teacher these days is simply not up to the job. As teachers have become weaker, the job itself has become harder.

So why doesn't the district simply teach the teachers how to teach? Perhaps you think that the district is run by brilliant minds? Administrators tend to be people who were very immersed in teacher culture and school politics when they were teachers. They played the game. They followed the right people. Don't expect them to have a particularly good understanding of the educational process, and don't expect them to know how to teach teachers.

Has Ms. Phatek wondered whether there might be a better solution to her children's problem than getting rid of Common Core?

Perhaps she might consider this solution to the problem: Here's how every child can have an excellent teacher--without firing or laying-off any teachers!

San Diego County parents should have access, as do parents in Los Angeles, to information showing how much the students in each classroom are learning each year, as measured by year-by-year changes on standardized test scores. The Los Angeles Times published these "value-added" scores for each teacher. Why doesn't any San Diego news source publish our information?

Amazingly, it was revealed that students of the most admired and highly-regarded teachers frequently showed remarkably little improvement. You can always find teachers and parents who think they know who the best teachers are, but it turns out they're often completely wrong.

Of course, test scores are only a clue, not a final determination, as to whether a teacher is doing a good job. Proper evaluation would consist of regular observations, interviews and test scores of both students and teachers. In the current system, most principals have very little knowledge about what most of their teachers are doing in the classroom. Often, years go by without a principal spending more than a few moments in a teacher's classroom. And in my 27 years teaching in CVESD, not once did any principal ever sit down and talk to me about my thinking about how to educate children.

If teacher performance were evaluated effectively, there would be an added bonus: administrators could be chosen from among the best teachers.

But the district administration isn't the only problem. There's also the teachers union. The one thing you can count on the California Teachers Association to do is to protect incompetent teachers. The parent in the article below who claims that Common Core is "advancing an agenda that I believe is geared toward privatizing all education" is doing what the teachers union calls "staying on message". She certainly sounds like she was coached.

The test isn't creating a problem, it's exposing a problem that has existed for years.

Standardized tests shunned by South Bay parents

“My son had been experiencing headaches”
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
April 10, 2014

One night last year, Gretel Rodriguez was playing the word game Hangman with her son who attends HedenKamp Elementary in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. He chose an unusual word. When Rodriguez asked him why, her son said he was learning it for the California State Test. Then he said he was nervous — worried that if he failed the test he wouldn’t get promoted to the next grade.

Rodriguez said in an April 7 interview, “My son had been experiencing headaches, then when he told me his worries, I made up my mind to opt him out of any standardized exams.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Why didn't Rodriquez ask the school district if test results might be used to hold a child back? Did she ever consider helping her child to get the problem into perspective? Does she normally try to teach coping skills to her child? Does she teach her child to search out the facts before dissolving in fear? I suspect that the teacher might have been manipulating his or her students emotionally instead of dealing with his or her own fears about test results. Was the teacher really afraid of what might happen to himself (or herself)?

Also, I'm wondering why the reporter who wrote this piece, Susan Luzzaro, fails to tell us if this child's fear is based on reality. Why doesn't Ms. Luzzaro report on this important question? Luzzaro's entire article seems to be based on the belief that the district actually flunks kids who do poorly on the test.]

Rodriguez is one of many parents, locally and nationally, who are choosing to opt their children out of testing.

“By opting my son out of standardized tests I’ve also ensured he doesn’t have to take the SBAC [Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium] test this year as well,” Rodriguez continued.

In 2012, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium was one of two companies that split a $330 million Department of Education grant to develop a computer-based test aligned with Common Core Standards.

In 2014, students will be taking a Smarter Balanced field test, or a test to test the test — based on Common Core Standards. The test will be administered to California students between March and June.

Rodriguez has another son who is a special-education student in the Sweetwater Union High School District. At first he told his mother that he wanted to continue taking the standardized tests and Rodriguez agreed.

Recently he changed his mind and asked his mom to opt him out. Rodriguez said she was happy about his decision because the new Common Core test has no modifications for special-education students or English-language learners.

The Phataks have three children in public schools. Two of them go to Salt Creek Elementary in the Chula Vista Elementary School District; their older son attends Eastlake Middle School in the Sweetwater district.

When asked which tests she was going to opt her children out of, Kristin Phatak answered, “All of them.”

Phatak believes that “tests designed by publishing companies are not a good measure of my children’s progress. They also encourage teaching to the test.”

Regarding the Smarter Balance test aligned with Common Core, Phatak stated, “I firmly believe that test is being designed to fail the children, and in turn fail the teachers and the schools. It’s an attack on public education.”

When asked why she believes the test is designed to fail, Phatak resonded, “When you start looking at the money behind new Common Core Standards and the Smarter Balance testing, you begin to question both of them. Venture philanthropists, like the Gates Foundation, have poured millions into advancing an agenda that I believe is geared toward privatizing all education.

[Maura Larkins' comment: The Gates Foundation? Phatek sounds pretty paranoid to me. Why wouldn't Bill Gates simply be trying to do for education the same thing he does for health--giving away huge amounts of money in an effort to make life better for people around the globe? Or perhaps Phatek has simply been influenced by teachers who don't want to improve their performance.] "In states like Kentucky, where the Smarter Balanced Consortium test has already been used, the student failure rate was 70 percent. New York also had disastrous results with their Common Core exam. The push is to tie test scores to teacher evaluations. You can’t fail the teachers unless you fail the kids.”

Phatak encourages “parents who wish to be in tune with their childrens’ education to go to the Smarter Balance website and take the pilot test that corresponds to their child’s grade level.”

Phatak said she began talking to other moms about opting out last year. She is “shocked” because so many are coming up to her this year and telling her they are opting out.

Phatak is in contact with parents across the United States through her Facebook page, though she is not a member of a national opt-out organization.

“There are no consequences for refusing to take the tests,” Phatak said. “They [districts] cannot hold a child back.”

Opting out is not new to San Diego. In 2002, the Wall Street Journal carried a report on 212 Rancho Bernardo students who refused to take standardized tests. Rancho Bernardo parents expressed reasons similar to Chula Vista parents. They felt there was “no personal incentive for their children to labor over tests that aren’t included on school transcripts or are required for high school graduation.”

