Tuesday, October 17, 2017

School officials and their attorneys make sure nothing ever changes: San Ysidro spent almost half a million on Manuel Paul

The shenanigans never stop. It's ridiculous to keep pursuing Manuel Paul without cleaning up the corruption that exists currently. Paul was just playing the game; he just wasn't as good at it as most school officials, attorneys, etc. who get wealthy off of schools. The truly greedy players stay in power while the public is distracted by small-time crooks like Paul.

Even so, the money spent on lawyers regarding Manuel Paul is negligible compared to the $3 million MiraCosta College spent on a case involving $305 in stolen water for palm trees. In the end, MiraCosta let the palm trees die. Obviously, many, if not most, schools are run for the benefit of individuals, not the public.

San Ysidro School District Has Spent $480K Trying to Recover $291K From Ex-Superintendent
Ashly McGlone
Voice of San Diego
October 16, 2017

San Ysidro School District is still trying to recover more than $291,000 from disgraced former superintendent Manuel Paul, and has racked up far more than that in legal bills trying to make it happen.
The district has paid Long Beach law firm Leal-Trejo $480,000 as part of the lawsuit against Paul, filed in February 2015, according to figures provided to Voice of San Diego in response to a Public Records Act request...
“I will consult with the Board of Education to find the best remedy for this case,” Deputy Superintendent Arturo Sanchez-Macias wrote in an email. Sanchez-Macias, who is currently serving as interim superintendent, declined to comment further on the fees...

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Five Dysfunctions of CVESD; Erika Taylor removed as principal at Greg Rogers

I've seen bad principals and I've seen bad teachers but one thing I've rarely seen is effective problem-solving at CVESD.--Maura Larkins

CVESD can't talk to reporters or parents about why it removed Erika Taylor as principal. That's a fact. They might spread rumors, but they can't talk on the record.

So I have a suggestion for Greg Rogers parents.

The deeper problems is that CVESD has a history of covering-up events in schools. Like just about every school district in the country (and in the world), CVESD is a dysfunctional organization. 

So I wish Greg Rogers parents would campaign against school secrecy instead of demanding action in a case where they know nothing about what's going on.

I'd advise parents not to be completely swayed by a few high-profile projects of any principal. What really matters is how the school is being run. Don't be totally enthralled by bread and circuses.

It's possible the school has been run badly by Erika Taylor.

On the other hand, it's possible she's a fine principal and this is another case of teachers manipulating the school district in an exercise of political power. I have seen that happen in CVESD schools.

I'd bet good money (of course, the definition of "good" is determined by my income) that there is a long history of angry staff meetings at this school. I once taught at a school where the staff meetings consisted of teachers screaming at the principal for a significant part of two-hour meetings that involved endless complaints from teachers. Yes, I mean screaming, as in speaking in an extremely loud, shrill voice.

I bet there have been big problems but the parents have been kept in the dark. I think parents should be part of the solution of the problems, not treated like outsiders at the school.

CVESD is really bad at effectively solving problems.


(The PTA is too political and it's under the control of the district. So start your own organization. There are too many secrets that should not be secrets. You should know how decisions are made about your kids. You should know what's happening at your kids' school )

I urge you to join with middle school parents. They know all kinds of things about your school. And you need to start learning about the schools your kids will attend in the future.

It would be ideal if some  teachers would come to your meetings and explain their expectations and their policies. You can learn a lot from teachers. But the teachers should also listen to your concerns. Some teachers are willing to do so.

Maybe you could call your group the "Parent Teacher Problem Solution Society." I'd suggest The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Pat Lencioni as a guiding document.

Parents, students fight to get principal reinstated

Posted: Oct 11, 2017 By Abbie Alford, ReporterCBS Channel 8
.....“By removing Ms. Taylor, you failed the children,” said Erika Taylor’s mother, Anne Taylor.
The board did not respond to the public comments...

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Superintendent Julio Fonseca resigns from San Ysidro School District amid sexual harrassment and retaliation claims

The Julio Fonseca case is the tip of an iceberg. Unlike most scandals in schools, you're allowed to read about this one in the newspaper. The truly important stories are kept out of the newspaper.

Voters are usually allowed to find out something that is going on in a school district only when a single individual has a problem, such as John Collins in Poway. But sometimes you don't even find out much even when it appears that a single individual had a problem. For example, when Superintendent Dennis Doyle suddenly cleared out of his office in National School District, the reason was never revealed. The board claimed that it didn't even know that he had emptied his office and disappeared! I'm guessing there were more people than just Mr. Doyle who were compromised by unknown events at that time.

