LOCAL Education

Welcome to Essential Education, our daily look at education in California and beyond. Here's the latest:

  • The Rodriguez investigation now includes conflict-of-interest issues, in addition to previously-announced charges.
  • The L.A. Unified school board spent much of Tuesday’s meeting arguing over nuts and bolts, and ultimately voted to continue starting the school year in August.
Higher EducationK-12University of California

UC's application boom, raising Latino graduation rates, never-ending grief in Newtown: What's new in education

A Sandy Hook memorial is seen on the first anniversary of the shooting. (Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press)
A Sandy Hook memorial is seen on the first anniversary of the shooting. (Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press)

In and around Los Angeles:

In California:

  • Applications to UC campuses broke new records this year. 
  • Five California colleges lead the way in Latino graduation rates.

Nationwide:

  • The mourning never ends in Newtown, Conn., where five years ago, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School killed 26 people, including 20 children.
  • Babies born to mothers who lived near fracking wells face many health risks, a study finds.

Freshman applicants to UC soar to a new record, with UCLA again leading the way

UCLA has shattered its own record as the nation’s most popular college choice for high school seniors, attracting more than 113,000 freshman applications for fall 2018, according to preliminary data released Thursday.

Applications to the Westwood campus soared among California high school students and across all racial and ethnic groups. UCLA again led the University of California’s nine undergraduate campuses, which collectively received more than 181,000 freshman applications — a 5.7% increase over last year.

“We are thrilled by yet another record-shattering year,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in a statement. “The steady momentum of increasing application numbers underscores the university’s standing as one of the best higher education institutions in the world.”

Freshman applicants to UC soar to a new record, with UCLA again leading the way

UCLA has shattered its own record as the nation’s most popular college choice for high school seniors, attracting more than 113,000 freshman applications for fall 2018, according to preliminary data released Thursday.

Applications to the Westwood campus soared among California high school students and across all racial and ethnic groups. UCLA again led the University of California’s nine undergraduate campuses, which collectively received more than 181,000 freshman applications — a 5.7% increase over last year.

“We are thrilled by yet another record-shattering year,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in a statement. “The steady momentum of increasing application numbers underscores the university’s standing as one of the best higher education institutions in the world.”

California State UniversityHigher EducationUniversity of California

Five California colleges rank in top 10 for high Latino grad rates

UC Riverside (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
UC Riverside (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Five California colleges and universities rank among the nation’s top 10 for promoting Latino student success, a new study has found.

Whittier College topped the list by the Education Trust, which analyzed data from 613 public and private four-year institutions.

Whittier, a private nonprofit liberal arts college, had a higher graduation rate for Latinos — 71.2% — than whites — 65.6% — based on a weighted average over 2013, 2014 and 2015. Whittier also had the highest graduation rates for Latinos when compared to other colleges with similar demographics.

“This report confirms what we have known for many years now — Whittier College is a model for the nation of how a campus can successfully embrace diversity and achieve notable outcomes,” President Sharon Herzberger said in a statement.

She said the college offered strong support through academic advising, career counseling and “gateway courses” to help ease students into more rigorous fare. Officials also placed a high priority on cultural awareness in hiring and staffing, she said.

Two Jesuit institutions, the University of San Francisco and Loyola Marymount University, ranked second and third, respectively. 

UC Riverside and UC Irvine also made the top 10 list. UC Irvine won federal recognition this year for serving Latinos, one of the few elite research universities to do so.

UC Riverside also made the Education Trust’s list this year for promoting African American student success.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was ranked one of the nation’s worst seven institutions for Latino student success. 

You can read the report here.   

California State UniversityCharter SchoolsFor ParentsHigher EducationK-12LAUSD

Rodriguez investigation widens, LAUSD's new calendar, Santa Barbara's closed schools: What's new in education

Ref Rodriguez (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Ref Rodriguez (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • The criminal investigation of L.A. Unified school board member Ref Rodriguez has widened to include conflict-of-interest issues.
  • Check out the district’s newly approved academic calendar for next school year through 2020-21.

In California:

Nationwide:

  • A House GOP overhaul of the Higher Education Act would push job training, roll back some Obama-era student protections and eliminate some loan subsidies.
  • School shootings have increased significantly in the five years since Sandy Hook.

