The Naming of Schools

If you’ve ever wondered why I do the highway pages, here’s an answer: I love numbering systems and the story behind them. I loved maps and was curious about how state highways got their numbers, and the interest just grew from there. I mention this because the NY Times has a really neat article on how they number their schools. New York is pretty unique: their schools have numbers, not names, and they are well know by those numbers. We’ve heard those numbers as well, as in P.S. 42. But the problem is the numbers are not unique: there are actually four P.S. 1s in New York (Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Statten Island). There are three P.S. 2s, three P.S. 3s, and four P.S. 4s. This is because there is no requirement that the number be unique; when the school systems of different boroughs were combined, schools often kept their old number.

Other places do it differently. The article notes: “Atlanta and Washington use names, not numbers. Schools in Baltimore are numbered, but people generally say their children attend Westside Elementary, not P.S. 24. And the only numbered schools in Los Angeles are the ones labeled for the streets they are on, like the 28th Street School — something that helps alleviate confusion.”

Actually, there is a naming standard for schools in Los Angeles Unified:

  1. Elementary schools shall be names after the streets on which they are located, the street designated by the mailing address being the most appropriate. However, other streets bordering the school site, which are well know in the community, may be chosen. In instances where there is a local entity typifying the area served by the school and such name is appropriate, the school may be so named, particularly if community interest is expressed and the name will not duplicate the name of an existing school (Board Rule 1004.).
  2. Senior high schools shall be named in honor of deceased Presidents of the United States and other nationally/internationally famous men and women (Board Rule 1003).
  3. Middle schools shall be named after prominent men and women who have made a contribution to mankind generally deemed to be of permanent significance in the field of fine arts, letters, sciences, social sciences, and industry (Board Rule 1003).
  4. Whenever possible, the name of a secondary school should have some pertinence to California. Where there is a well-established community, a secondary school may also bear the name of the community, provided that it does not conflict with any other school named for the same community (Board Rule 1003).
  5. Schools serving a specialized purpose, such as schools for children in special education programs, may be named in accordance with the policy for naming regular schools or may be named after men and women who have made outstanding contributions in the specialized field of service for which the school is established (Board Rule 1005).
  6. Fields and buildings may be named after employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District only if an appropriate period of time has elapsed since their relationship with the school has been severed by retirement of death.
    Fields and buildings of a school may also be named after students of that school who have died during their enrollment, as well as community persons or benefactors of the school (Board Rule 1008).

  7. The use of the following terms are restricted:
    1. Learning Center—Schools that do not have the traditional configuration of K-5, 6-8 or 9-12
    2. Primary Center—Schools that have grades K-2 only
    3. Academy—Schools that have a specialized educational program, e.g., music, law or art
    4. Complex—Sites that have more than one school on the campus

There are some exceptions, it appears, for schools named after communities. For example, there is both Van Nuys High School and Van Nuys Middle School. Some seemingly conflict but don’t, such as “Northridge Middle School” and “Northridge Academy High School”.

So how are schools named in your community?


News Chum: Education on the Brain (so to speak)

In looking over my collected articles for lunchtime news chum, there seems to be a theme in some: education, at various levels. So let’s run with that…

University and College Planning

As you may know, this summer I’ll be doing a college roadtrip with my daughter to the southeast. The current plan is to visit four schools: Tulane, in New Orleans; Emory, in Atlanta (replacing Rhodes in Memphis, as my daughter didn’t think it was a good fit after reading material the school sent); Bellarmine in Louisville; and Washington University, in St. Louis. This means I’ve got planning for college in my head. Here are some articles that caught my eye:

  • From US News and World Report: Which Colleges Claim To Meet Full Financial Need? A major concern is how to pay for college — yes, my salary is decent, but I’m also in a very high cost of living city. Thus, I’m pleased to see a number of our potentials are on the list: Emory, Washington University, and Reed, to name a few.
  • From the Wall Street Journal: Tips from Financial Advisors to those Choosing a College. Basic words of advice, such as (1) Encourage your child to select a career first, and then a school; (2) Don’t promise your child you’ll pay the entire tuition; (3) When deciding between schools, make your child responsible for at least some of the costs of choosing the more expensive option; (4) Make a deal with your child: Underperform and you’re out; and (5) Help children protect their health and finances from uncertainty and risk.
  • From the LA Times: In Paying for College, Better to be Lucky than Smart. In other words, it is not only what you socked away, but where you socked it away and (more importantly) when. Some hit the jackpot. Some get lemons.

K-12 Education

A few articles related to K-12 education:

  • Risks from the School Band. The LA Times looked into the cleanliness of school musical instruments, and found them teeming with bacteria. Researchers from Oklahoma State examined 13 instruments that belonged to a high school band. Six of the instruments had been played the previous week and seven hadn’t been played in a month. Swabs were taken of 117 different sites on the instruments, including the mouthpieces, internal chambers and even the carrying cases. They found 442 different bacteria, 58 types of mold and 19 types of yeast. Many of the bacteria were species of Staphylococcus, which can cause staph infection. Most of the bacteria can cause illness. Mold spores can contribute to the development of asthma. Even the instruments that had not been played recently harbored germs galore. Quite a scary study.
  • Fighting Over a Valley High School. Well, the battle is over: the LAUSD School Board decided to award “Hospital High” (New Valley Regional High School #4) to the teacher-led team from District 1 that wants to create a Performing Arts High School. This goes with the recommendation of the LAUSD Superintendent (the board ignored a number of other recommendations), and probably pissed off the team from Granada Hills Charter High School, which wanted to operate the new school. Of course, GHCHS has only themselves to blame, given the tactics they did during the vote. From the League of Women Voter’s report:
    • The large high school student turn-out was augmented by students voting from a list provided by Granada Hills Charter School.
    • Granada Hills Charter High School sponsored buses that traveled back and forth between the charter school and voting center in 30-minute cycles during both voting sessions. The bus was transporting students, parents, family members and friends to the voting site.
    • An email complaint was received by the League that students from Nobel Middle School were allegedly being called to vote for the Granada Hills Charter school plan.
    • A parent from Granada Hills Charter High School stated students were being offered “10 hours of detention removed” if they voted.
    • The League was given a ticket from a parent who claimed they were given a chance to enter into a raffle if they could submit “proof of voting” for a “charter high school”.

