Wednesday, December 10, 2014

David Loy of ACLU says San Marcos school raising funds illegally

San Diego ACLU legal director David Loy objects to a religious organization involved in raising money in public schools in San Marcos Unified School District. (See story below.)

I share Mr. Loy's concern about the charity for two reasons.

First, I don't like a charity that has the goal of merely passing out meals in Africa, without addressing underlying economic problems.  I would urge citizens of San Marcos to give to Oxfam rather than this charity.

Oxfam teaches people how to fish rather than giving them a fish to eat.  They create better economic conditions, giving jobs to parents rather than meals to children.  They let the parents feed their own kids with the money they make.

The San Marcos charity simply serves meals to kids.

Well, actually, I suspect that's not all they do.  Which brings me to my second criticism: the violation of the First Amendment.

Second, I suspect that the charity is serving meals for a limited time because it wants to give religious training to kids.  After they're converted, the charity's goals have been achieved, and the feeding of the kids is no longer a priority.

I can understand that Mr. Loy would be worried about the slippery slopes that surround enterprises like this one, but if he's going to worry about the dangers of everyday activities that threaten the First Amendment, he should worry first about his own actions quashing free speech.  Why should he hold San Marcos Middle School to such an exacting standard when he is so lax about the First Amendment in other situations?

ACLU says San Marcos school raising funds illegally

San Marcos Middle School may be breaking state law by raising money with a religious group to feed children in East Africa, according to the San Diego and Imperial counties chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The school is partnering with a local nonprofit called Friends and Family Community Connection, with the support of Illinois-based Kids Around the World, to raise $3,500 to provide 14,000 meals for children in Tanzania..

David Loy's interesting history regarding free speech and open government

 ACLU legal director David Loy didn't want the First Amendment to be enforced in an anti-free speech lawsuit against this website, perhaps because of loyalty to someone he worked with.  But I doubt that Mr. Loy was involved in an effort to deface a California Court of Appeal opinion on the website  The Aug. 5, 2014 opinion, which stated that I am allowed by the Constitution to mention the names of attorneys who work for schools, was seriously defaced.  I sent the following message to on December 8, 2014:

Who defaced this decision?  This page was perfectly legible for several years after the 2011 decision.   On December 8, 2014, I find that a large amount of the decision has been overwritten, making it indecipherable.  Was this page hacked, or does want it to be largely unreadable?
10 minutes later had fixed the defaced Stutz v. Larkins page.

Here is part of the hacked page:

On December 8, 2014 I was reading David Loy's biography on the San Diego ACLU website, and I was struck by the irony of his claims to fame.  Freedom of speech?  Open government and public disclosure? 

David Loy was indeed chosen as a Top Attorney in 2009 and 2010, but I suspect the reason was NOT that he defended free speech, but that he crafted a couple of agreements with schools regarding student speech.

Those agreements generated some nice media attention for Mr. Loy.  But what was he doing behind the scenes?

He was pressuring me to remove the names of public entity attorneys from my website.  He wrote to me telling me that I must remove every mention of certain public attorneys he had worked with!

The Court of Appeal disagreed with Mr. Loy that I must remove those names.  See story in Voice of San Diego.

The Stutz v. Larkins decision on the Leagle website was largely unreadable for some time in 2014. It was fixed on Dec. 8, 2014.

Here's the decision that somebody didn't want you to see.  Clearly, David Loy didn't want this case to be heard by the Court of Appeal, so I assume he wasn't happy with the decision.

So how does David Loy get off claiming to be an expert in free speech and a champion of sunshine in government?  He most certainly is NOT a supporter of transparency in public entities, as shown by his efforts to silence public discussion of public attorneys.