Investigation of embattled L.A. school board member now includes conflict-of-interest allegations

In the three months since prosecutors filed criminal charges against him, Ref Rodriguez has continued to go about his duties on the Los Angeles Board of Education. He attends meetings, sponsors resolutions, tweets life-affirming messages — and firmly brushes aside calls to step down.

When the initial commotion over his legal woes subsided, he seemed to settle right back into his $125,000-a-year job.

But the criminal case against him inched forward, and on Wednesday sources close to it confirmed that the scope of the investigation has widened.

California State UniversityHigher Education

Framroze Virjee to take over as president of Cal State Fullerton

Framroze Virjee will be the interim president of Cal State Fullerton through June 2019. (Courtesy of Cal State)
Framroze Virjee will be the interim president of Cal State Fullerton through June 2019. (Courtesy of Cal State)

Framroze Virjee, California State University’s executive vice chancellor and general counsel, has been appointed president of Cal State Fullerton for an interim period, administrators announced Wednesday.

Virjee, who goes by Fram, oversees all legal services for the system’s 23 campuses and has focused on areas including sexual assault, intellectual property and the 1st Amendment.

He begins his new role Jan. 1 and replaces Mildred García, who is leaving Fullerton to head the American Assn. of State Colleges and Universities.

“I am confident Fram will maintain the momentum gained under President García as well as provide stability to the campus,” said Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White, who said faculty and staff asked for someone who was a strong communicator and collaborator and focused on diversity and student success.  

“Fram excels in all of those areas,” White said. “He has a long and distinguished history of championing education in California, and through his current role, he is intimately aware of the challenges and opportunities facing the CSU.”

Before working for Cal State, Virjee, 56, was a partner for almost 30 years at the private law firm O’Melveny & Myers. He specialized in labor and employment law and represented education institutions in collective bargaining, education code compliance and discrimination and employment litigation. He has also taught at Claremont Graduate University’s Drucker School of Management and Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law.

Virjee said he hoped to build on the work of García, who was the Cal State system’s first Latina campus president. During her tenure, the four-year graduation rate at the Fullerton campus went up by 65% and the school won recognition from a host of state and national education groups for closing the achievement gaps between Latinos and their white and Asian peers.

Cal State Fullerton now graduates more Latino students than any other California campus, and the second most nationwide. The campus enrolled a record 40,439 students this year.

“President García and her team have worked tirelessly to lay out a clear pathway for implementing the university’s strategic plan,” Virjee said. “This is a wonderful opportunity, and I am very excited to be part of such a well-respected and recognized university.”

Cal State will begin a national search next fall for Fullerton’s next permanent president, administrators said. Virjee, who will receive the same $356,431 salary as García, is expected to serve as president through June 2019.

Andrew Jones, Cal State’s associate vice chancellor and deputy general counsel, will take on Virjee’s current role in January.

Higher EducationK-12LAUSD

LAUSD's August start date, new requirements for special ed teachers, race and university admissions: What's new in education

Los Angeles Unified board members Monica Garcia, left, Kelly Gonez and Nick Melvoin pose for a selfie in July. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Unified board members Monica Garcia, left, Kelly Gonez and Nick Melvoin pose for a selfie in July. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • After a spirited debate, the L.A. Unified school board opted to stick with an academic calendar that starts in August.
  • The board is also considering a measure to make its data more transparent and accessible.

In California:

Nationwide:

  • The Boston Globe investigated the role that race plays in college admissions, and found that some Boston-area universities haven’t recruited black students aggressively.
  • A Florida jury ruled against a professor who sued his university for firing him after he declared that the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting was a hoax.

Which San Diego schools have the worst student attendance?

One out of every 10 students in San Diego County public schools were chronically absent last year, according to data released last week by the California Department of Education.

A student is defined as chronically absent if he or she misses 10 percent of the school year for any reason, even excused absences and suspensions. Education officials have attempted to fight student absences for decades but the issue has come into the forefront lately as more data become available.

The U.S. Department of Education recently identified student truancy as a hidden educational crisis, after 2013-2014 data revealed that 14 percent of all students nationwide were chronically absent.

L.A. school board sticks with early start for school

Los Angeles school board members often divide along ideological lines, but one of their most spirited debates Tuesday was over nuts and bolts: when the next three school years should begin and end.