News outlets are very protective of the system of secrecy and silence that veils deeper problems in schools, or rather, that veils the actions of powerful people at higher levels of the education establishment. Voters are left ignorant of how school districts really work.

The Julio Fonseca case got full coverage because it only involves one expendable individual.

But bigger guys than Julio are still comfortably ensconced in bigger offices, such as San Diego County Office of Education, causing much bigger problems.

Why is La Prensa telling this story when it keeps other education stories under wraps?  La Prensa seems to have a very personal connection to this story. The employee fired by Julio has become COO of La Prensa.

San Ysidro Schools Superintendent Resigns Amid Harrassment Claim
September 2, 2017
By Eduardo Rueda – Investigative Reporter
La Prensa 

San Ysidro School District Superintendent Julio Fonseca resigned abruptly on Friday night after a four-hour closed-door Board meeting...
“The Board, by a vote of five to zero, accepted the resignation of the Superintendent effective immediately, in exchange for 18 months of compensation and release of all claims,” reported Board President Rosaleah Pallasigue. “Dr. Fonseca’s departure is based on a personal situation,” Pallasigue added. [Maura Larkins' comment: yeah, right.]
Fonseca is currently facing a civil lawsuit filed against him by San Diegans for Open Government alleging he unlawfully approved a $114,000 settlement payout in May 2016 to a former employee that had raised concerns about Fonseca’s relationship with a female district employee.
The terminated employee, Jose Enrique Gonzalez, claimed Fonseca confided in him in December 2015 that he was about to hire a woman he was dating. The following week, the District hired Alexis Rodriguez to be the director of the District’s before- and after-school programs.
Days later, Gonzalez raised the issue of the relationship with other District staff, and within weeks, he was terminated from his position at the District.
Although Gonzalez never filed a tort claim or a lawsuit against the District, the Board quickly approved a settlement agreement with him on April 15, 2016, granting him one year’s salary plus benefits.
After his termination, Gonzalez became the COO of La Prensa San Diego...

This story notwithstanding, voters don't really know what goes on behind closed doors at school districts.

The most important thing to districts is to present a calm, happy face to the world. They have a strict code of silence. The thing they hate most is publicity.  Employees are ordered not to talk to the media. It's not unlike police departments.

Rick Werlin, Asst. Supt. of Chula Vists ESD refused to investigate what happened at Castle Park Elementary in 2001 because it would have revealed criminal behavior by himself and others. He demanded that I be silent. He said I "needed to forget the past." He then demanded that I come back to work. I refused because I feared more harassment and intimidation since guilty parties were desperate to cover up wrongdoing.

About year later I filed suit and the board fired me at the next board meeting for refusing to come to work. Why didn't they fire me during the previous year when I wasn't coming to work? Obviously, they preferred not to fire me. But someone apparently advised them that it was the best response to my lawsuit.

Firing me was obviously illegal retaliation for filing suit.

The Union-Tribune and Voice of San Diego and La Prensa knew all about this case but they kept quiet. That's how much power school districts have.

News outlets prefer stories about teachers or administrators who are newsworthy but whose stories won't rock the system. When the wrongdoing goes higher, they usually keep quiet.

I believe Emily Alpert was fired from VOSD because she was investigating SDCOE. VOSD claimed that it let reporters write about whatever they wanted, but that ceased to be true at some point--and the change was not revealed to readers.

The UT and La Prensa fell all over themselves to report about the five teachers who were transferred out of Castle Park Elementary in 2004.

The teachers at the school had gone completely rogue, in large part thanks to the administration and school board that spent large amounts of tax dollars covering up illegal actions by teachers and administrators.

Naturally, the rogue teachers believed themselves to be in complete control of the school.

But the UT and La Prensa, even though they knew about the problems caused by these teachers, pretended that the Castle Park Five were innocent victims of administrators. In fact, the administrators were dupes and dopes who were led by the nose by power-hungry teachers. The instinct to cover up problems led the district to commit and cover up crimes.

This information is on my website.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Letting kids sleep in could save U.S. $9 billion a year, study finds

Letting kids sleep in could save U.S. $9 billion a year, study finds

Shelby Lin Erdman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Starting school no earlier than 8:30 a.m. could not only save the U.S. $9 billion every year, it might also lead to improved educational achievement and fewer traffic accidents among tired teenagers.