Legal Director, David Loy
After graduating law school, Loy clerked for Judge Dolores K. Sloviter of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He worked as a staff attorney with Office of the Appellate Defender in New York City and public defender and civil rights attorney in Spokane, Washington before joining the ACLU in 2006. He previously served on the Southern District Lawyer Representative Committee and the board of California Appellate Defense Counsel. Loy was named one of San Diego’s Top Attorneys 2009 and 2010 by San Diego Daily Transcript. He supervises all legal advocacy at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, and has particular expertise in freedom of speech and religion, open government and public disclosure, police misconduct, and constitutional criminal procedure. Loy has a law degree from Northwestern and a B.A. from Brown, and is licensed to practice in California and New York (with inactive licenses in Illinois and Washington).
--from ACLU website 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Why don't we get real reform in schools?

 I was astounded a few days ago to learn that Promise Neighborhoods is not revealing the results of the $60 million grant it made to the Castle Park neighborhood in Chula Vista two years ago.  I attended Castle Park Elementary as a student and worked there as a teacher, so I'm quite familiar with the culture of the school.  I had a feeling that the Promise grant wasn't going to help much because the people in charge were basically the same people who had driven Castle Park Elementary into the ground ten years ago.

Here's my recent post on the problem.

Below is an article with some thoughts about why we have inadequate leaders most of the time in most areas of endeavor.

The problem?  Hypocognition.  We just don't know enough, and we don't know what we're missing.  It's the "unknown unknowns" that Donald Rumsfeld talked about.

Why are these clowns winning?  Neuroscience explains incompetence of all sides 
Paul Rosenberg

...[W]hen a very smart idea or very smart person comes along, the organizations are not necessarily very skilled at recognizing that person’s genius,” Dunning said.  “We have lots of data showing that very top performers, their top performances are very much missed. The genius of their ideas are just missed by the group.”

...University of California, Berkeley, cognitive linguist George Lakoff, whose work illuminating the cognitive and communicative differences between liberals and conservatives—”Moral Politics,” “Don’t Think of An Elephant,” “Whose Freedom,” etc.—has found a wide audience centered in the progressive activist base, but has yet to seriously impact the political professionals whose collective failure I alluded to in this story’s first paragraph.

When I interviewed him recently for Salon, Lakoff even highlighted the concept of hypocognition—that “we don’t have all the ideas we need.” One example he cited was the concept of reflexivity, “the fact that thought is part of the world. That when you’re thinking, it’s not separate from reality, it’s part of reality. And if your understanding of the world is reflected in what you do, then that thought comes into the world through your actions,” which helps to explain, in part, the power of conservative mythos, even when it’s mistaken as a matter of fact, a matter of logos.
Lakoff also pointed out that “Hypocognition itself is an idea that we need.” There are things going on in our social and political world that we don’t have names for—and because we don’t have names for them, we can’t think and talk about them coherently.  So, we have conservatives on the one hand acting on their mythos, mistakenly believing it’s true as a matter of logos—which is one kind of incompetence—and yet, nonetheless reshaping reality through the power of reflexivity. (Think of how invading Iraq in response to 9/11 helped bring ISIS into existence, for example.) On the other hand, we have liberals seeing things only in terms of logos, who can’t understand how wildly mistaken conservatives can nonetheless reshape the world to reflect their paranoid fantasies, because they’re missing the crucial concept of reflexivity (and even the very concept of missing concepts, the concept of hypocognition)—which is another, very different, but very real form of incompetence.
So, when Dunning told me, “The genius of their ideas are just missed by the group,” Lakoff’s discussion of hypocognition naturally came to mind.  What could be a worse idea to miss than the very idea of missing ideas?  If you don’t think they’re out there, you’ll never go looking for them—never believe anyone who claims to have found one of them, either.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

FBI Seizes Los Angeles Schools' iPad Documents

See previous post: Los Angeles Unified halts $1 billion contract for iPads after revelations about shenanigans in the bidding process

