The Educated Guess: Lawsuit over ‘nonsense’ EL program

By John Fensterwald – Educated Guess

In a special state Senate hearing last month, California’s system of classifying, reclassifying, and teaching English learners came under heavy criticism from educators and advocates, who cited inconsistent and ineffective policies and practices for teaching students who comprise one-quarter of the state’s schoolchildren. On Wednesday, parents and teachers in a small Central Valley town added an exclamation point to the criticism by filing suit against the state and their school district over a curriculum for English learners they say is damaging their children’s chances to learn to read and write.

The lawsuit, filed in Sacramento Superior Court by attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union in California, charges that 6,000-student Dinuba Unified and the state violated their children’s constitutional right to equal education opportunity and federal law mandating sound instruction for English learners. The district adopted, and the state rubber-stamped its approval of a curriculum that “contradicts everything we know about how children learn language,” ACLU attorney Mark Rosenbaum said in a statement. Teachers in the district who have taught Second Language Acquisition Development Instruction, or SLADI, concluded it was “nonsense,” the lawsuit said.

via Lawsuit over ‘nonsense’ EL program – by John Fensterwald – Educated Guess.

CBS 13-TV: Bullied Vallejo Girl Speaks Out After Videoed Attack

VALLEJO (CBS13) – A girl’s mother says her bullied daughter will not return her school in the Vallejo School District, where parents say bullying is an ongoing problem.

It’s still very difficult for 12-year-old Makiya Howell to talk about the attack.

She was trapped in the girl’s bathroom at Solano Middle School, surrounded by more than a dozen girls two weeks ago, and being punched and kicked while a classmate captures the attack on her cell phone.

“If I didn’t get out of that bathroom they’re really going to try and hurt me,” said Howell.

via Bullied Vallejo Girl Speaks Out After Videoed Attack.

Vallejo Times-Herald: Video shows fight in Vallejo middle school bathroom

By Lanz Christian Bañes/Times-Herald staff writer/

When an eighth-grader at Solano Middle School began forcing Makiya Howell into a girls’ restroom last month, she struggled and pulled away.

“I actually tried to sit on the floor, but she jerked me up in the bathroom,” said Makiya, a 12-year-old sixth-grader.

Inside waiting for her was another eighth-grader, who Makiya and her family said had been threatening her during the week before Makiya was pulled into the bathroom on May 9.

What happened next — the beating, the hair-pulling and the yelling — was partially caught on a cellphone camera and later uploaded to Facebook.

via Video shows fight in Vallejo middle school bathroom.

Vallejo Times-Herald: Vallejo elementary school evacuated after restroom fire

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen/Times-Herald staff writer

A Vallejo elementary student was taken to the hospital Wednesday after a likely anxiety attack from a small fire that forced the evacuation of students and staff, officials said.

The Vallejo Fire Department responded to a call at about 12:30 p.m. about smoke coming from one of the boys’ restrooms at Highland Elementary School, Capt. Steve Smircich said.

The toilet paper fire, though small, created a lot of smoke and prompted officials to order the school’s evacuation. Students and staff members spent about an hour sitting on the grass before being allowed back into their classrooms.

via Vallejo elementary school evacuated after restroom fire.

Vallejo Times-Herald: Benicia High valedictorian heading to Stanford

By Lanz Christian Bañes/Times-Herald staff writer/

BENICIA — Phil Salazar had a tough choice to make: Stay in California or go across the country for school.

In the end, the Benicia High School valedictorian picked the Bay Area — and Stanford University.

“It was between that and (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology),” said the 17-year-old Salazar, who will pursue mechanical engineering at the prestigious university.

Stanford and MIT were Salazar’s top college picks. One of the reasons he chose to stay in California was to be near by his father, a single parent, and his ailing grandmother in Benicia.

via Benicia High valedictorian heading to Stanford.

Vallejo Times-Herald: Baker overcomes adversity, rises to top at Liberty High School

By Lanz Christian Bañes/Times-Herald staff writer/

BENICIA — A year ago, being a valedictorian was the last thing on Paul Baker’s mind.

“When I first came here, I didn’t even know if I was going to graduate,” said Baker, 18, as he sat outside Liberty High School.

Baker not only graduated, but did so a quarter early and with the high grades that made him the continuation school’s top student.

Baker credits much of his success to Liberty, often seen as a

second-chance school where students who do not do well at Benicia High School can get a fresh start or, as in Baker’s case, accelerate their education.

via Baker overcomes adversity, rises to top at Liberty.

Daily Republic: Step taken in meeting with Sullivan Middle School supporters

FAIRFIELD — Sullivan Middle School supporters might get their chance to meet with the district before the end of what in all likelihood will be Sullivan’s final year.

The school board last month voted to close Sullivan Middle School after this school year, part of $6.5 million in cuts to balance next year’s budget. Since the vote, parents and Celtic supporters have signed petitions, decried the closure at public meetings and developed a proposal of ways they think the district could keep the middle school open.

In an email to the board Monday, Save Sullivan members asked for a meeting with the board on Friday or Monday.

via Step taken in meeting with Sullivan supporters.