I was intrigued by the difference between the San Diego Reader (above story) and the Chula Vista Star-News (story below) in reporting this issue. Reporter Robert Moreno provided a much more balanced view of the issue than did Susan Luzzaro.

Common Core receives mixed reviews
Robert Moreno
Chula Vista Star-News
Sep 28 2013

California's newest testing method is getting high praise by education officials in the South Bay, but some parents in the area’s school districts are giving the new testing measure an F.

The Golden State signed on for the model on Aug. 2, 2010, with full implementation this school year. Forty-five states — including California — use the Common Core method of testing.

John Nelson III, E.d.D, assistant superintendent of the Chula Vista Elementary School District, said the new testing model places higher standards on students than the STAR testing did.

“We (the district) believe that these new Common Core standards reflect the academic need of all students to be successful,” he said. “We know that the old standards, we’ve learned a lot of good lessons from them; however, when it came to being college- and career-ready, the standards fell short.”

Nelson said under the STAR testing standards, students entering college were not prepared and as a result, dropout rates at the university continues to be high.

Common Core tests students from K-12 in math, English, science and social science. The tests and curriculum are based more on the use of critical thinking skills than memorization.

While the elementary school district approves the new testing measures, some parents are not getting with the Common Core program.

Kristin Phatak has a son in the Chula Vista Elementary School District and another in the Sweetwater Union High School District. She is opposed to the Common Core because she said it is “dumbing down” the education standards.

[Maura Larkins' comment: How does Kristin Phatek come up with this stuff? I'm guessing that she like the old rote-memory method of teaching that left students unprepared for college. Kids were left with very little understanding of basic concepts, and a whole lot of memorization that tended to be forgotten. I agree with John Nelson that the new concept-based instruction is better for kids.]

“California and Massachusetts were known in the nation as having some of the highest standards in the United States,” she said. “They did not use California or Massachusetts standards to rate these standards, they actually lowered the standards, and so by California signing on to these standards, we have in effect lowered our standards.”

Nelson said the Common Core is not dumbing down education standards, but rather deepening the understanding of learning. He said it is more critical thinking-based than the STAR testing.

Phatak claims that the Common Core puts local school districts in violation of the Williams Settlement Act.

The class action lawsuit was filed in 2000 and argued agencies failed to provide public school students with equal access to instructional materials, safe and decent school facilities and qualified teachers. As a result of this, for every student in a classroom, the school must make available one textbook for each student.

Phatak said because there are no textbooks available for the Common Core, teachers are struggling to come up with their own curriculum with Common Core methods.

[Maura Larkins' comment: What is this woman talking about? You can use ANY textbook to teach Common Core. But teachers who rely on textbooks to guide every step of instruction are simply failing to understand how to teach basic concepts. For one thing, the teacher should be guided by what her students know, and how well they are learning. The teacher's instruction should largely be coming from the teacher's brain rather than a textbook, and should be using his or her own words. The teacher should be making heavy use of the white board and a marker--and should be putting manipulatives in students' hands.

“What’s happening now is that the publishers have not come out with the textbooks for Common Core, yet the Chula Vista Elementary School District and the Sweetwater School District have decided to go ahead and implement it,” she said.

Nelson said the Common Core is not solely dependent on textbooks.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Hear, hear!]

“There’s been a lot of misunderstanding in the community, Common Core is not about the curriculum, it’s about how we teach,” he said. “Literature is literature. Now we did achieve use of more complex literature but Common Core is about changing the instructional practice of teachers.”

Monica Cervantes is another parent who is against the Common Core. She has a child attending Tiffany Elementary School in Chula Vista. She said the elementary school district adopted the model without conducting research to see if it will actually work.

“I think before you implement any type of curriculum, you have to make sure it works,” she said. “If you go back and look where it was implemented first there is a lot of downfall with this.”

California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson recently announced that the Sweetwater Union High School District is receiving more than $8 million in state funding with the transition to the new testing model.

Manny Rubio, director of grants and communications with the Sweetwater Union High School District, said a portion of that money could be spent on new textbooks used in preparation for the Common Core.

The Sweetwater District is adhering to the Common Core too, because Rubio said the testing is mandated by the state, and therefore they have no choice but to implement it.

“This is something that is coming from Sacramento. It’s our mandate as far as following the law that they’ve issued.

My understanding is that ... we do not have a choice (to not implement the Common Core),” Rubio said.

Rubio said the district is implementing a Common Core curriculum for teachers this year with pilot testing for students. He said come next school year, the district will have mandated testing.

Tina Jung, information officer for the California Department of Education, said the adoption of the Common Core is not mandatory. She said it is up to the local school districts, not the state, to decide if they want to implement the testing.

“It is completely voluntary on the states and schools,” she said. “We can’t tell districts what to do. California is a local control state, that means local districts have more control than the state.”

Jung also said if a district accepts money from the state for Common Core, then that money must be used for Common Core purposes.

Because she did not want her child to take the Common Core test, Phatak withdrew one of her children from Tiffany Elementary school. The child is now being home schooled.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Why didn't Phatek help her child cope with anxiety instead of taking such a drastic measure. I have a suspicion that there's a lot more going on in Phatek's family than is revealed here.]

Cervantes said she plans to opt her child out of Common Core testing.

“We (parents) can try to stop this because this was adopted and not mandated by the state,” she said. “We have a choice, it is not mandated. They chose to adopt this.”

According to the California Department of Education’s website, the Common Core describes what each student should know and be able to do in each subject in each grade.

The name Common Core derives from the testing method that uses a set of national standards that apply to every school, district and state that has adopted the Common Core model.

Rubio said parents “will not” have a choice of opting a child out of the testing.

But while Rubio mentions that students can’t opt out, California’s education code says differently.

According to Education Code 60615, a student can opt out of testing.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a parent’s or guardian’s written request to school officials to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of the assessments administered pursuant to this chapter shall be granted,” the code reads.

