Saturday, December 31, 2016

Banishment Rooms

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Spending a $100 Million a Year to Pay Teachers to Do Nothing | Intellectual Takeout

Spending a $100 Million a Year to Pay Teachers to Do Nothing | Intellectual Takeout

Spending a $100 Million a Year to Pay Teachers to Do Nothing

This is madness.

The New York Post ran a story Sunday about a man who was suing New York City. He wasn't after money (he's making $94,000 a year). He was suing to be allowed to earn his money.

David Suker, 48, is one of hundreds of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve. He gets paid to show up.

"I come to work every day, sit down and do nothing," Suker told the Post.  

I'd heard of such instances before, but I was unaware just how large the program is. The Post says there are currently 1,304 people in the ATR. It costs an estimated—get this—$100 million annually.

The program was initially designed for "excessed" educators who lost positions during downsizing, but it appears to have become a dumping ground for unwanted teachers, more in line with the infamous "rubber rooms" the city previously used to house teachers accused of misconduct.

Teachers will occasionally be assigned sub work or grunt duties, but mostly they just sit idle, Suker and other said. I can think of few things more corrosive to the human spirit. 

This is what happens when cities sign collectively bargained contracts like this, which make it almost impossible to dismiss teachers. Meanwhile, New York City faces a nearly $4 billion budget gap.

This sounds like something out of a Joseph Heller novel, no?


Jon Miltimore is senior editor of Intellectual Takeout. Follow him on Facebook.