Many parents of younger students favor a later start to leave more time for summer programs and family vacations. High school students often prefer to start early to finish the semester before winter break.

In the end, the board voted 4 to 3 for a mid-August start and a first semester that will end before a three-week winter break.

For ParentsK-12LAUSD

L.A. school board considers move to increase transparency

L.A. school board President Monica Garcia (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
L.A. school board President Monica Garcia (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday will introduce a proposal that could make it easier to track the progress of a Los Angeles school or of the school district as a whole.

Under the measure proposed by board member Nick Melvoin, all data “determined to be accessible to the public” would be available online from a single portal. The information would be downloadable, sortable and searchable. The measure is scheduled to be voted on at a board meeting in January.

Melvoin is part of a new majority elected with financial support from charter schools, and the proposal to boost transparency is part of its broader agenda. But it would not necessarily fully apply to local charter schools, which are publicly funded but not under the direct control of L.A. Unified.

The new board majority will have more opportunities to put its stamp on the nation’s second-largest school district.

The board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on proposed new rules for how the seven-member body operates. They would give more authority to the board’s president, Monica Garcia, who is part of the new majority.

Among other things, the revised rules would give Garcia more authority to appoint representatives to other organizations, such as the California School Boards Assn. In California, such groups are typically dominated by representatives of traditional school systems, and charter backers want more of a voice.

The proposed rules also would give Garcia more control over what appears on the meeting agenda.

Some of the changes are attempts to improve public access and responsiveness. Public hearing starting times will now move to 4 p.m. or later — to give parents the chance to attend after they get their children home from school. An unofficial “parent help desk” set up outside the board chambers will become permanent.

The board also is expected to vote to oppose state legislation that, if passed, would limit the growth of charter schools. Such a vote would reverse the board’s previous stand on the legislation.

1:30 p.m.: A previous version of this post suggested that the data transparency measure would go to a vote on Tuesday. That vote is scheduled for January. 

Higher Education

Campus conversation: University of Redlands' Reggie Robles talks about Trump, 'myths of masculinity'

University of Redlands senior Marcus Garcia, left, takes a social media video of senior Afari La-Anyane walking down a DUDES runway event. (Rosanna Xia / Los Angeles Times)
University of Redlands senior Marcus Garcia, left, takes a social media video of senior Afari La-Anyane walking down a DUDES runway event. (Rosanna Xia / Los Angeles Times)

When Donald Trump won the presidential election last year, Reggie Robles felt like all his work had hit reset. Then came the drumbeat of sexual assault reports in Hollywood, politics, academia.

Robles is the associate director of campus diversity and inclusion at the University of Redlands. He also is the co-founder of a campus program called DUDES, or Dudes Understanding Diversity and Ending Stereotypes.

DUDES encourages young males to talk to each other about compassion, violence and the social pressures they feel to be masculine. It brings them together to consider with full frankness what it really means to be a man.

Higher EducationK-12LAUSD

Viral video about bullying, L.A. Unified attendance, Chicago schools' leadership problems: What's new in education

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has cycled through multiple Chicago Public Schools CEOs. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has cycled through multiple Chicago Public Schools CEOs. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • When the fires shut down many L.A. Unified schools, the district worked to provide food for children and their families. (All district schools are now open).
  • The district has launched a new campaign to boost attendance.

In California:

  • Meet Reggie Robles, who leads diversity and inclusion initiatives at University of Redlands.
  • How a school district in the San Gabriel Valley works to boost the performance of its Latino students.

Nationwide:

  • Chicago Public Schools have lost yet another leader due to scandal.
  • A mother posted a video of her son’s heartbreaking account of bullying — and it went viral, yielding some grand gestures of support.

 

HS InsiderK-12

A teen's pledge to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance as 'a declaration of liberty'

During the Pledge of Allegiance at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School, many students across different classrooms choose to not stand. (Richard Mendiola / HS Insider)
During the Pledge of Allegiance at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School, many students across different classrooms choose to not stand. (Richard Mendiola / HS Insider)

Mirabelle Chernick, a senior at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School, explains why she stands to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each morning, even though most others in her classroom do not.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…”

These 12 words, recited so patriotically for previous centuries, have now become synonymous with the contentious political climate of today. To me, this is where the real issue stems from. The Pledge of Allegiance is a declaration in support of liberty.