James Milgram, Stanford University mathematics professor

I just noticed that the San Diego Union-Tribune has published a hysterical commentary on this subject by Lance T. Izumi. Mr. Izumi's rant contained an interesting fact:

...Stanford University mathematics professor James Milgram, an architect of California’s previous top-ranked state math standards and a member of Common Core’s Validation Committee, harshly criticizes the rigor of Common Core’s math standards: “With the exception of a few standards in trigonometry, the [Common Core] math standards end after Algebra II. They include no pre-calculus or calculus.”...

Professor Milgram wants every kid in California to learn calculus!?!

That's ridiculous. I took calculus in high school, and it didn't do me one bit of good because I didn't understand the basic concepts well enough. I got an A in the class, not because I understood the material, but because I learned and applied formulas. I had to take calculus over again at UCLA. I also took vector calculus, and when I graduated I thought I knew math.

Even though I wasn't interested in going to graduate school at the time, I decided to take the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) at that time. I figured I'd never again do as well on the math section of the GRE than when I was fresh out of college math classes.

I was wrong.

I spent the next fifteen years teaching basic math concepts to fourth and fifth graders. I taught those basic concepts like they were going out of style. As a result, I myself came to understand those concepts really, really well.

Then I took the GRE again. My GRE math score went up 100 points, from 640 to 740.

My big improvement was due to focusing on elementary math concepts. I have had proof in my own life that if you want your kid to be really good in math, you must make your kid really learns basic concepts. And you shouldn't worry one bit whether your kid takes calculus in high school.

Will Susan Luzzaro continue to turn her back to
requests for more even-handed reporting?

I sent the following email to the Reader on April 17, 2014:

Regarding this story:
Standardized tests shunned by South Bay parents
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
April 10, 2014

In the very first paragraph, Susan Luzzaro quotes a parent saying that her child was worried that "if he failed the test he wouldn’t get promoted to the next grade."

Ms. Luzzaro makes absolutely no effort in the article to assure Readers that the test is not actually used to flunk children. This is not good journalism.

I urge the Reader and Susan Luzzaro NOT to leave this false impression dangling in the minds of readers. Luzzaro should issue a clarification about the matter.


eastlaker April 10, 2014 @ 12:41 p.m.

So, the testing is being done initially on materials the students have not been given. Gee, how fair is that?

Especially when not only the students will be evaluated, but the teachers will be evaluated.

[Maura Larkins' response to eastlaker:

The teachers are supposed to teach kids how to think, not just teach them specific facts and rules.

A good test measures thinking ability. That's why teachers who can't teach reasoning and logic hate them so much. If you call it "teaching to the test" when kids are thought to respond to any question with logic, then teaching to the test is a good thing.]

oneoftheteachers April 10, 2014 @ 6:36 p.m.

First of all, let's dispel the myth that corporations fostered:our educational system was broken. The US has some of the best universities in the world attended by graduates of our American public schools.

[Maura Larkins' response: No one is saying that American universities are broken. They're so good that people from all over the world come to attend them. Unfortunately, the only people breaking the door down trying to get into our average K-12 public school are people from Latin American countries with even worse educational systems. It's a disgrace that so many of our K-12 graduates are not prepared for our own universities.]

It's interesting that there is only ONE comment one this page (at 9:50 a.m. on April 17, 2014) that even suggests looking at this issue differently.

Bvavsvavev had the courage to say: "I am not an expert in education, so I don't know the answers. What I do know is that change is needed, money is needed, and testing is needed. The hows and whys can be left to experts to figure out."

Of course, he is immediately shot down by the regular commenters.

Interestingly, the Reader is the only news outlet in San Diego or elsewhere that prevents me from making comments. The reason was not that I made an improper comment, or even a comment that the Reader didn't like. In fact, the very first time I tried to sign up to make comments I was unable to do so. Who could have set this up? I suspect that Susan Luzzaro might have originated the idea. Susan Luzzaro's husband Frank, a former teacher and union official at Chula Vista Elementary School District, has made it clear to me that he doesn't want me revealing events at CVESD, at least not those that involve him. I once contacted the Reader to complain about not being able to make comments, and the result was that I was allowed to comment on this one story! Obviously, there is little effort at the Reader to provide a public forum. It's very much a controlled environment, run by political paymaster Jim Holman.]]

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Witness says Sweetwater officials wanted to bypass the entire list of underwriting firms picked by selection committee and give job to Gary Cabello

Witness: District pushed poor underwriter
The county official says she was told he 'has to be on that list'
By Aaron Burgin
June 14, 2013

Gary Cabello, 54, bond financier, is accused of offering thing of value to a school official and bribery

A former San Diego County investment officer was taken aback when Sweetwater schools officials pushed to have the least qualified bidder selected to market Proposition O construction bonds, she testified to the grand jury.

Michelle Durgy, now the chief investment officer for the city and county of San Francisco, served on a panel to help select the underwriter.

The committee did not select Gary Allen Cabello, who is now charged with bribing officials at Sweetwater and Southwestern College to obtain multimillion dollar underwriting contracts for his company, Alta Vista Financial. He has pleaded not guilty.

Durgy testified that Sweetwater officials told her Alta Vista would have to be selected.

“And I said, 'Oh no, that is not happening,’” Durgy told the grand jury.

South County Grand Jury transcripts Vol. 5 Download .PDF

Her testimony was among the 4,000 pages of grand jury transcripts a judge released last month, amid objections from defense attorneys who claimed the release would prejudice potential jurors against their clients.

Durgy was on the selection committee for the Sweetwater Union High School District’s $644 million bond because the county advises districts on certain financial matters such as bond issuances and investment management.

Following the firms’ interviews, the selection committee picked two major underwriting firms and two minority-owned firms as their recommendations to the board. The list did not include Alta Vista.

When former Sweetwater Chief Financial Officer Dianne Russo saw this, she quickly objected and said that Alta Vista must be included, Durgy testified.