Rene Diedrich 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

"DARE: The Anti-Drug Program That Never Actually Worked" Courtesy of LAUSD

DARE, the popular drug education program, had no measurable effect on drug use. ( me and the sysop )
If you went to grade school in the 1980s or 90s, chances are good you were publicly offered drugs at school by a uniformed police officer.
"Hey," he might have said, "Want to meet up behind the gym after school and get high?"
Luckily for you, you were savvy enough to understand that this waste  an earnest offer. It was an exercise in resistance .
"No thanks!" you'd say. "I have homework to go do."
"Come on," he'd retort. Impressed with your delivery, he'd decided to step up the simulatedpeer pressure . "I thought you were cool."
"Not doing drugs is cool," was your reply.
Your classmates might have applauded, at the officer/teacher's prompting. Then you went back to your seat, and the officer would go over the things you did well in the exercise, so the class could learn by your example. In addition to teaching the other students, the officer was also building up your self esteem .
Self esteem and resistance were two major cornerstones of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program, also known as DARE. Through the 1980s and the 1990s, DARE swelled from a tiny local program to a massive, and massively expensive, national campaign against drugs in schools. At its peak, DARE was practiced in 75% of American schools , and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to run. It had spiffy, 90s branded swag, and a baritone-voiced mascot, "Daren the Lion."
There was just one problem: DARE didn't work.
Students who went through DARE weren't any less likely to do drugs than the students who didn't. In fact, there's some well-regarded research that some groups of students were actually more likely to do drugs if they went through DARE.
Scientists knew DARE was ineffective relatively early on, but the program grew anyways. The program's eventual reform was the result of a long and hard battle between evidence-based research, and popular opinion.
DARE's Humble Beginnings
The original "Officer DARE": DARE's founder, LAPD Chief Daryl Gates , later became infamous for his handling of the Rodney King Riots
DARE got its beginnings in the city of Los Angeles in the early 1980s. Daryl Gates, the LA Police Department (LAPD) Chief of Police, helped create the program, and became its first figurehead. The story goes that when Gates noticed that the number of drug busts on school campuses was increasing, he had the idea to focus on preventative education instead of punishment. As Gates told the L.A. Times in 1993:
"We had 'buy programs' in the schools where undercover officers would buy drugs from students. We kept buying more and more. It was appalling, depressing. I finally said: 'This is crazy. We've got to do something.' "
The LAPD, in conjunction with the local rotary club and the LA Unified School District (LAUSD), came up with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program, DARE (also, incidentally, a pun with Chief Daryl Gates' first name.)
Dr. Ruth Rich, the district's health education specialist, was tasked with selecting the first curriculum. Research on drug prevention education was already underway at USC, under the title "SMART." But there was a catch -- Gates wanted DARE to be taught by police officers themselves, not doctors or teachers. Rich agreed with him, on the grounds that cops are more familiar with criminal culture. As she told the LA Times , "There's a gap between the street and the classroom. Police officers are believable on this subject. When it comes to drugs, they're more credible than a teacher."
The idea of police officers in the classroom turned off some of SMART's original authors, including the head of the research team, Andy Johnson. Reason Magazine reported, "Though sympathetic to Rich's dilemma, Johnson had serious objections to handing an experimental educational program over to the local police." 
Without Johnson's oversight, Rich took the SMART curriculum and patterned her own off of it. In 1993, there were two main versions of SMART: one that focused on developing personal goals and self esteem, and another that focused on resisting things like peer pressure and advertisements. Rich combined the two approaches.
A DARE course taught by Naval officers
When the school opened in September 1983, the LAPD took to the classroom to both teach kids about the dangers of substance abuse, boost their self-esteem, and help them practice "just saying no" (a la Nancy Reagan ). Within a few years, DARE was a regular fixture in LA schools. By the mid-nineties, it was a national organization with multi-million dollar annual revenue.
The program was popular among parents and students from its inception. It was also popular among politicians and bureaucrats, who saw DARE as a way to be proactive about, "The Drug Problem." From the Reason Magazine :
"[People were] eager to find an easy solution to the problem of juvenile drug abuse. DARE became 'a rallying symbol to do something positive about the drug abuse problem.'"
This political status carried DARE far. In 1986, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) published the first independent review of DARE , reporting that the program had short-term results. Although it drew criticism from the scientific community, DARE earned NIJ funding as a result of the study. DARE also soon won a $140,000 grant from the Department of Justice to expand the program to the national level. And Congress passed the "Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1986," which set aside 10% of State Grants to Governors for police-staffed, in-school, drug education programs, and mentions DARE by name. 
Like that, DARE became a national, nationally funded movement. In 1988, U.S. presidents started recognizing National DARE Day, a practice that continued into the Obama administration . By 1992, the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act money accounted for almost $10 million nationally . By 1995, DARE estimated its own costs at $200 million .
DARE vs. The Research, I
This pencil thing actually happened.
That first independent review of DARE, which found that it had an effect on drug use, quickly started to look like an extreme anomaly. By 1991 there were already more than a dozen published studies claiming that DARE had absolutely no measurable effect on drug use. This negative finding proceeded to bear out through another two decades of research.
This came as no surprise to the social scientists behind DARE's original curriculum, the SMART program. A few years after DARE started, the USC researchers made an alarming discovery about SMART: early versions of the program didn't work. In fact, some of them had a "boomerang effect," by which participation correlated to higher rates of drug use. But by the time of this discovery, the LAUSD had grown "distant", according to SMART researcher, Bill Hansen . Hansen and Johnson claim they reached out to DARE to help revise the curriculum, but were rejected.
"What they took was the prototype," Hansen has said , "we went through thirty versions of the curriculum, so a lot of the stuff they lifted was antiquated, in our view."
The problem was that, to a lot of people, it seemed like common sense that DARE would justwork . "Everyone believed that if you just told students how harmful these substances and behaviors were—they'd stay away from them," Frank Pegueros , the current president and CEO of DARE. America, has said.
This deep-seated, folksy belief in DARE's ability to combat a publicly reviled problem gave it a decades-long stranglehold on the American education system. ''We suspect that there are gaping holes in the program and that it may not be cost-effective, but legislators are politicians,'' a legislator told the New York Times in 2004 , on the condition that his name not be used. ''No one's going to risk their political future by doing anything other than standing up with the parents. Parents vote.''

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Rene Diedrich

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Yup : PRESS RELEASE:Charter Principal Gets Caught Engaging in Financial Shenanigans and is Punished with a $215K Payout

Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Contact: Carl Petersen
(818) 869-0309

The LAUSD forces El Camino Real to show David Fehte the door but fails to prevent one last raid of the public coffers.

The administration at El Camino Real Charter High School (ECRCHS) admits that David Fehte charged "more than $6,000" in personal charges on his school-issued credit card. An investigation by the Los Angeles Daily News found that "over the two years, Fehte charged more than $100,000 to the card", including "$15,500 at Monty's" Prime Steaks & Seafood and "first-class airfare and luxury hotel rooms". The LAUSD Charter School Division found that the school had "no policy for Credit Card use" and issued a Notice to Cure on October 28, 2015. Almost a year later the "CSD still had ongoing concerns regarding the capacity and accountability of the Charter School, the charter organization, and its governing board, to operate ECRCHS effectively and in compliance with applicable laws and the terms of its charter". The LAUSD Board scheduled a hearing to discuss Notice of Intent to Revoke ECRCHS' charter.

