LAUSD achieved a 19 point jump in its Academic Performance Index for the previous year and local school officials are said to be encouraged by the news especially considering teacher layoffs and budget cuts that the district has endured. The API measures academic improvement on 1000-point scale and is based on standardized test scores and other measures. Rising scores in the district reflect a similar trend throughout California where 49% of the schools met or surpassed the state’s goal of 800 on the API. Despite these gains, California has not met federal No Child Left Behind standards and may be subject to sanctions. Nearly two-thirds of elementary schools in California have not met the federal guidelines and CA State Superintendent of Instruction Tom Torlakson is asking federal education officials to relax the standards. What do you think of the rising API scores in the LAUSD? Is it proof that the district has turned the corner in academic performance? Do you think the federal government should ease NCLB standards because so many CA schools cannot meet the guidelines?
A.J. Duffy, who ran the powerful United Teachers of Los Angeles for six years, has announced plans to head up his own charter school. This week, he moves from board member to executive director of Apple Academy Charter Public Schools. If approved by the L.A. Unified School District, the Duffy-led school or schools will open in South L.A. by fall of 2012 at the latest. In announcing his plans, Duffy outlined some ideas that would seem to contradict his former positions on issues like teacher effectiveness and accountability. As head of UTLA, Duffy supported teacher tenure and seniority – now he says that in his school, he’ll require teachers to demonstrate class room success and would streamline the dismissal process. Currently, “due process” can stretch out several years – Duffy said in today’s L.A. Times that he’d shorten it to “10 days if I could.” Under the LAUSD banner, and in the name of protecting union teaching jobs, Duffy led the charge against charter schools on LAUSD campuses, while at the same time campaigning for charter-like freedoms at traditional schools. Under Duffy’s management, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had called the UTLA “one unwavering roadblock to reform.” What kinds of reforms will the former union head enact at his own school? Is this move a contradiction or a continuation of his career in education? What will Duffy’s new stance on education mean to LAUSD? Would you send your children to Duffy High?
Not only are more brick and mortar campuses offering online courses, but several online only institutions have popped up in recent years. There’s online-only Western Governors University, which bills itself as the cheaper – but still accredited – alternative to traditional colleges. There are even peer-to-peer “universities” in which students teach one another about every topic under the sun. Is this a testament to the burgeoning success of online education? Perhaps, but critics contend that online courses are not as rigorous as a those of a traditional, four-year university. They say that online programs emphasize preparing students for jobs, and they don’t foster critical thinking – the classic mission of a university. But amid university budget cuts, emerging digital technology, and busy schedules, online programs may fit better with many of our lifestyle. And, when you consider that nearly three quarters of all University students are non-traditional (older, working, etc), then are online schools the wave of the future? And if they are, do they provide a thorough education? Have you received an online degree? What are the benefits and costs of having one? Online programs make education more accessible, but are employers less likely to hire someone with an online degree? How much potential do online enterprises have to change higher education?
The Associated Press has released internal NYPD documents that further fuel an investigation into a controversial counter-terrorism program in New York. It's been reported that the New York Police Department and the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) partnered up to form a surveillance unit. Undercover NYPD officers isolated Muslim communities for surveillance and infiltration. Referred to as the Demographics Unit, the NYPD repeatedly has denied that it exists. But newly released, internal documents suggest otherwise, including a presentation of the unit’s mission and a 2006 police memo reprimanding an undercover detective who allegedly wasn’t effective enough in detecting “extremist rhetoric.” The documents indicate that the unit consisted of a crew of 16 undercover officers who were dispatched to ethnic communities and instructed to identify and map ethnic “hot spots” in New York. The officers dressed in civilian clothes, identified the ethnicity of specific business owners, attended popular spots for social gatherings such as cafes, and eavesdropped on conversations. They were told to look for evidence of terrorist plots. To help the officers out, the unit listed key indicators of trouble, including criminal activity, mosques and community centers. The officers were fluent in languages commonly spoken among Muslim immigrants, including Arabic and Urdu. In addition, the unit listed 28 countries – all of which are Muslim-majority countries – as "ancestries of interest," along with “American Black Muslim[s].” Critics are calling this a blatant act of racial and religious profiling. But others contend it’s necessary for the sake of ensuring national security. Is this a violation of civil rights? Or would it be impossible for police to ignore this aspect of countering terrorism? How does this method of policing square with the latest initiative from the White House that seeks a softer, integrated approach that works within communities?
When the black sheep of your family gets arrested for a DUI and says his one phone call will be to the White House, you know you've got a problem. Last week, in Farmingham, Massachusetts, police pulled over Onyango Obama after he was allegedly driving recklessly. It turns out that Obama is the half brother of President Obama's father. Not only was Onyango's blood alcohol level at 0.14, but federal law enforcement sources say he has been residing in the United States illegally. Referred to as "Uncle Omar" in the Obama family, it's said he disappeared many years ago. In defiance of a deportation order, Obama has been living a quiet life in Massachusetts. His boss at a small liquor store says he can’t believe the news, "He was a great worker. We are in total shock" Uncle Omar isn't the first relative of President Obama who has strayed off the straight and narrow. Shortly before the 2008 election, the President's aunt was found to be living illegally in Boston for years. She was later granted asylum. The White House has been tarnished by less than perfect relatives in the past. The Bush family, the Clintons, Jimmy Carter and many more have had some familial embarrassments. Who has been the most troublesome relative of prominent politicians? How could this affect President Obama? How does your family handle the black sheep?