“At that point, Diane spoke up again and said, “Oh, (former Sweetwater Superintendent) Jesus Gandara... is not going to like this,” Durgy said. “And I said, ‘Well, too bad. That’s who we selected.’ She said, ‘No, no, Michelle, you don’t understand. Alta Vista has to be on that list.’”

Of the 10 firms that interviewed, Durgy said that Alta Vista performed the worst. They were admittedly unprepared and she described their presentation as thin.

“They started off by saying, ‘Wow, we are not really prepared today, we kind of pieced this,’” Durgy said. “And I thought, oh, you know, this is not professional at all.

“And I ... came away thinking... I gave them an opportunity to redeem themselves and that certainly was not the case, and I am unimpressed with this. And I scored them the lowest out of all the firms because they were — it was pretty sad.”

Durgy testified that she thought Russo was kidding at first, but then Russo said that not only did Gandara expect them to be on the list — he wanted them to be the lead underwriter.

Durgy said she was eventually overruled by the rest of the selection committee, and Alta Vista was included.

Durgy said that the recommendation was that Alta Vista play a minor role in the underwriting. Ultimately, however, Cabello’s firm participated in underwriting nearly $350 million in bonds at Sweetwater and Southwestern College.

Durgy said she compiled all relevant correspondence in a memo at the request of her boss, County Treasurer Dan McAllister, after Durgy raised concerns about the integrity of the process.

3 school staffers on leave in Vegas cheating probe

3 school staffers on leave in Vegas cheating probe
Associated Press
April 16, 2014

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Three Clark County School District employees are on leave after a state investigation concluded adults altered the answer sheets on standardized tests at a Las Vegas elementary school, leading to skyrocketing scores from one year to the next.

The Nevada Department of Education issued a statement Wednesday saying the 2011-2012 test scores at Kelly Elementary School will be invalidated. A district spokeswoman said Principal Patricia Harris, Assistant Principal Steven Niemeier and Associate Superintendent Andre Denson have been placed on leave and could face disciplinary measures, such as losing their licenses.

"I have no doubt that a testing irregularity occurred at this school and that student answer sheets were altered by one or more adults in the system," state Superintendent Dale Erquiaga said. "Testing-security procedures were also breached. However, the investigation has not yielded the identity of the individual or group of individuals who changed the answers in 2012."

The three administrators could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The investigation into Kelly Elementary's suspicious scores began after a tipster submitted an anonymous report in April 2012 alleging that the school's principal coached students to change the answers on a statewide Criterion Referenced Test administered in the spring of 2012. An associate superintendent interviewed the principal in May, asked her whether she had coached the students, and then concluded the investigation when the principal said she hadn't, the state report said.

But scores released in June 2012 showed eyebrow-raising improvement at the low-performing school. State data show that from 2008 to 2011, the number of Kelly Elementary fifth-graders considered proficient in reading never reached 25 percent. That figure leaped to nearly 78 percent for the 2011-2012 school year, and it hovered at 72 percent in 2012-2013.

The results fit neatly into the narrative of reforms transforming a struggling school, the report said: a low-achieving school implemented major changes, test scores turned around and student success was celebrated. When the scores were released, school officials provided no explanation for the dramatic improvement aside from saying students tried hard and reforms were in place, the report continued.

The high scores landed the school a coveted five-star ranking during the first year Nevada started using such a measurement. While the star rankings can boost a school's reputation, a good score doesn't come with a financial award, and no employees have been fired on the basis of their ranking, district spokeswoman Kirsten Searer said.

During the investigation, which also included the Nevada Attorney General's office, an erasure-detection analysis found a disproportionate number of answers were changed from wrong to right.

When the district supervised the test in 2013, scores declined significantly, education officials said. The school's ranking also plummeted to two stars.

The education department deposed or interviewed fifteen witnesses, including teachers who gave the test, the school's office manager and administrators. Investigators also reviewed more than 2,000 pages of documents obtained through subpoenas, officials said.

Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said he's grateful for the investigation and will review the findings to determine the next steps.

"It is important that our community have faith in the validity of our standardized testing," he said in a statement. "Once I have had a chance to review the department's full report and recommendations, I will take appropriate action so our students, parents and community can move forward."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ex-city manager of Bell, California gets 12 years for corruption

Robert Rizzo

Ex-Calif. city manager gets 12 years for corruption
Michael Winter
April 16, 2014

An astonishing case of small-city corruption ended Wednesday as the longtime administrator of Bell, Calif., was sentenced to 12 years in state prison for paying elected officials lavish salaries and using the public coffers as a piggy bank for himself and other employees.

"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy said in sentencing Robert Rizzo and ordering him to pay $8.8 million in restitution. "That is the theme of what happened in Bell. There were no checks and balances to control Mr. Rizzo and those that were in power in the city."

On Monday, a U.S. judge sentenced Rizzo to 33 months in federal prison for income tax evasion. His state and federal terms will run concurrently, and he must surrender to U.S. authorities May 30 to begin his incarceration.

Rizzo managed the working-class city for 18 years before the graft was uncovered in 2010. Though nearly 25% of Bell's 36,000 residents live below the poverty line, Rizzo's pay and benefits totaled $1.5 million a year. Kennedy called his salary and those of council members and other officials "absolutely ridiculous."

"Nobody wanted to upset the apple cart because they were paid so well," she said, describing him as "a godfather of sorts."

The pay packages were part of a larger scandal. A state audit found that Bell had illegally raised property taxes, business-license fees and other sources of revenue to pay the officials' extravagance. By the time it was uncovered, auditors said, the graft had cost the city more than $5.5 million and pushed to the brink of bankruptcy.

At the time of his arrest,, Rizzo was the highest paid city official in California -- and possibly the nation -- and would have been the state's top earning public pensioner had he retired.

Before learning his fate Wednesday, he spoke publicly for the first time since the scandal broke.

"I'm very, very sorry for that. I apologize for that," he said in a soft voice. "If I could go back and make changes, I would. I've done it a million times in my mind."

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times as he walked to his car after his sentencing, Rizzo said he "should have realized the salaries were way out of whack and taken steps to bring them back in line, but it just got away from me."

"There's not much I could do after a period of time," he said.