Press reports at the time said that the process was halted when Fehte "heeded calls for his resignation and stepped down after an 11th-hour deal." However, the Memorandum of Understanding between ECRCHS and the LAUSD did not specify the terms of Fehte's departure. It only stated that "effective October 26, 2016, David Fehte will not longer be the Executive Director of ECRCHS and will no longer be employed at ECRCHS." The LAUSD Board should have paid attention to this lack of specificity as Fehte did not actually resign. Instead, ECRCHS' Governing Board executed an "early termination without cause".  He was, therefore, eligible to receive "the equivalent of twelve months of gross base salary" or $215K.

The lack of transparency by the ECRCHS Governing Board makes it difficult to determine if they were justified in not determining that Fehte's termination was "with cause", which would have prevented the $215k from being diverted from the educational needs of the students. In June, they commissioned a report at a cost of $20,000 to determine if the financial misconduct was "unethical...criminal, or...just a mistake". However, the Board has refused to release this report to the people who paid for it - the taxpayers. Contrary to the agenda and minutes of the public meeting, their lawyers claim that it was their firm who actually "retained the services of Oracle Investigations Group, Inc."

According to the terms of their charter, ECRCHS is required to comply with the California Public Records Act and release these documents. Unfortunately, while the LAUSD Charter School Division and the members of the Board have been made aware of this violation (page 1, page 2), neither has shown any interest in ensuring that ECRCHS meets its obligations. Education resources are finite and an Independent Financial Review Panel has warned that the LAUSD is in a "dire" financial position. Yet the District allowed $215k to simply walk away. The next time a Board member complains that a vital program cannot be funded, someone should remind them of their failure to act as Fehte laughed his way to the bank.

I am a parent, special education advocate and a candidate in LAUSD's District 2. Diane Ravitch called me a "strong supporter of public schools." For additional information, please visit


Carl J. Petersen for LAUSD School Board 2017 (ID# 1384794)
All Kids Are Our Kids!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Big Education Ape: LAUSD’s Parent Jail

Big Education Ape: LAUSD's Parent Jail

LAUSD's Parent Jail

LAUSD's Parent Jail:

LAUSD's Parent Jail

Image result for Parent Jail
Disruptive Person Letters (DPL) are issued by principals within the LAUSD when someone interferes with the ability "to maintain a safe campus free of disruption." There is concern among parents that in addition to protecting against "behavior that poses a danger to staff or students", these letters are also being used to retaliate against those who question a school's implementation of policy. For this reason, they are better known as Disruptive Parent Letters. On November 22, 2016, the LAUSD's Early Childhood and Parent Engagement Committee held a hearing on improving the DPL policy. The following is a copy of my testimony before this committee:
parent-jailI have heard it stated a couple of times today that these "Disruptive Person Letters" are rare. Truthfully, we have no way of knowing that. I issued a Public Records Act request in August of 2015, and I asked for any email, memo or letter containing the language that is found in these letters. In response, I was told that the District does not capture "specific data on disruptive parent letters." On September 28, 2015, I was told that "this information is not captured at this time."
In January of this year I finally received a response that said that the District had found approximately 600 of these emails, they were in the LAUSD's Parent Jail:

Rene Diedrich

LA School Board Watch

LA School Board Watch
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In a post-Trump world, Rhetoric vs Reality in LA Schools
At Tuesday's LAUSD board meeting, the school board will take on public school destroyer Betsy DeVos, Trump's nominee for US Education Secretary.

Board President Steve Zimmer will introduce a resolution, which reads in part:
"…the Board of Education calls on the President-elect and his Nominee for Secretary of Education to re-affirm the role of public schools to serve every student that comes to the school house door, acknowledge that our public school[s] are an essential foundation [of] our democracy and indicate that they will support policies, initiatives and investments that serve all students and not some students and that they will support and invest in policies and initiatives that support equity, achievement and excellence while stabilizing instead of destabilizing our public school systems…"
It's sure to be popular in blue, blue California. And it will keep board members, including those running for re-election, in the news.
But at some point, the press conferences will be over and we will be begin to navigate our new reality in real situations.
Turns out "at some point" is already upon us.
On the very same agenda, Board President Steve Zimmer is proposing a school that contradicts this lofty resolution. The $10 million (to start) Playa Vista Middle School, which didn't even face a quorum to be vetted at the Bond Oversight Committee, is on the Board's consent calendar. So, no discussion necessary. (Although, we've discussed it in the blogosphere.)
The Playa Vista Middle School that caters to certain westside families cannot be described as a policy, initiative and investment that serves *all students*. It specifically serves *some students*. It does not *support equity*, but gives greater resources to a more affluent and less diverse population than at any of the surrounding schools. It specifically *destabilizes our public school system* because the district is doing nothing to enhance the existing middle schools in the area as it creates the shiny new school for a select few.
So when the rhetorical flourishes fade away, are LAUSD's board members committed to implementing policies that reject the new Trumpian reality they keep declaring is so objectionable? Or are they caving to the worst parts of ourselves that his campaign revealed to be more prevalent than any of us dreamed?
We'll find out on Tuesday.