Those are a couple of conclusions from an extensive Rand Corporation study on delaying school start times.
The research suggests that a later school start time could result in economic increases in a relatively short period of time after the change with an $83 billion fiscal impact after a decade.

“The significant economic benefits from simply delaying school start times to 8.30 a.m. would be felt in a matter of years, making this a win-win, both in terms of benefiting the public health of adolescents and doing so in a cost-effective manner,” study co-author Wendy Troxel said in a press release.
The argument against making a change in school start times,for example, includes a loss in money and increased costs of transportation changes, like rescheduling bus routes.

Researchers also said that they used a conservative approach and did not include other problems from too little sleep among children, including  higher suicide rates, increased obesity and mental health issues, concluding that “the reported economic benefits from delaying school start times could be even higher across many U.S. states.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also supports staring school later
“Not getting enough sleep is common among high school students and is associated with several health risks including being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and using drugs, as well as poor academic performance, “ according to the CDC.
And one of the reasons children don’t get enough sleep is early school start times, CDC officials said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said that most teenagers start school too early and also recommends middle and high school students start school at 8:30 a.m. or later.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Scripps Research Institute ranked first in the world, while nearby UC San Diego was 14th

Scripps Research Institute Tops World in Science Quality, Says Ranking
The Scripps Research Institute ranked first in the world in research quality and commercialization of new products, while nearby UC San Diego was 14th, according to the journal Nature.

The publication’s Nature Index connects scholarly papers from research institutions with the patents that cite them..

Monday, August 07, 2017

Poway Superintendent Collins charged with 5 felonies

Ex-Poway Superintendent Is Facing Five Felony Charges
John Collins is facing five felony charges for allegedly misusing public money, vacation, sick and leave time while superintendent of the Poway Unified School District, according to a complaint filed by the San Diego County district attorney’s office on Friday...

Collins enjoyed a close relationship with the teacher’s union during his tenure as superintendent, which was credited for helping to avoid a strike and layoffs during difficult economic times.

The district was thrust into the national spotlight in 2012 when news emerged about a costly $1 billion capital appreciation bond deal struck on Collins’ watch in 2011, and Collins faced criticism locally during his last year on the job for, among other things, edits made to a consultant report and so-called “me-too” clauses in Collins’ contract that allowed him to benefit from teacher and manager pay negotiations...

[Comments by me and Chris Brewster--and Charles Sellars:]

So Poway school board member Charles Sellers says the board offered to work out an "amicable solution" for his departure from the district and the repayment of the funds that he misappropriated. What responsible public entity endeavors to work out an amicable solution with someone who has misappropriated over $300k? This suggests to me a serious lack of judgment on the part of the school board, which is probably already evident in that they kept this individual employed for so long.

@Chris Brewster Litigation is very costly and time-consuming. All civil cases should be settled. When they're not settled, it means one or both parties is being unreasonable (unless there is a genuine uncertainty about the law applicable to the case). Clearly, in this case, Collins is being unreasonable, and he wants to do as much harm as he can to the school district.

Ms. Larkins: I agree that litigation can costly and time-consuming. I do not agree that all civil cases should be settled. Some, for example, are initiated to intimidate or for other inappropriate reasons. A good example is the civil case against Taylor Swift, which was recently tossed by a federal judge, but only after she contested it in court. Had she settled, she would have implied some degree of personal responsibility, which the judge found lacking. Settling to avoid court costs is a tactic that avoids costs, but can add insult to injury.
The suggestion of my post however is that the members of the school board who presided over the district during this individual's tenure were seriously negligent in allowing someone who has now been charged with felonies to engage in the alleged activities. Trying to mediate with someone you believe has stolen public funds is a fool's errand and even if successful, allows the person to retain some of the purloined public funds. One might suggest that something is better than nothing, but there is principle involved. For example, do you negotiate with someone who has robbed your bank and settle for half of the funds they stole?

@Chris Brewster
I would like to amend my comment to say,
"All civil cases should be settled or dropped (unless there is genuine uncertainty about the applicable law)."

Of course, dropping a case is a sort of settlement. In fact, frivolous lawsuits are sometimes settled in favor of the defendant when the plaintiff comes to his senses. Taylor Swift's case could have been settled in her favor, with the plaintiff apologizing to her and perhaps paying her legal fees.