Under a deal with prosecutors, five former City Council members pleaded no contest to misappropriating city funds, and Kennedy will begin sentencing them in June. Punishments range from probation to four years in prison, and all must make restitution and never again seek public office.

One council member, a preacher, was acquitted.

Last week, Rizzo's deputy, Angela Spaccia, was sentenced to 11 years and eight months in state prison for misappropriating public funds by giving herself enormous raises. When a jury found her guilty in December, her salary was $564,000.

On the witness stand, Spaccia acknowledged that she felt she was earning too much when her salary passed $340,000, but argued that it was not criminal.

New trial begins in electronic document destruction case Allyn v. Fallbrook Elementary Schools; bizarre mistrial had been granted by Judge Stern

Dan Shinoff and Judge Stern must be crossing their fingers, hoping that the new trial goes better for Fallbrook Elementary Schools than the first one did.

The new trial is scheduled for Monday April 21, 2014 (assuming a courtroom is available).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sorry, teenagers. It's not looking so good for marijuana: a new study links casual marijuana use with significant changes to parts of the brain

DEA photo of marijuana; chocolate cake might be a better option since cocoa has antioxidants and phytochemicals.

A lot of kids are going to be unhappy about this news. But there are other things to enjoy. How about some chocolate?

Casual marijuana use linked to brain changes
Karen Weintraub
April 15, 2014

Using marijuana a few times a week is enough to physically alter critical brain structures, according to a new study published Tuesday in The Journal of Neuroscience.

"Just casual use appears to create changes in the brain in areas you don't want to change," said Hans Breiter, a psychiatrist and mathematician at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, who led the new study.

There is actually very little research on the potential benefits and downsides of casual marijuana smoking — fewer than four times a week on average.

In his study, done in collaboration with researchers at Harvard University, scientists looked at the brains of 20 relatively light marijuana users and 20 people who did not use it at all. All 40 were college students in the Boston area.

The study found volume, shape and density changes in two crucial brain areas — the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala — involved with emotion and motivation and some types of mental illness. "This is a part of the brain you do not want to mess around with," Breiter said.

The more marijuana the students smoked, the more their brains differed from the non-users, the study found.

The brain continues to develop well into the 20s, and even into the 30s, said Breiter, who is concerned about the long-term impacts of marijuana use on the developing brain.

Staci Gruber, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the research, said Breiter's findings are consistent with her own, although she has focused on somewhat heavier users.

"There have been a growing number of studies that suggest that marijuana use in emerging adults is associated with differences in brain structure and cognitive abilities," said Gruber, also the director of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroimaging Core at McLean Hospital outside Boston. "I'm not saying (pot smoking) is analogous to shooting heroin or cocaine, but it's also not quite the benign substance people thought it was."

Responding to a study that found a decline in IQ points among people who used marijuana regularly, Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told USA TODAY recently that people should be more aware of these potential brain impacts.

"Perhaps it would be better if ... there was a little bit more recognition of that particular consequence," he said.

Gregory Gerdeman, a biologist and neuropharmacologist at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., said he has no reason to doubt the new study's findings but worries generally about marijuana research funded by federal agencies, like the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is charged with limiting drug use. (The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health as well as the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Northwestern Medicine's Warren Wright Adolescent Center.)

"If you're getting money from the drug czar's office, that money's not going to continue if you don't end up publishing something that at least supports the general story of the danger of drug abuse," Gerdeman said.

He said it doesn't surprise him that heavy pot smoking might make it difficult for students to reach their intellectual potential. But still, he said, "if it were my child, even with this study, I'm more comfortable with young people having a casual marijuana habit than drinking regularly."

Emails show NCTD changed paperwork after info request

How does Investigative Newsource choose which entities it's going to investigate? The news service founded by Buzz Woolley and Irwin Jacobs at San Diego State University seems to work from a rather private agenda. Some public entities are targeted, some are protected by inewsource.

Buzz Woolley and Irwin Jacobs apparently directed their other news outlet, Voice of San Diego, to stop investigating SDCOE (San Diego County Office of Education).

But clearly, Buzz and Irwin feel that North County Transit District is fair game. Perhaps it's closer to home for them?

Emails show NCTD changed paperwork after info request
by Brad Racino
March 27, 2014

The North County Transit District commissioned a $31,200 study without seeking competitive bids, then changed paperwork and attempted to backdate a new contract after inewsource requested the documentation, emails show.

Read this story completely backed up with primary documents.

The study, conducted by the UCSD Rady School of Management on Dec. 20, 2013, details the strengths and weaknesses of NCTD’s leadership team. When the district refused to release it, inewsource sued last week to obtain it.

The public transit agency did release 28 pages of emails in response to another inewsource request that discuss the study’s initial contract and the attempt to alter it retroactively. In the end, according to the emails, the contract type was changed but the date was not.

NCTD has placed at least one employee in its contract department on administrative leave and brought in an outside investigator to look into the process used to contract with the Rady School of Management.

NCTD would not respond to a list of questions inewsource submitted about the contract changes discussed in the emails.

A continuing issue

The Rady School of Management study was not the first time NCTD contracted for services without seeking bids on the work.

In a formal report from September 2012, the private consulting firm SC&H Group observed that the district was using sole-source contracting “without appropriate justification” and possibly as “workarounds” for competitive bidding.

State law requires government agencies to bid out most expensive services, since open competition helps thwart favoritism, fraud and corruption from the acquisition process. But there are exceptions to the law when unique services or specialized skills are required.

doc_graphicRead the SC&H Group’s review.

The SC&H review cautioned NCTD that awarding too many of these sole-source awards, “may result in increased regulatory scrutiny and potential fines.” After the consultant’s report became public, inewsource examined district contracts and found that NCTD’s manager of marketing and communications had recently awarded an unnecessary $50,000 contract to her former colleagues under a sole-source contract.

NCTD later confirmed the award was “not justifiable” in a report to its board of directors and changed district policy to prevent similar occurrences.

A memo inewsource obtained as part of a Public Records Act request indicates the district “discovered” that the new Rady School of Management contract “had been processed in error as a sole source” on Feb. 10, 2014. It did not say how the “error” was discovered or exactly why it was an “error.”