FBI Seizes Los Angeles Schools' iPad Documents
FBI agents seized 20 boxes of documents related to Los Angeles Unified School District's beleaguered $1 billion iPad project, officials confirmed Tuesday.
Agents confiscated documents at the district's offices Monday regarding procurement practices involving the Common Core Technology project, LAUSD's plan to equip all schools with 21st century learning devices.
The FBI confirmed an investigation into the district, but would not provide any further information, citing the ongoing probe.
"The L.A Unified School District will offer its full cooperation to federal authorities during the course of the investigation," Interim Superintendent Ramon Cortines said in a statement.
The FBI action was first reported by The Los Angeles Times.
The initiative to provide all 650,000 students in the nation's second largest school district with iPads has been plagued with problems from the start. Hundreds of students initially given the iPads last school year found ways to bypass security installations, downloading games and freely surfing the Web. Teachers complained they were not properly trained to instruct students with the new technology. And questions were raised after emails were disclosed showing that then-Superintendent John Deasy had been in communication with vendors Apple and Pearson before the contracts were put to bid.
"The idea of providing first class learning technology to all the kids in the district, not just the kids who could afford it, is certainly a worthy educational goal," said Charles Taylor Kerchner, a professor at Claremont Graduate University. "That worthy goal runs up against problems of organizational feasibility, and it did from the beginning."
It was unclear exactly what aspect of the iPad project ? one of the biggest technological undertakings by an urban district in the U.S. ? the FBI was investigating, though legal experts and education observers immediately focused on Deasy's relationship with Apple and Pearson and the use of construction bond proceeds to spend money on a short-term device purchase.
Ariel Neuman, a former federal prosecutor, said the government is probably investigating possible fraud involving the contracts.
"If someone doesn't disclose a relationship they have with Apple," he said, "those could be material omissions that could lead to a wire or mail fraud case."
Deasy resigned in October, in part due to the troubled iPad rollout and problems with the district's new computerized scheduling system, which left some students unable to enroll in needed classes.
Interim Superintendent Ramon Cortines had planned to move forward with equipping an additional 27 schools with learning devices, but said Tuesday he canceling the contract and starting another. Cortines said he made the decision based on "identified flaws" in the L.A. Unified Inspector General's report on device procurement.
He added that the district would continue with a different contract with Apple to provide iPads and another vendor, Arey Jones, to provide Chromebooks for a new set of exams in the spring aligned to the Common Core, the new academic benchmarks being implemented in California and other states around the nation.
"My intent is that the students attending these schools will receive devices under a new contract at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year," Cortines said.
To date, the district has spent $70 million on the project, purchasing a total of 90,713 devices.
News of the probe immediately drew rebuke from United Teachers of Los Angeles, a frequent Deasy critic. Union president Alex Caputo-Pearl said Deasy, "cannot simply resign and leave a mess for others to clean up."
Deasy did not immediately return a request for comment.
Associated Press writer Brian Melley contributed to this report.

Promise Neighborhoods conceals results of its $60 million grant to Castle Park neighborhood and schools

Promise Neighborhoods conceals Castle Park from search results from its website--so what's the truth about its $60 million grant to Castle Park?
December 2, 2014
by Maura Larkins

The Castle Park area in Chula Vista, CA was granted $60 million in Promise Neighborhood money two years ago, in December 2012.  What improvements in student performance have been seen since the money started being spent in early 2013?  Strangely, Promise Neighborhoods took credit for improvements in the spring 2013 test scores at Castle Park Middle School though some think that the new principal, not Promise Neighborhood, deserved credit for the student progress.
But I'd be willing to give Promise Neighborhoods some of the credit if test scores had gone up again in spring 2014.  But strangely, Promise Neighborhoods is silent about those scores.

In fact, Promise Neighborhoods doesn't seem to want people to see the June 2013 article announcing the spring 2013 scores.

Today I tried to search the Promise Neighborhood website for "castle park elementary" and that article didn't even show up in the results!  I also searched for "Chula Vista" and got no results.

What kind of a search tool do they have that would leave out their own article?

