Sunday, March 18, 2012

LASD Board Meeting Likely to Move

The LASD Board meeting for Monday, March 19th is likely to change locations to accommodate a larger-than-normal crowd. The Covington Multi-Purpose room is already booked with a science fair, so District staff will need to choose a different venue. We will post that location to the District website and as many other places as possible, but I wanted to reach out and let folks know in advance. Please make sure you check the District website for details tomorrow. (

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Doing it right

Occasionally I get to step back from exciting things like budgets and facilities offers and staffing ratios, and actually get to look at education.  Today I wanted to share a little of that with you.

One of the concepts getting a lot of airplay in education circles is that of integrated learning.  Some call it "cross-curriculum"", and others call it "project based learning", and others call it other things.  The idea is pretty simple though- students learn best when the topics tie together.  After all, that's life in the real world.  Rarely in my day job does someone throw an equation on a white board and ask me to solve it.  For some reason, I'm seldom asked to diagram a sentence from a mail message. Often, though, we use skills we learned in English class to extract the key ideas from a discussion, and then we may reduce those thoughts into a mathematical formula to determine a business outcome.  The educational theory is that kids are more successful in the real world if they've already learned those skills when they are in school.

Recently I was working with a 5th grader on a tech project.  She was building a web site about the radioactive element Radium. At one point, she came across a "fun fact": it takes 10 tonnes of Uranium to yield 1 gram of Radium. She wanted to understand what that really meant, and find a way to explain it so that others could grasp it too.  She started by calculating the volume of 10 tonnes of Uranium and 1 gram of Radium,  Then she did some calculations to convert that into volume.  Realizing that her volume was in a metric unit, she then went back and looked up the conversion rates and finally explained it in terms that made sense to her:  It takes about large three trash cans full of Uranium to yield a ball of Radium the size of a pencil eraser. 

I was fascinated as I watched this young lady shift effortlessly between scientific concepts, research, and mathematics.  No one "taught" her how to do this- she just connected the dots of the many things she's learned in class and produced a useful result.

I've seen this in other places too.  On a recent tour of Egan, Brenda Dyckman showed us how an English teacher had worked with her colleagues in other departments to develop consistent standards for writing analysis papers.  Each department had a consistent rubric so that the papers were evaluated both on subject matter content (science, history, etc.) and on their adherence to the rubric.  it's a simple concept, but it ensures that students are able to effectively articulate the ideas they've learned.

There are a lot of things that make our program special.  We don't do a lot of shameless self promotion, but maybe it's time we change that.  "Teaching to the test" wouldn't get even close to what we do.  Measures that are considered "best in the State" are just a starting point of what we want for our kids.  While we can always improve, we should also recognize what we do well.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Litigation Update

It has been quite some time since I wrote a blog post.  I remain very committed to open government, but I have to admit, sometimes when you're busy "doing the job", you forget to pull your head up from the work and communicate with those around you.  My sincere apologies for the lapse.

Kelly Toshach wrote a good summary recently of the current status of the litigation between LASD and BCS.  She posted it to the Facebook page for LASDvoices, and I'm reposting it here in case others haven't seen it.  I felt it was an excellent, non-partisan summary of the status of the litigation.  Thank you, Kelly, for such a clear summary.


Kelly Toshach 4:22pm Mar 2

I read LASD's brief filed Monday, and this is my understanding of it and of where the case stands currently:

--Summary of Case Through the Present--

BCS sued LASD over the 2009-2010 facilities offer. The Superior Court found in favor of LASD. BCS appealed parts of the Superior Court's ruling, letting stand the remaining parts (forfeiting any future challenge by not submitting argument on it in the appeal). The Court of Appeal issued a ruling, finding in favor of BCS on many points and in favor of the district on others. Afterward, the case returned to the Superior Court, where, according to BCS, the judge, Hon. Patricia Lucas, is to enter a judgement implementing the Court of Appeal findings. At the first hearing, a case management conference about the form of judgment, LASD put forth its position that the Court of Appeal's findings are about methodology and that the court did not in fact make a determination on the ultimate decision of whether the 2009-2010 offer complied with Proposition 39. BCS, on the other hand, argued that the Court of Appeals judgment means that the 2009-2010 was illegal and non-compliant. BCS entered a proposed judgment for the judge's consideration. LASD requested a hearing to brief the judge on its arguments for a different form of judgment. The judge tentatively scheduled this hearing, stating that she was unconvinced that she needed additional arguments about how to handle the Court of Appeal's direction. LASD filed its objections to the BCS proposed order on Monday, February 27. A summary of the brief follows below. It remains to be seen if the LASD briefing persuades the judge to conduct the hearing tentatively scheduled for March 19. BCS has until March 5 to file a brief in response to the LASD brief.

--Summary of the LASD Brief Regarding Form of Judgment--

On Monday, February 27, 2012, LASD filed its brief regarding form of judgement related to the 2009-2010 Facilities Offer.

The brief states that the 2009-2010 offer is what’s at issue. Although the 2009-2010 school year is past and a new facilities agreement is made each year, the Court of Appeal determined that the appeal isn’t moot because similar disputes over future facilities offers are likely and the case raises issues that are likely to happen again with other charter schools and school districts. LASD agrees that it’s appropriate to issue a judgement that outlines the Court of Appeal’s opinion on methodology for determining a facilities offer.

LASD's objections to BCS’s proposed judgement fall into the following categories:

1. The judgment shouldn’t address matters beyond the 2009-2010 offer.

BCS’s amended writ petition and complaint filed on August 27, 2009 limits the issues to the 2009-2010 final offer only. The court’s judgement should describe what LASD should have done, and not what it shall do in the future. Factors for reasonable equivalence determinations for years subsequent to 2009-2010 were not before the Court and Court of Appeal, so the Court of Appeal’s opinion can’t be interpreted as a determination of offers for other years. Further, if BCS seeks to challenge any other facilities offer, it should take separate legal action.

2. The judgment shouldn’t include points on which the Court of Appeal did not decide.

The Court of Appeal did not reach a determination on whether the 2009-2010 offer actually met the standard of reasonable equivalence. The Court of Appeal instead identified flaws in LASD’s methodology. Reasonable equivalence isn’t determined by the single criterion of average acreage per student. Instead, " 'reasonable equivalence' is a complex analysis that requires consideration of multiple factors and over which the District has the discretion to exercise judgment." The Court of Appeal noted “[w]e disagree with Bullis’s contention that ‘site size by itself shows that ]it] has not received “reasonably equivalent” facilities.’

3. The judgment should reflect the parts of the action on which LASD prevailed:

- Refusal to provide facilities for the seventh grade was permissible because BCS had no intent to offer 7th grade during the 2009-2010 school year.

- Charging a pro rata fee for the space occupied by the BCS multi-use room is permissible.

- Imposing all-or-nothing conditions in its facilities offer is permissible.

- Selection of comparison group schools was not in violation of Proposition 39.

LASD entered its own proposed judgement to address its objections.

Timeline: Lawsuit over 2009-2010 Facilities Offer

2/16: Case Management Conference at Superior Court regarding judgment after Court of Appeal ruling

2/16: LASD filed objections to the BCS proposed order

2/27: LASD completed brief filing on form of judgment

3/5: BCS to file brief in response to LASD brief

3/19: Hearing for briefing. (Scheduled for the convenience of the court. The judge may decide she doesn't need a briefing.)