Timeline of past events:

October 2013: NCTD CEO Matthew Tucker and Human Resources Manager Karen Tucholski meet with Rady School of Management representatives to discuss NCTD’s goals and Rady’s offerings.

November 2013: NCTD staff completes online preliminary assessments for the Rady evaluation.

Dec. 9, 2013: Rady sends NCTD an invoice for $31,200 for the leadership program. The invoice notes a due date of Jan. 9, 2014. There is no contract in place.

Dec. 20, 2013: NCTD staff attends the one-day Rady School of Management program at UCSD.

Jan. 9, 2014: Due date for Rady invoice passes.

Jan. 16 – 29, 2014: Three NCTD managers sign and date the Rady sole source agreement.

Feb. 7, 2014: NCTD pays the Rady School of Management for the service. inewsource submits a Public Records Act request for the Rady scope of work and method of contracting.

Current Events

On Feb. 7, a Friday, inewsource submitted a Public Records Act request asking what type of contract NCTD used with Rady.

On Feb. 10, a Monday, at 10:41 a.m., NCTD staff exchanged emails under the subject heading “UCSD — Rady.”

One read:

“There have been a few changes. The sole source is no longer needed.”

Karen Tucholski, NCTD’s Human Resources manager, was told by Fred Knapp, an NCTD management analyst, to scrap the sole-source form — which had already been completed, signed, and used to pay UCSD the $31,200 — and instead use a different method of procurement.

On Feb. 11, Tucholski passed the new form up the ladder for signature. She also sent the Rady agreement to the district’s CEO, Matthew Tucker, to sign and backdate two months. He did not sign the new form. He did sign the agreement but did not backdate.

doc_graphic Read the entire email chain.

The next day, on Wednesday, Feb. 12, an employee in the contracts department expressed concern about a public request for information about the still-unfinished paperwork.

“Getting this completed needs to be a top priority,” she wrote to Tucholski. “There has been a PRA [Public Records Act request] for some of this information and the invoice has already been paid based upon the sole source documentation.“

The agency’s own compliance officer, looped into the conversation that day, appeared confused by what was happening.

“Isn’t all of Rady’s work complete?” he wrote to Tucholski that same day. “…I’m not sure I see the value of going through this process.” He then recommended adding a memo to the case file explaining the timing and circumstances of the proposed changes.

According to this month’s board agenda, NCTD is planning to award a $213,000 contract to a different consulting company, called Calyptus Consulting Group, for a Rady-like study of its procurement division. The competitively-bid contract will result in a detailed report and analysis, which the district plans to keep confidential as “attorney-work product.”


inewsource is an independent San Diego State University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies.

Karin Winner is on the board. She was editor and VP/News of the San Diego Union-Tribune 15 years; retired in 2010.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

South Carolina Christian School Fourth Grade Science Quiz

South Carolina Christian School Fourth Grade Science Quiz
by gizmo59
Daily Kos
Apr 26, 2013
The source of this quiz is the father of the student who took it. He will not identify the school until June, after his daughter finishes the school year there, after which she will move to another school. Snopes rates this item as "probably true.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Is the public served when attorneys and litigants do favors for judges? Let's take the politics out of choosing judges

See blog post: Chief Justice John Roberts: Judge Brent Benjamin doesn't have to recuse himself just because of a measly $3 million campaign contribution

Electing judges is a bad idea, but appointing judges is almost as bad. Why not create a pool of highly-rated attorneys, created by the Bar Association (we don't want to eliminate politics completely, right?), and then use a lottery to choose judges from that pool as positions become available?

Seriously, why not? The only reason not to do this is to keep politics in the courtroom.

But for now, we're stuck with judicial elections in San Diego. Let's choose the best candidates. Federal prosecutor Carla Keehn is running against Judge Lisa Schall in June 2014.


The Divide
American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap
Matt Taibbi and Molly Crabapple
April 6, 2014

...On how he discovered 'the divide'

I was covering these gigantic Wall Street white-collar-criminal scandals, and I became interested in the concept of why nobody was going to jail, why we didn't have criminal prosecutions. And then it occurred to me that it's impossible to really talk about the gravity of that problem unless you know who is going to jail in the United States, and how those people go to jail and how that works.

What I ended up finding is that it's incredibly easy for people who don't have money to go to jail for just about anything. There's almost an inverse relationship between the ease with which you can put a poor person in jail for, say, welfare fraud, and the difficulty that prosecutors face when they try to put someone from a too-big-to-fail bank in jail for a more serious kind of fraud.

On media coverage of white-collar crime

Over time I think a kind of Stockholm Syndrome develops, it's kind of the same thing that happens with campaign reporters and candidates: You start to sort of sympathize with the people you cover in this weird subterranean, psychological way.

'A Very Sordid Story'

Matt Taibbi On The Fairfax Financial Case

In this audio clip, NPR's Kelly McEvers asks Matt Taibbi about the most salacious case in his book, The Divide. Taibbi tells and the short-sellers who Fairfax alleges took revenge when a deal didn't go through as expected. The company sued in 2006.

Taibbi says it's a great example of the judicial divide between the rich and poor. It's easy to think hedge fund managers can't be criminals, he says, because they're often seen as polite and refined.

"[But] in many cases, they're really not," Taibbi says. "I mean, in this case, they're just as streety and gross as any other kind of criminal."

I think what ends up happening is these stories get written about, but they get written without outrage, or without the right tone, and they are also not written for the right audiences. They're written for Wall Street audiences who want to find out how this lawsuit turned out. They may not want to see those people thrown in jail, they just might be interested in seeing how far the government is willing to go this week in putting white-collar offenders in jail.

On comparing banks and people

The HSBC case was . This is a bank that admitted to washing over $850 million for a pair of Central and South American drug cartels. They admit to this behavior, they pay a fine, no individual has to do a day in jail. All I really wanted to say was, here are our actors at the very top of our illegal narcotics business who are getting a walk from the government, a complete and total walk ...