The idea of settling for half the funds stolen might make sense if the money has already been spent and the defendant has no other resources. You can't get blood from a stone, but you can waste a lot of time and energy trying. But remember that it is also possible to settle for ALL the money and then some. Surely you'd approve of that????

I do not believe in the principle of draining a school district of money and people-hours and peace just out of revenge. The first duty of a school district is to the public, not the desire for revenge.

@Chris Brewster Also, it is ridiculous for you to pretend that Sellars has responsibility for keeping Collins employed so long. Sellars opposed Collins from the start. Sellars was elected in November 2014. In April 2015, VOSD reported on Sellars:
"John [Collins] and Candy [Smiley, president of Poway teachers] cut up the pie,” said school board member Charlie Sellers, who was elected in November. “The previous board simply rubber-stamped their action and this board is actually questioning their actions and they don’t like it.”

Ms. Larkins: Could you kindly point out where in my remarks I suggested that Mr. Sellars has responsibility for keeping Mr. Collins employed for so long? I'm unable to find any such implication. As for your other point, I agree that the first duty of a school district is to the public, not the desire for revenge. The school board clearly made some terrible decisions here. The question is, once they determined this gentleman fleeced them, would the best option not be to turn the case over to the DA and ask that as part of the prosecution, the defendant be required to pay the school district back? Achieving an out of court settlement for half (of what they think he stole for example) is not, in my view, in the best interest of the school district or justice. It is Mr. Sellars who is quoted as believing the some mediated settlement would have been desirable. It is with that sentiment that I disagree for the reasons noted.

@Chris Brewster
If you tell me that you didn't intend to blame Sellars for keeping Collins employed, I believe you.

But let me explain how a logical reader would read your statements (although your final clause might not have accurately reflected what you wanted to say).

To start with, you mentioned Sellars by name, saying, "...Charles Sellers says the board offered to work out an "amicable solution" for his departure from the district and the repayment of the funds that he misappropriated."

You thus pointed out Charles Sellars as the one board member who took public responsibility for the effort to settle with Collins. We can assume that a majority of the board supported this effort, but we don't know who the other individuals were.

You then made clear that this effort by Charles Sellars and these other unknown individuals  demonstrated a lack of judgment: "What responsible public entity endeavors to work out an amicable solution with someone who has misappropriated over $300k? This suggests to me a serious lack of judgment..."

You then added another accusation against Sellars and the unknown individuals, "This suggests to me a serious lack of judgment, which is probably already evident in that they kept this individual employed for so long."

"They" obviously refers to Sellars and the unknown individuals.

I believe you if you didn't mean to implicate Sellars in keeping Collins employed so long. If you didn't mean to implicate him, I'd be interested to know that.

@Chris Brewster
Regarding your point that settlement is bad because the DA might want to get a judgment for ALL damages, I agree with your sentiment that the money should be paid back in full if Collins has the ability to pay.

But the man seems to be broke. In other words, he is judgment-proof.

You can't get blood from a stone. If he had turned over what he still had at the time of the settlement offer in return for the district waiving the rest of his debt, the students would be ahead.

I doubt Collins will ever pay a cent to Poway Unified.

Ms. Larkins: I know nothing about Mr. Sellars other than what I have read here (i.e. his quote). I think the action he supported was unwise and inappropriate. I think that if a public entity becomes aware that a person in their employ has acted unlawfully, they should turn the information over to the proper authorities. Full stop. I think this is a continuation of bad decisions by the board, Whether Mr. Sellars was involved in some or all of them is not something I am in a position to dissect. 

@Chris Brewster
Chris, you have every right to believe that the settlement offer was "unwise and inappropriate."
But you are wrong to deny that the new board with Mr. Sellars and Kimberly Beatty did an investigation and turned their results over to the proper authorities.
That's exactly what they did.
They also are suing Collins to get the money back. Are you saying that they shouldn't be suing Collins to get the money back?
We are talking about two separate things here: the criminal case and the civil suit.

And I must disagree with your insistence that "the board" continued the same kind of decision-making after Mr. Sellars and Kimberly Beatty were elected. There was a significant change. For some reason, perhaps a political reason, you don't want to give Sellars and Beatty credit for any change.