To be the public in public education
Last week, the LA School Board held a Committee of the Whole meeting at a special location. The address was not announced on the school district's website, but it was revealed if you drilled down into the supporting documents, or if you were in the know.
I showed up at the District board room, the usual venue, after paying $8 to park. A security officer told me the meeting must be somewhere else because his boss was off campus.
Once I drilled down on the web, I got the new address and drove to the special location. No street parking was available in the bustling downtown Los Angeles location. I re-parked in the garage of the building, and found the meeting room on a plaza shared by a few popular restaurants.
The meeting was in full swing with board members and Superintendent Michelle King discussing the revised Strategic Plan, which was not posted with the board materials for the public. Some people in the room had printed copies, but I didn't see a stack of them anywhere. So I listened and figured I'd get a copy later, off the web.
An hour and a half later, I left to pick up my daughter from school. The parking attendant told me I had chalked up a $38 parking tab!
That's a Betsy DeVos price tag! And it wasn't even for valet! Joking aside, that hefty price would be mpossible for the many Title I moms whose children attend LAUSD schools.
As I fumed on the way home about the $38, I got to thinking about how hard it is to be the public in the 2nd largest school district in the country.
I already wrote about the Bond Oversight Committee voting to lighten its load, public disclosure be damned. That was just one example of the public being less and less a part of our public school district.
There are other challenges. We, the public, see the board agendas three days in advance. We have 72 hours to sift through upwards of 400 pages of documents to see if there is something of particular relevance. Important expenditures are stuffed into voluminous reports, so much goes unnoticed. Policy changes are sometimes disguised as innocuous actions. In three days, we are usually only able to react rather than thoughtfully participate in the issues of the district. Hence, the bug eyed looks and breathless comments sometimes seen and heard at those meetings.
Even if we were prepared to provide input on various agenda items, we would not be permitted to.
California has a good public meetings law and a strong FOIA-type public records act. But different agencies handle the public differently. While the Los Angeles City Council and the State Coastal Commission, for example, encourage public input by providing time for comment on each agenda item, parents attending five- or ten-hour long school board meetings with upwards of 50 items on the agenda are only permitted to make one comment during the entire meeting. That, of course, is absurd for a public school district. To add insult to injury, labor union representatives, on the other hand, may comment on every single agenda item they wish to. When the unions don't bother to comment, that's sometimes a sure sign that they've had internal meetings with District and Board staff to hash out concerns before the Board votes—and before the public weighs in.
It isn't that employees should be prevented from participating in District business, of course. But public school parents shouldn't be kept out either.

Some parents are accommodated, such as parents whose kids attend charters. Charter petitions are now heard at their own separate meetings with a "time certain".  According to an article in the LA School Report, Steve Zimmer, Monica Ratliff and Monica Garcia worked to ensure charter parents do not sit for hours waiting to make their case for a charter renewal amidst 50 other agenda items.
So, old school, public school parents, it seems all we need is a labor leader, a lobbyist or a lawyer to lead us so that we might be accommodated once in a while, too.
This is more than an exercise in alliteration.

It might be more efficient to run a public school district without the public. But before we start advocating for that, let's remember that it's precisely what Betsy DeVos has largely achieved in her state of Michigan. It's what we are sure to see more of coming out of Washington, DC soon.

Will LAUSD resist that?

E-mail, call or write your school board member:  213-241-8333  213-241-6180  213-241-5555  213-241-6382  213-241-6388  213-241-6385  213-241-6387

And the Superintendent: 

Find your state legislator: 

Mayor Eric Garcetti 

Governor Jerry Brown:

Write a letter to the LA Times editor.


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