I went to court that day, I asked around and said, "What's the dumbest drug case you saw today?" I found an attorney who was willing to put me in touch with a number of people who had been busted and thrown in jail for having a joint in their pocket...


Retired Judge Linda Quinn is working with school attorney Dan Shinoff
of Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz on a fundraiser for Judge Lisa Schall.

See all posts re Judge Lisa Schall.

See all posts re Judge Gary Kreep.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

San Diego Unified: From Charter-Friendly to Charter Acquaintance

San Diego Explained: From Charter-Friendly to Charter Acquaintance
By: Catherine Green
Voice of San Diego
March 21, 2014

School board trustee John Lee Evans once called San Diego Unified “one of the most charter-friendly districts in the nation.”

And based on the numbers, he was right: From 2005 to 2012, charter students in the district jumped by about 40 percent

But all that’s about to change, thanks in part to the board’s decision to up the ante on tough requirements for charters to get funding from a $2.8 billion bond they helped get approved in 2012. The district has also been candid about making it harder to open a charter.

In this edition of San Diego Explained, NBC 7′s Catherine Garcia and Voice of San Diego reporter Mario Koran lay out the changing tides for San Diego charter schools.

Update: An earlier version of this post said San Diego Unified was second in the nation for charter school growth. That number came from a National Alliance for Public Charter Schools report. On March 26, the group said it had miscounted, and amended its report. According to the amended numbers, San Diego Unified ranks 18th for growth in charter school enrollment.

Catherine Green is deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handles daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects.


...Doug Porter

Perhaps there have been some problems with charter schools that could have influenced SDUSD policies. I do seem to remember a couple of dozen tearful students and teachers pleading with SDUSD Board of Trustees a couple of weeks ago about conditions at a charter school.

Or perhaps they're cognizant of the schools around the country that have abruptly just gone out of business, leaving families in a lurch.

Or perhaps what's going on is part of broader policy change aimed at increasing the role of neighborhood schools.

We wouldn't know from this story, which just makes it seem like the big bad SDUSD Board is picking on them. (Oh, lookie! Did you see that union thug?)

I actually think charter schools have a role to play. Many of them provide unique and valuable educational experiences.

But come on.... Give us some depth.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

English 15-year-olds beat peers from the U.S. and every European nation except Finland

English teenagers are among best at solving a practical problems
Nation's 15-year-olds beat peers from the U.S. and every European nation except Finland
By Laura Clark
Apr 1st 2014

English teenagers are among the best in Europe at solving practical problems, a league table revealed yesterday.

The nation’s 15-year-olds came 11th in the world in a new test – ahead of their peers in the United States and all other European countries except Finland.

The results are welcome news following England’s demotion from the top 20 nations in maths and reading. Could you pass the practical test?

However Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong, which all have strong academic records, did better.

The rankings, based on a test taken by 85,000 pupils across 44 jurisdictions, show that English teenagers are better at solving real-life problems – such as adjusting a thermostat or selecting the cheapest rail tickets – than they are at tackling academic subjects.

England is one of only a handful of countries where teenagers are better at problem-solving than maths, reading and science.

Boys did slightly better than girls in the test - a reversal of the picture seen in national GCSE exams taken a year later.

Experts said the finding suggested GCSEs may be ‘unfair’ to boys.

The OECD, which produced the league table, insisted the difference in performance between boys and girls was not statistically significant.

The computer-based 40-minute test was the first of its kind run by the OECD, which regularly examines pupils’ performance in richer nations.

Pupils in England scored 517, against an OECD average of 500.

Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland didn’t take part.

The highest score was achieved by Singapore, with 562.

Outside East Asia, the highest marks were achieved by Canada, Australia and Finland, with England coming 11th.

‘In England, students perform significantly better, on average, in problem solving than students in other countries who show similar performance in mathematics, reading and science,’ the OECD report said.

‘This is particularly true among strong performers in mathematics, which suggests that these students, in particular, have access to learning opportunities that prepare them well for handling complex, real-life problems.’

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘Our young people are strong in problem-solving. This is a skill we should build on.’

Sunday, April 06, 2014


A student reads at a school in New Jersey. One in four black students were suspended in 2009-10, compared to one in fourteen white students. (AP Photo/Jose F. Moreno.)

Punishing Students For Who They Are, Not What They Do
Chloe Angyal
The Nation
April 17, 2013

Until last month, I had never seen a stop-and-frisk happen. Despite the amount of attention devoted to the controversial New York City policy in the last year, despite the protests, and despite having lived in the city for almost four years, I had never witnessed a stop-and-frisk. And then, a few weeks ago, I watched as two policemen stopped middle-aged black man on 98th Street, and frisked him. I wondered, not for the first time, what it would take for those same policemen to stop and frisk me. Controlling for all other factors—location, time of day, behavior—what would it take for the cops to stop and frisk a pretty white lady on the Upper West Side?

Somewhere in America, there’s a politically aware white high school student asking himself the same question, not about stop-and-frisk, but about school suspension. How much would I have to misbehave to run the same risk of suspension as my black classmates?

If you’re a white middle or high school student, and you don’t have a disability, your odds of being suspended from school are one in fourteen. If you’re a black middle or high school student without a disability, your odds are one in four. According to a new study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, a quarter of black students were suspended in the 2009-2010 school year. A quarter. For students with disabilities, the odds are one in five. And for black girls, the numbers are a stark demonstration of what happens when two forms of discrimination intersect: Black girls are more likely to be suspended than black boys or white girls. And, to the surprise of absolutely no one, when you add a third axis—disability—the figures get even worse. Black girls with disabilities are suspended at a rate sixteen percent higher than white girls with disabilities.

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

Schools, under-funded and over-populated, are suspending students for minor infractions like cell phone use or loitering (or for violating dress codes, which are problematic for a host of reasons), and being suspended dramatically increases your chance of dropping out altogether. One Florida study found that a single suspension in ninth grade doubled dropout rates, from sixteen percent to thirty-two percent. And though suspension rates are unnecessarily high, they’re disproportionately high for those students who are already marginalized.