@Maura Larkins @Chris Brewster Ms. Larkins, thank you for your support it is much appreciated.  Mr. Brewster, what I meant by "amicable" was "mutually agreed".  While I cannot divulge the content of these negotiations, rest assured that our goal as a Board was always to minimize any damage caused to the District.  Sometimes that involves not throwing good money after bad.  While we strongly believe that Dr. Collins owes PUSD all these monies, if not more, there is no guarantee that a court will agree with us.  Even if it does, there is no guarantee that we will ever collect in full from Dr. Collins.  We simply attempted a settlement that would have yielded the most dollars in the least time.  However, Dr. Collins was simply not amenable to negotiation, much less compromise.  Perhaps if he had shown remorse for his actions, paid back what he could, resigned instead of having to be fired, settled instead of forcing us to sue him, he might not be facing jail and the loss of his pension, even though you (and many others) feel that is what he deserves.  I can't speak for the authorities.  We simply followed the law and turned over our findings.  The decisions to  criminally prosecute and strip him of his credentials were made by others.  I'm just saying that had he agreed to do what was best for Poway Unified, he may also have been doing what was best for himself.  While he had numerous opportunities to do just that, he always chose not to and only he can say why. Perhaps he will, in court. - - Charles Sellers, PUSD Trustee.

Mr. Sellars: Thanks for taking the time to reply. Much appreciated. My view is that if a public entity, such as yours, has reason to believe that crimes have been committed, that information should be turned over to the proper prosecutorial authorities and they should handle the case. If that was done expeditiously, it is not apparent to me from the stories I have read. 
@Chris Brewster When we fired Dr. Collins for cause in July of 2016, we immediately turned over the results of our forensic audit to both the District Attorney and the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, as required by law.  I can only assume that appeals with the CTC and negotiations with the DA are what took up the past year.  As they say, the wheels of justice turn slowly.

Mr. Sellars: Thank you for enlightening me and anyone else reading this thread. If the board expeditiously turned over the audit to the authorities noted, I clearly think that was the right thing to do.

Boston charter school leaders' big earnings should help reset expectations in education.

The Pay Leaders Deserve
By Frederick M. Hess
U.S. News and World Report
Aug. 7, 2017

Last week, The Boston Globe ran a front-page story on the pay of Boston's 16 charter-school leaders. Headlined "Charter School Leaders Making Big Money," it reported that most of the charter leaders earned total compensation of $150,000 to $200,000 in 2016, with three topping $200,000.

The Globe pointedly noted that Boston's superintendent, Tommy Chang, earned $272,000 last year for leading a 55,000 student district—while most of these charter schools enroll something closer to 500 or 600.

What to make of these data? One could obviously conclude that Boston's charter leaders are wildly overpaid...

But perhaps something else is going on.

It may be that terrific school leaders are underpaid...

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Japan Might Be What Equality in Education Looks Like

"...[I]n Japan only about 9 percent of the variation in student performance is explained by students’ socioeconomic backgrounds. The [world] average is 14 percent, and in the United States, it’s 17 percent."
 Japan Might Be What Equality in Education Looks Like
The country’s government makes sure areas with low income levels and property values get good teachers too.

KAWAMATA, Japan—In many countries, the United States included, students’ economic backgrounds often determine the quality of the education they receive. Richer students tend to go to schools funded by high property taxes, with top-notch facilities and staff that help them succeed. In districts where poorer students live, students often get shoddy facilities, out-of-date textbooks, and fewer guidance counselors. 

Not in Japan...“In Japan, you may have poor areas, but you don’t have poor schools”...

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fallbrook Union High School District, Chula Vista Elementary School District and National School District were rated the worst in bond transparency

School Construction Bonds Need More Oversight, Taxpayers Association Says
Debbie L. Sklar
July 28, 2017

Fewer independent oversight committees at school districts in the county are maintaining high transparency standards in their construction bond programs than last year, the San Diego Taxpayers Education Foundation reported Friday...
The Fallbrook Union High School District, Chula Vista Elementary School District and National School District were rated the worst. The National School District was criticized in the report for having no information online about its 2016 bond measure... Read more HERE

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fallbrook Union Elementary SD still wants to keep secrets, even after Appellate Court says pay Elaine Allyn $1.05 million

Court Sides With District Employee Who Balked at Order to Purge Emails
A fired school district IT director who objected to orders to wipe out the email archive system was rightfully awarded over $1 million by a jury in 2015, an appellate court decided this month.
Elaine Allyn accused the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District of wrongful termination in 2012, and a jury unanimously awarded her $1.05 million for lost income and $148,000 in damages in 2015...