CA Dept of Education: CELDT Results for 2011-12

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today released the results of the 2011–12 California English Language Development Test (CELDT) that show gains among English learners, with an increasing percentage becoming proficient in their new language.

“We want every English learner to become proficient while making progress in all academic subjects,” Torlakson said. “These results show our students are making important strides toward English language fluency, which will help them tremendously as they work toward their educational goals.”

The CELDT assesses the English-language proficiency of students in kindergarten through grade twelve. The results are used to calculate Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives (AMAOs) for federal accountability requirements.

via CELDT Results for 2011-12.

The Educated Guess: Teacher dismissal bill moves on

By John Fensterwald – Educated Guess

It will be easier and quicker to fire teachers in the most egregious misconduct cases, under a bill that the Senate passed Tuesday 33-4.

SB 1530, a response to a series of shocking abuse cases in Los Angeles Unified, would allow districts to suspend with pay teachers accused of sex, violence, or drug charges involving children and then speed up the process leading to a dismissal. A formal appeals process before the three-member Commission on Professional Competence would be replaced by an administrative law judge who’d issue a strictly advisory opinion to the local school board, which would have the final say.

The bill, authored by Sen. Alex Padilla, a Democrat from Los Angeles, will lead to a significant change in the legal process for a narrow range of misconduct cases. It will also allow districts to file dismissal charges during the summer – a quirk in the law favoring teachers – and will allow evidence more than four years old to be considered in dismissal cases.

Had the bill already been a law, Los Angeles Unified could have handled Mark Berndt, 61, differently. He’s the teacher at Miramonte Elementary who’s been charged with 23 counts of lewd acts against children ages 7 to 10. Rather than go through an expensive and time-consuming appeals process, the district paid Berndt $40,000, including legal fees, to get him to drop the appeal of his firing.

via Teacher dismissal bill moves on – by John Fensterwald – Educated Guess.

NPR News: Small Change In Reading To Preschoolers Can Help Disadvantaged Kids Catch Up

On a recent Monday morning in Washington, D.C., a group of 3-year-old preschoolers bumbled their way into a circle, more or less, on the rug of their classroom. It was time to read.

The children sat cross-legged as their teacher, Mary-Lynn Goldstein, held high a book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. There was a short conversation about pigeons, then, for reasons that weren’t entirely clear, cows; and then Goldstein began to read. She read as most teachers read, occasionally stopping to ask a question, point out a picture or make a comment about the story.

In other words, it was a familiar scene — a scene that, on that very day, likely took place in every preschool classroom in the country. Preschool teachers do this, and have been doing it for decades.

“The thought was you read to children — that will make a big difference in how well they read later on when they’re in school,” says Anita McGinty, an education researcher who works at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education. “That’s still probably the biggest message out there: Read to young children.”

via Small Change In Reading To Preschoolers Can Help Disadvantaged Kids Catch Up.

KGO-TV: Bullied Vallejo student’s mom wants district to take action

In a disturbing video showing an 11-year-old girl being beaten at school in Vallejo, you can see an older girl attacking the younger student, hitting her repeatedly while she struggles on the ground.

Now, the parents of the girl who was beaten want the school district to take action. The student’s mom is so upset she met Tuesday afternoon with someone from the Solano County district attorney’s office asking them to crack down on this kind of bullying.

The video, taken by another student, shows 11-year-old Annisia Williams, a 6th grader, being punched multiple times by an 8th grader. She was also dragged and her hair was pulled while other students from Hogan Middle School watched and did nothing. Annisia says she didn’t even know the student who attacked her. “All I remember is like me, doing my hair, and then I felt a hand on my shoulder and I turned around and I’m being punched,” she recalled.

via Bullied student’s mom wants district to take action.

KTVU-TV: Parents outraged over teen attacks caught on tape at Vallejo school

VALLEJO, Calif. —

Two recent incidents of bullying at a Vallejo junior high school caught on tape left parents outraged, including one who is contemplating pressing criminal charges against her child’s assailant.

Parents from Hogan Middle School have called KTVU with a number of stories about their children being bullied and beaten. In some cases, the abuse was captured on camera.

One brutal video shows an 11-year-old girl on her back with another student apparently pummeling her. Other students watch and can be heard cheering during the incident that happened in the middle of the Hogan Middle School campus more than a month ago.

via Parents outraged over teen attacks caught on tape at Vallejo school.

Education Week: Including, Excluding Students with Disabilities under NCLB

Students with disabilities were largely excluded from state testing programs before changes to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1997 and the 2001 No Child Left Behind law. A new report looks at how many schools were held accountable for the performance of students with disabilities when it comes to state tests. It shows that some of the fears about students with disabilities dragging down the performance of a school under the No Child Left Behind law weren’t realized.

But the new report from the Institute of Education Sciences says that in 37 states with relevant data, 9 percent of all public schools missed AYP during the 2008-09 school year because of how students with disabilities performed and at least one other reason, and only 5 percent missed it solely because of students with disabilities’ performance on state tests.

via Including, Excluding Students with Disabilities under NCLB.