There are ways to bring down the number of suspensions across the board, as the study notes. Changes to codes of conduct, implementing positive behavioral supports, better training and supporting teachers, and implementing principles of restorative justice, are all ways to reduce the number of suspensions. But that reduction in raw numbers will not be enough unless schools also address the disproportionate punishment of minority students.

Punishment rates in schools mirror the rates in the “real world” – though what could be more real than entrenched discrimination in our schools? – and in fact, contribute to those real world figures. The Civil Rights Project report notes that the abuse and misuse of suspensions can turn them into “gateways to prison.” Even if that were not the case, even absent a school-to-prison pipeline, the situation would be grim enough. What this report reveals is a disregard for the wellbeing of marginalized populations that, were it directed at other groups, would never be allowed to stand. If a quarter of white middle school boys were being suspended every school year, and if pretty white ladies were being frisked on the streets of Manhattan, there’d be uproar.

What would it take for the police to stop and frisk a pretty white lady on the Upper West Side? What would it take for a school to suspend a young white man with no disability? These are important – if upsetting – thought experiments. But the real question is, what will it take for us to fix this system that punishes students and citizens for no other reason but their membership in marginalized groups?


Research Collaborative Identifies Promising Initiatives To Address

Discipline Gaps by Race, Gender, Disability and Sexual Orientation

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 13, 2014 - A group of 26 nationally recognized experts from the social science, education and legal fields - assembled three years ago with the backing of two large philanthropies - has compiled and analyzed a huge body of recent research that challenges virtually every notion behind the frequent use of disciplinary policies that remove students from the classroom.

The group, known as the Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative, found clear evidence that students of color, particularly African-Americans, and students with disabilities are suspended at hugely disproportionate rates compared to white students, perpetuating racial and educational inequality across the country. LGBT students also are over-represented in suspension.

The Collaborative further determined there is no evidence to support the premise that "bad kids" should be removed from the classroom in order to ensure that "good kids" can learn.

"Far from making our schools safer or improving student behavior, the steadily increasing use of suspension and expulsion puts students - especially students of color and other targeted groups - at an increased risk of academic disengagement, dropout and contact with juvenile justice," said Russell J. Skiba, the Collaborative's project director and a professor at Indiana University.

"And we are never going to close the achievement gap until we close this discipline gap," added Daniel J. Losen, a member of the Collaborative and the director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA. "All schools see a wide range of adolescent misbehavior, but school responses vary dramatically. Some schools see an educational mission in teaching appropriate behavior and are successful at improving behavior without resorting to suspension and expulsion."

Citing data from the U.S. Department of Education, the Collaborative said more than 3 million students in grades K-12 were suspended during the 2009-10 academic year, reflecting a steady rise since the 1970's when the suspension rate was half that level. According to the Collaborative, the increase has occurred because school leaders either are so overwhelmed with money and testing demands that they gravitate toward what they perceive as "easy" discipline solutions, or else they really believe that their school environment will improve if they can just get rid of trouble-makers.

"Discipline has become a management strategy for schools pressured by financial constraints, high concentrations of struggling students, substantial numbers of transient teachers/long-term substitutes and severe accountability mandates," the Collaborative wrote. But there are promising alternatives that when embraced by school leaders and teachers, can effectively reduce both the need for discipline and its disparate effects, the group added.

Prevention programs that build "trusting, supportive relationships between students and educators" can be applied school-wide to reduce the likelihood of conflict. And when misbehavior does occur, it can be addressed through constructive and equitable "restorative justice" policies that reduce unnecessary discipline. These strategies focus on problem-solving instead of just handing out penalties.

"Student accountability is achieved when students take responsibility for their actions, recognize the impact of their actions on others and offer ways to repair the harm," the experts added.

The Discipline Disparities Collaborative was launched in 2011 through The Equity Project at Indiana University with funding from the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Open Society Foundations. The Collaborative has met frequently since then around the country to compile and review recent discipline research. It also is funding other researchers to study unexplored aspects of the school discipline problem.

In releasing its findings, the Collaborative published three briefing papers, each addressed to a different audience: policy recommendations for district, state and federal officials; effective discipline alternatives for school personnel, and a description for researchers of recent studies and urgent, unanswered questions that should be addressed. Among the findings:

There is no research support for the theory that schools must be able to remove the "bad" students so the "good" students can learn. "In fact, when schools serving similar populations were compared, those schools with relatively low suspension rates had higher, not lower, test scores."
Disparities in school suspension are worsening, meaning that some students are being pushed out of school more than others. For example, a study published this year found that three out of every four black middle school boys with disabilities in Chicago had received an out-of-school suspension.
Given the extreme differences in suspension rates across different groups, the researchers concluded that unintended teacher bias is a real possibility. "Several studies indicate ... that racial disparities are not sufficiently explained by the theory that black or other minority students are simply misbehaving more."
New longitudinal studies at the state and national levels indicate that suspension is associated with a heightened risk of dropping out of school. Researchers "found that even being suspended out-of-school once was associated with a two-fold increase in the risk of dropout." The increased risk of dropping out, in turn, increases the risk of juvenile delinquency.
There is a dramatic disconnect between educational and juvenile justice systems. Their practices are, at times, even contradictory. For example, in many communities students who have been expelled are by definition violating juvenile delinquency laws and subject to arrest.
Putting police in schools more often than not leads to the criminalization "of what might otherwise be considered adolescent misbehaviors." The best available evidence "suggests that police presence in schools, particularly armed police, should be a very last resort in school discipline strategies."

In addition to the main briefing papers, the Collaborative today published a set of three supporting papers providing research documentation addressing certain key issues:

A focused review of the evidence does not support the commonly held belief that racial disparities in school discipline are due to more serious or severe behavior on the part of black students.
A review is provided of efforts to explore "implicit bias," the subtle and often unconscious beliefs and stereotypes concerning race and difference that may contribute to disparities in school discipline.
A review is provided of common myths regarding the over-representation of students of color in school discipline and the facts that call these common beliefs into question.

Contact: Norman Black
The Hatcher Group