The district’s legal fees fighting Allyn’s claims have cost more than $800,000 to date....

...[A] statement provided by Fallbrook’s assistant superintendent Bill Billingsley said the school board is deciding next steps with legal counsel.

The statement, provided on behalf of Fallbrook’s superintendent Candace Singh, said in part: “The District is clearly disappointed in the appellate court’s decision and is reviewing its options to challenge it further. Although the jury found in the plaintiff’s favor, the leadership of FUESD steadfastly maintains that Mrs. Allyn was not a whistleblower, and that her own misconduct justified her termination from the District.”...

Read more HERE.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Second-grade teacher's unique homework policy goes viral

Second-grade teacher's unique homework policy goes viral


...[T]here’s at least one stressful thing second-graders at Godley Elementary School in Texas won’t have to worry about this year: homework.

Brandy Young teaches 2nd grade at Godley Elementary School in Godley, Texas.
Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher at the school, passed out a letter to every parent at a “Meet the Teacher Night” ahead of the start of the school year to explain her new homework policy -- or should we say, no-homework policy.

A pleased parent posted a photo of the letter on her Facebook page, and it went viral with more than 59,000 shares...

“There will be no formally assigned homework this year,” Brandy Young explained in the letter. “Rather, I ask you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early.”

The teacher said homework just wasn’t working for her classroom anymore. So, she decided to make meaningful change.

“[Students] work hard all day. When they go home they have other things they need to learn there,” Young told CBS News. “I’m trying to develop their whole person; it’s not beneficial to go home and do pencil and paper work.”...


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Teacher of the Year urges Gompers’ community to be accountable

I loved teaching primary grades because I could teach kids basic skills instead of teaching over students' heads, forcing them to go through the motions, pretending they understand what they're doing. But even in primary grades teachers face pressure to teach at the level of the students' age rather than their actual level. And most or all of this pressure usually comes from other teachers.

Teacher of the Year urges Gompers’ community to be accountable
More than 25 teachers and students have come forward to talk about allegations of grade inflation and unrealistic academic expectations detailed by inewsource last week in an investigation of Gompers Preparatory Academy. The school is a sixth-through-12th grade charter in southeastern San Diego that promises “students can succeed at the university of their choice.”

Maria Miller, a resident of nearby Encanto, was named Teacher of the Year during one of her three years at the school. She’s currently an 8th-grade teacher at Lewis Middle School.

Miller was impressed with the order and procedures where once stood chaos, gangs and drugs. She was excited as a first-year teacher, but said she immediately noticed a problem when her advanced placement (AP) history students couldn’t read at a sixth-grade level.

She has concluded there is a glaring disconnect between the school’s leadership and the surrounding Chollas View community, as well as a need for partnerships with the elementary schools that feed into Gompers.

... [T]ranscript of inewsource’s conversation with Miller...

When I actually started to develop my lessons, and have my classroom and do what it is that I wanted to do … I started to run into some resistance in terms of how I had been trained for an AP class and what the expectation of an AP class was.
Students I knew were reading at a sixth-grade level were taking an AP class...

I had a lot of resistance in terms of how fast and the amount of work that I was giving the students. And then the students themselves. I recall a student running out of my room because they couldn’t write a summary. ‘I don’t know what you’re asking me to do.’ This was 11th grade...

UCSD teacher convicted of molesting student

LA JOLLA, Calif. (KGTV) -- - A sexual predator masked as a teacher at one of the top charter high schools in the nation. The family of the girl he molested spoke only to 10News as they launch a full-scale lawsuit against the teacher and the Preuss School.

In a place where students should be safe a 17-year-old girl was manipulated and abused.

A teacher at the school, Walter Solomon molested the teen while he was teaching at the Preuss School. He was convicted in October, but the case is only now being made public...

A formal complaint from the victim's attorneys detail their relationship, saying Solomon was "known to the students at Preuss as a 'Pedo' which is short for pedophile..."

...Now, the victim's attorneys are going after the school and saying there were plenty of red flags.
"This teacher was actually grooming my client and grooming her to the point where he could ultimately sexually abuse her," said Steve Estey...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Despite A’s at Gompers, former student talks about feeling unprepared

First I want to say that it was brave and generous of UCSD student Felipe Morfin Martinez to come forward and say that his K-12 education did not adequately prepare him in science. I'm glad he brought that issue to the attention of the public.