Daily Republic: FSUSD ignored state’s advice on how to close schools

FAIRFIELD — In closing Sullivan Middle School, district administrators ignored the advice of the state’s highest-ranking education agency, a revelation that has further upset Sullivan parents but did not come as a shock.

“This is just par for the course and their kind of communication M.O.,” said parent LeRoy Purvis, who is leading the Save Sullivan group. “The lines of communication aren’t open, they didn’t dialogue with us. Maybe that was intended, I don’t know. But it happened really fast.”

The California Department of Education has developed guidelines, what it calls a “best practices guide,” for school districts considering school closures. The guidelines are not mandated but recommended to be used as a framework.

While the school district followed the advice on chapters pertaining to what factors to consider when closing a school, making the transition and having a committee that focuses on vacant school sites, it did not follow the guidelines on public outreach.

via School district ignored state’s advice on how to close schools.

The Educated Guess: Figuring out your district’s weighted funding

By John Fensterwald – Educated Guess

The state Department of Finance has released the district allocations under Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised plan for weighted student funding that shaves off the peaks, fills in the valleys, and includes other changes that make allotments flatter, arguably fairer, and potentially more politically palatable to those who criticized aspects of the formula.

The 77-page spreadsheet of district and charter school allocations doesn’t reveal – and inquiring minds will want to know – how districts compare with one another and with a statewide average once the formula is fully funded in 2018-19. But the raw numbers are there to calculate percentage increases and per-student spending, and Nick Schweizer, the program budget manager for education in the Department of Finance, did provide me with a district average increase, along with some cautions.

via Figuring out your district’s weighted funding – by John Fensterwald – Educated Guess.

Public Policy Institute of California PUBLICATION: Funding Formulas for California Schools IV: An Analysis of Governor Brown’s Weighted Pupil Funding Formula, May Budget Revision

In May 2012, Governor Brown revised his proposal for a new way to allocate revenue to California’s school districts. This report uses the PPIC School Finance Model to asses this revision. It finds that the proposed changes would lead to less funding for disadvantaged students and reduce the differences in funding gains among districts.

This research was supported with funding from The Silver Giving Foundation and the Stuart Foundation.

via PUBLICATION: Funding Formulas for California Schools IV: An Analysis of Governor Brown’s Weighted Pupil Funding Formula, May Budget Revision.

CBS 13-TV: Vallejo Mom Calling For Changes After 11-Year-Old Attacked By Bully

VALLEJO (CBS13) – An 11-year-old victim in a middle school girl fight says she’s afraid to go back to school, and her mother is demanding changes be made.

The attack took place in broad daylight right on campus at Hogan Middle School in Vallejo.

The victim says she was beaten so severely, she doesn’t even remember the attack.

The video is disturbing to watch. It shows the girl on her back trying to keep her 14-year-old attacker at bay while classmates stand in a circle cheering the bully on.

via Vallejo Mom Calling For Changes After 11-Year-Old Attacked By Bully.

The Reporter: Vacaville Unified School District superintendent retiring

By Richard Bammer/

Saying he wanted “to provide fiscal relief” for the Vacaville Unified School District but honor his contract, Superintendent John Niederkorn will retire June 30 but stay on as the district’s top official for one more year, drawing his retirement pay and earning a relatively small, five-figure sum for continuing to work.

The longtime public school teacher and administrator made a brief announcement at Thursday’s board of trustees meeting, then issued an official press release Friday morning. He plans to fulfill his two-year contract, which ends June 30, 2013. For his remaining year of service, he will earn $31,020. That income is the current limit for a retiree, under the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), who works for a school district.

“I’m at the age when time is more valuable than money,” Niederkorn, who turns 63 on June 3, said Friday. “There was a time in my life when I thought I was going to live forever. I have grandkids. This is the right time for my wife and family, and it’s one way I can provide a little bit of fiscal assistance to the district as well.”

via Vacaville Unified School District superintendent retiring.

Daily Republic Opinion: FSUSD school program cuts could spur mass exodus

There was tremendous outcry from the community this week reacting to the Fairfield-Suisun School District’s proposal to discontinue all extracurricular activities including sports and music.

Once again our school district draws media attention in an unfavorable way, potentially becoming the only district in California to cancel its sports program. The district has been struggling with this possibility for the last few years. Thanks to community support efforts like the Save Our Athletic Programs, which helped to raise enough money to continue some of the sports programs.

I understanding the statewide budget crisis, however there must be other alternatives that would be less devastating to the community.

via School program cuts could spur mass exodus.

Daily Republic Letters: The mistaken way we educate our children

Earl D. Olson


Cheers to the K.I. Jones Elementary GATE teachers for the yearly, two-day, hands-on program called “The Multi Intelligences Trek.” Finally, after a year of waiting, the GATE students were released from their textbooks and actually had fun learning, at least for two days.

Due to the wisdom of the state legislators, the state curriculum is directed toward the big five common core subjects of reading, writing, math, science and history, the premise being that knowledge of these as the core of knowledge is essential for everyone in the school system and you must know them to be successful in life.

via The mistaken way we educate our children.