That is, the freedom of equal opportunity, not the equality of outcome.

Last year, about half the class reluctantly stood for the pledge while the remaining half snickered on with disgust. Today, those students, now narrowed down to a mere two, leap to their feet and faithfully reassert their respect for the country. Tomorrow, I will once again stand tall, unashamed, and honor America.

Schools are closed amid firestorms, but campus kitchens stay open

When L.A. Unified closed 265 schools because of area fires, meals were sacrificed as well as academics.

About 80% of district students are from low-income families, and many depend on schools for breakfast, lunch and — in some cases — dinner.

The nation’s second-largest school system responded by designating three San Fernando Valley schools as areas where students and area families could pick up food Friday and Saturday. Many campuses that were unaffected by the firestorms stood by through Friday to provide dinners to students who stopped by within 10 minutes of the close of school.

HS InsiderK-12

A high school sophomore in Covina takes a look at cyberbullying

 (Adrian Llamas / HS Insider)
(Adrian Llamas / HS Insider)

Adrian Llamas, a sophomore at Charter Oak High School, talks about the rise of cyberbullying in social media.

Cyberbullying is defined by dictionary.com as “the act of harassing someone online by sending or posting mean messages, usually anonymously.” With the prevalence of social media, cyberbullying is rampant in this generation.

A study done in 2015 by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System said, “An estimated 16% of high school students were bullied electronically in the 12 months prior to the survey.” If these numbers were applied to the 1,500 students at Charter Oak, about 240 would have been cyberbullied.

It is important for the individual not to retaliate and stoop to the level of the bully, because it can lead to additional conflict.

Social media definitely plays a role in cyberbullying because sending a message anonymously through apps with the intention of hurting somebody is easy. Apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Kik, Twitter and YouTube are common places where a person can be cyberbullied.

An anonymous sophomore said, “A few years ago I was cyberbullied on ask.fm and was told that I was ugly and told to move schools by people on the app.”

HS InsiderK-12

A high school junior talks fire with Ventura residents

 (Jen Miller)
(Jen Miller)

Anna Lapteva, a junior at Foothill Technology High School, caught up with a few residents in the Ventura area to learn their perspectives on the Thomas fire.

“I’m honestly still in shock,” Foothill Technology senior Gwynnie Redemann said of the drastic effects of the Thomas fire, which spread at an alarming rate, engulfing numerous structures and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents in Ventura.

“It is a day I will never forget.”

The dry conditions and strong Santa Ana winds create the ideal environment for the fire.

School and work have been distant concerns for Ventura residents as they have battled to save their houses and families or to find shelter.

Luckily, Redemann’s house withstood the fire. However, she still could not believe that the fire “would reach Ventura, let alone nearly get to my house.”

LAUSD

Many LAUSD schools will still be shut down Friday, but families can get meals at these campuses

For ParentsLAUSD

Fires close 265 L.A. Unified schools; Santa Monica-Malibu closures continue

A resident watches as the Creek fire burns along a hillside near homes in Shadow Hills. (AFP/Getty Images)
A resident watches as the Creek fire burns along a hillside near homes in Shadow Hills. (AFP/Getty Images)

All Los Angeles Unified schools in the San Fernando Valley as well as 17 schools on the city’s Westside will be closed for the rest of the week, district officials announced Wednesday afternoon.

The decision closes at least 265 schools in neighborhoods affected by the wildfires raging in and near Los Angeles. The district’s number doesn’t include all adult schools and charter schools, some of which are also expected to close.

The district’s website has a list, as well as a reminder that everyone else is still expected to come to school this Thursday and Friday.

On Wednesday, more than 50 L.A. Unified schools were shuttered.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will keep all of its 16 schools closed Thursday.

Officials made that decision “predominantly based on the expected high winds and the ongoing fires in our area, and the air quality,” said spokeswoman Gail Pinsker. As of Wednesday afternoon, the district planned to open schools Friday, but it will make a final determination Thursday. 

LAUSD

Here are all the L.A. Unified schools closed Wednesday because of wildfires

 (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Dozens of schools in evacuation zones in the northeast San Fernando Valley will be closed Wednesday as firefighters work to get a handle on the wildfire in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest that has scorched at least 11,000 acres. 

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