I noticed that Felipe blames only the director of his high school--not his teachers--for his lack of academic preparation in science. I think Felipe is allowing his good personal relationships with his teachers to interfere with his assessment of the situation.

I believe that Felipe was short-changed, but I believe the problem started in elementary school, and I believe that teachers share the blame as much as principals.

Also, I suspect that Gompers doesn't provide adequate remediation for kids who didn't learn basic concepts in elementary school.

Also, it's possible that Felipe wasn't really much interested in science. He says,

"I wanted to do science and I guess it clicked on me when I was probably in 10th grade or ninth grade where it was like, ‘my dreams aren’t going to happen because I can see it. I’m not ready for that, I’m not prepared for that.’"
Why would he give up on science in "10th grade or ninth grade"?

I know from personal experience that an effective teacher can teach kids to thoroughly understand math and science concepts. Felipe's problem isn't that his classes weren't advanced enough.  Felipe must have taken courses up to and including pre-calculus to get into UCSD. He could also have taken two more years of calculus.

The problem is that only a minority of kids deeply understand basic concepts. And often those kids learned more at home than at school.

During my years teaching in elementary school I far too frequently heard teachers claiming that the math was too hard for any teacher to understand. I once contradicted such a teacher, and then I learned to keep my mouth shut.

The problem is a lack of basic education in elementary school and a lack of remedial education in the higher grades. And you need super good teachers to make remedial education fun and fascinating. You can't just have hacks that pass out easy math worksheets...


inewsource published an investigation last week into the quality of education at Gompers Preparatory Academy — a nationally recognized charter school that promises “students can succeed at the university of their choice.” After the story ran, Felipe Morfin Martinez came forward to share his experience.

Morfin Martinez graduated from Gompers in 2016 and was awarded a full-ride scholarship to the University of California San Diego where he is studying communications.

He told inewsource that he realized early in his Gompers education that he wasn’t being challenged in his classes. Despite earning straight A’s, he said, he knew he wasn’t prepared to achieve his dream of pursuing a career in science. When he shared his concerns at home, he said, his parents responded: “You don’t believe in yourself, look at your grades.”

Morfin Martinez says he’s proud of his straight A’s at UCSD, “but they’re not the classes I wish I could take. They’re not organic chemistry, they’re not the chemistry series, the math series, they’re not the classes that people value.”...

Friday, May 19, 2017

All Kids Can Have Great Teachers (Without Firing Any Teachers

The best teachers should be able to rise far above average teachers on the salary scale — and they should have far more responsibility. All Kids Can Have Great Teachers (Without Firing Any Teachers

No one really knows what’s going on in individual public school classrooms. Observations by principals tend to be fleeting and few. We don’t need to fire anybody, but we do need to use highly-skilled teachers and ordinary teachers where they can do the optimal good.

The truth is that the critical moments in learning don’t happen continuously five hours a day. They add up to at most a couple of hours each day, and probably much less.

The rest of the time an ordinary teacher can handle lesson reinforcement, computer activities, art projects, silent reading, etc.

The best teachers should be able to rise far above average teachers on the salary scale — and they should have far more responsibility. In my plan, each classroom would have a full-time regular teacher.

Several classrooms would share a master teacher, who would be responsible for student progress, teaching lessons part-time and guiding the regular teacher.

Gifted regular teachers would be eligible to become master teachers. Instead of bringing in vendors selling the latest gimmick for tens of thousands of dollars, master teachers would do all necessary training.

Here’s the comparison for four classrooms and one extra salary (in thousands):

Currently: $60 + $60 + $60 + $60 + $60 = $300
New plan: $100+$50+$50+$50+$50 = $300 (minus exorbitant cost of education vendors)

If we add more money, we could have more master teachers. Meaningful evaluations of teachers would have to be instituted. Current evaluation systems are worse than useless.

My plan would call for frequent observations by both master and regular teachers, who would observe classrooms in other districts to keep school politics at bay. The observations would have a beneficial side effect: they would allow teachers to pick up new ideas.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Catherine Lhamon, ACLU attorney in LAUSD last-hired/first-fired case, talks about Betsy DeVos

Catching up with Catherine Lhamon
By Benjamin Wermund

The Obama administration’s actions to combat campus sexual assault rocked higher ed. Now, college leaders and advocates are wondering what to expect from the Trump administration. 