I clicked on the tag "chula vista" at the bottom of the article and discovered only one other article that mentions Chula Vista Promise Neighborhoods. This last article is dated Aug. 22, 2013.  It's now December 2014.  Why no follow-up on the $60 million investment????

The links in the Castle Park article are not so great either.   The link to the Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood’s South Bay Community Services resulted in this message: "Not Found--The requested URL /services/promise-neighborhood/ was not found on this server.

I'm guessing that things aren't so great in Castle Park!  But if a
$60 million grant isn't working, shouldn't Promise Neighborhoods be honest about it?  Who is gaining from their secrecy?

Here's the June 2013 article:

Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood Gets Results with Innovative School Turnaround Model
June 7, 2013
By Samuel Sinyangwe
Promise Neighborhoods Institute

Groundbreaking research from Dr. Robert Balfanz establishes that middle
school is a “make or break” period for children. Children who fail math or
reading, are suspended or expelled, and/or are chronically absent during these
critical years often drop out when they get to high school. To keep children on
the path to success, Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood’s South Bay
Community Services has collaborated with Principal Robert Bleisch to
implement the Granger Turnaround Model (GTM) at Castle Park Middle School.
This innovative model has produced immediate, dramatic results in ELA and
Math proficiency scores and attendance in all five schools that have adopted
the model to date.

How do they do it? Through a well-defined, data-driven system that intervenes
immediately to keep students from falling behind. When students are absent,
they make up that learning time during the weekend. If a student fails a quiz,
they are re-taught after-school and re-tested the following week.

The system works through collaboration. South Bay Community Services
provides staff who collect daily achievement and attendance data before the
bell rings to identify students who need support. They then distribute folders to
these students at the end of the school day telling them where to go for
appropriate intervention. Students are re-taught until they succeed, teachers
feel more empowered when they see their students improve, which leads to a
culture of success for the entire school.

During the first year of GTM implementation (2011-2012), Castle Park Middle
School dramatically increased math and science proficiency scores, reduced
incidences of misbehavior and achieved a remarkable 99% attendance rate!
Given these impressive results, Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood is
replicating the GTM model at
Castle Park Elementary School and Hilltop Middle


  please help me understand why stories like this never hit the mainstream
media. in our part of the country, we are trying to change the downward curve,
and it is perfect time for info to get before people who are trying to save public
education. the other piece is that patents and caregivers need to get the same
info in an appropriate way so that THEY WOULD BE MORE PRONE TO
COOPERATE ! i guess that only so much can be done at one time. keep up the
great work and collaboration!!

  Comment by don speaks — June 10, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

  Hi Don,

  We agree!

  If you think these stories should get more coverage, help us spread the word
by sharing this post via email to your networks, posting on social media, etc! If
we show interest, reporters will take note.


  Comment by Shantha — June 10, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

[Maura Larkins' comment: It would be appropriate for Promise Neighborhoods to share its 2013-2014 results.  Where are they????]

  Just a couple of comments from a teacher at Castle Park Middle, although
aspects of this model have merit it must be said that the way the model has
been portrayed here does not reflect what is actually happening at CPM. The
data that is being used to show growth is from the 2011-2012 school year, that
was the year Principal Bleisch took over as principal, the school did not start
implementing these reforms until the 2012-2013 school year; the growth is from
the hard work of teachers not from Principal Bleisch’s reforms. Interesting this
starts with a statement of the need to keep students in school since for the last
month of school many students (low scoring, attendance issues, behavior
problems) were forced onto independent study contracts to keep them out of
school and then were removed from our attendance rolls the last week of
school to take their grades and scores off of the books. Principal Bleisch is
attempting to gain notoriety and make money off his “system”. That is why he
takes credit for everything good, blames teachers for anything wrong, and has
no qualms forcing students and parents to sign away their rights.

  Comment by CPM Teacher — June 12, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

Update: Promise's 2013 report states: "CVPromise Staff who live or grew up in Castle Park or surrounding neighborhoods--98%"