Catherine Lhamon, the chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights who previously ran the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights under President Barack Obama, says she’s dismayed that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos hasn’t spelled out her position on the federal enforcement role in campus sexual assault. 

Lhamon said she would’ve expected DeVos to walk into her Senate confirmation hearing prepared to say whether she would maintain the Obama administration's guidance that spelled out the standard of evidence for sexual assault administrative hearings at colleges and universities. 

“I would have hoped that she had heard from all sides before that date, but I look forward to her getting up to speed,” Lhamon said. “Also, I noted with interest her saying that her mother's heart is ‘piqued’ by the issue. I hope it is piqued in ensuring civil rights for all students under her charge.”

— DeVos, who started work on Wednesday, did not specifically mention the issue of campus sexual assault in a speech to staff. But she said she's committed to ensuring that students have "learning environments that foster innovation and curiosity, and are also free from harm." At her confirmation hearing, DeVos said it would be premature to say whether she’d keep the existing guidance in place...

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Study: students who got vouchers did much worse than students who didn't

"They found large negative results in both reading and math. Public elementary school students who started at the 50th percentile in math and then used a voucher to transfer to a private school dropped to the 26th percentile in a single year. Results were somewhat better in the second year, but were still well below the starting point."

Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins
Kevin Carey
FEB. 23, 2017

...In June, a third voucher study was released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank and proponent of school choice. The study, which was financed by the pro-voucher Walton Family Foundation, focused on a large voucher program in Ohio. “Students who use vouchers to attend private schools have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools,” the researchers found. Once again, results were worse in math.

Three consecutive reports, each studying one of the largest new state voucher programs, found that vouchers hurt student learning. Researchers and advocates began a spirited debate about what, exactly, was going on.

Mark Dynarski of the Brookings Institution noted that the performance gap between private and public school students had narrowed significantly over time. He argued that the standards, testing and accountability movement, for all its political shortcomings, was effective. The assumed superiority of private schools may no longer hold.

Some voucher supporters observed that many private schools in Louisiana chose not to accept voucher students, and those that did had recently experienced declining enrollment. Perhaps the participating schools were unusually bad and eager for revenue. But this is another way of saying that exposing young children to the vagaries of private-sector competition is inherently risky. The free market often does a terrible job of providing basic services to the poor — see, for instance, the lack of grocery stores and banks in many low-income neighborhoods. This may also hold for education...

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

High school and college classes should start later

Down With 8 A.M. Classes: Undergrads Learn Better Later In The Day, Study Finds
April 19, 2017
Sara Sarwar

" College classes start too early in the morning for students' brains.

"While most colleges have start times of around 8 a.m., Jonathan Kelley advises NPR Ed that the ideal start time would be more like 10 or 11 a.m. The reason: People fall into different "chronotypes," which people know as "early birds" and "night owls." In this sample, night owls outnumbered early birds by far. The reasons for this are biological, says Evans.

Are we actually setting kids back with our emphasis on academics in kindergarten?

I've been in education for 20 years, and there's a disturbing trend afoot in kindergartens around the US
Christopher Brown
Business Insider
Apr. 17, 2017

Being a kindergartner today is very different from being a kindergartner 20 years ago. In fact it is more like first grade.

Researchers have demonstrated that 5-year-olds are spending more time engaged in teacher-led academic learning activities than play-based learning opportunities that facilitate child-initiated investigations and foster social development among peers.

...Here's how play helps children

Research has consistently shown classrooms that offer children the opportunities to engage in play-based and child-centered learning activities help children grow academically, socially and emotionally. Furthermore, recess in particular helps children restore their attention for learning in the classroom.

Focus on rules can diminish children's willingness to take academic risks and curiosity as well as impede their self-confidence and motivation as learners — all of which can negatively impact their performance in school and in later life.

Giving children a chance to play and engage in hands-on learning activities helps them internalize new information as well as compare and contrast what they're learning with what they already know. It also provides them with the chance to interact with their peers in a more natural setting and to solve problems on their own. Lastly, it allows kindergartners to make sense of their emotional experiences in and out of school.

Friday, April 14, 2017

This researcher asked kids what's wrong with U.S. schools. Here are their ideas.

Who knows the most about school? Students.
Alisha Huber
May 22, 2015

This is not news: America does pretty badly when it goes up against other countries academically. This is true even if we take it one state at a time—no single state, no matter how wealthy or small, matches the top scoring countries...