    Those are just some examples. Of course, I have problems with the District 1 LAUSD group as well—primarily, that they forget there is already a Performing Arts Magnet High School in the Valley that gets little support (at Van Nuys HS). My fear is that the new Performing Arts HS will simply kill the VNHS program, which isn’t a good thing. Still, I’m glad that GHCHS didn’t win the vote, for I’m not in favor of charter school dynasties. If GHCHS wants to do anything to help students and the community, they should become a charter complex of elementary, middle, and the high school, just as Palisades has done with their Charter Complex.


News Chum Stew

It’s Friday. Time to clear out the bookmarks, and make some news chum stew for your holiday party. Don’t drink too much eggnog.

  • From the “Survey Says” Department: Expect to see this one on Wait, Wait: a study has shown that wearing ugly underwear can ruin your day, at least for women. Specifically, the study shows: 27% of women say their mood is affected by wearing an ill-fitting or unattractive pair of undies; 10% of women own 35 or more pairs; 65% buy neural colors, with white being the most popular, followed by black and beige; 46% of women say briefs are the style they wear the most often. But women age 18-34 are more likely to wear the bikini style; 56% of women fold their panties; 27% just toss them in the drawer; 1 in 10 women admit that they will venture out of the house without underwear; Half of women have complaints about the way their underwear fit, with “wedgies” (30%) topping that list, followed by “doesn’t lay flat under clothes” (19%) and “not enough coverage in the rear” (14%). There. Now don’t you feel more informed.
  • From the “Go To Sleep” Department: Another recent study has shown that people who get a good night’s sleep are more attractive. Specifically, the study showed that sleep-deprived people appear less healthy, less attractive and more tired compared with when they are well rested. Again, Wait Wait fodder.
  • From the “A Weighty Matter” Department: One thing that is probably keeping teens up at night, especially those in AP Chemistry, is the change in the atomic weight of 10 elements. The elements with weight changes are boron, hydrogen, lithium, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, sulfur, chlorine and thallium. Several other elements may change soon, including helium, nickel, copper, zinc, selenium, strontium, argon and lead.
  • From the “Sleepless Nights” Department: Also keeping kids (and camp and band directors) up is the change in schedule for LA Unified, which is moving to a new schedule, starting classes in mid-August. Van Nuys did this last year. It is a big deal: not only does it put students in classes during the hottest days of summer, it has major impact on kid’s summer activities, such as dates for summer camps and marching band competitions. Those may now need to shift, and will then bump into availability issues for staff on the June end.
  • From the “Smaller Spaces” Department: Of course, those not in school may be sleeping less as well, because their cubicles are shrinking. I’m very happy I work where I do: engineers get real offices with real doors. As they said in Datamation a long time ago: O is for office. My office has a wooden door, or else I’d work a whole lot more.

And on that note, I think I need to open my door and get back to lunch.


A lunchtime observation: Grading the Teachers

Over the weekend, the LA Times published an article where they analyzed and graded teachers in LAUSD. The goal was to measure teacher effectiveness, asking the question: why do some classrooms do better on standardized tests than others. The LA Times conclusion was that it was the teachers, and they decided to use this measurement to judge the teachers. Specifically, they used a statistical approach known as value-added analysis, which rates teachers based on their students’ progress on standardized tests from year to year. Each student’s performance is compared with his or her own in past years, which (the Times claims) largely controls for outside influences often blamed for academic failure: poverty, prior learning and other factors. They then plan to publish the data in a database, accessable to all, rating specific teacher performance.

Can you guess the reaction of the teacher’s union? I thought that you could.

The Union has called for teachers to boycott the LA Times. Specifically, the President of the union said, “You’re leading people in a dangerous direction, making it seem like you can judge the quality of a teacher by … a test.”

Read that statement again: “You’re leading people in a dangerous direction, making it seem like you can judge the quality of a teacher by … a test.”

Independent of the testing method, it seems a bit hypocritical to this parent that you judge our students with tests, but that the same approach—testing—isn’t acceptable for teachers.

Now, as I see it, there are some flaws in the LA Times approach. I don’t think it adjusts for the innate characteristics of the students—some learn better than others independent of the teacher; and the nature of the class (honors, AP) just isn’t captured and reflected. It doesn’t reflect other individualized teacher characteristics, such as motivational skills. But it is certainly better than the sole method used now: a short in-class observation.

In reality, the best method to judge teacher quality is a hybrid method. There needs to be quantitative aspects such as those used by the Times, with appropriate adjustments to focus the results specifically on the contribution of the teacher and remove the bias due to characteristics of the student. There needs to be qualitative aspect measuring more subjective items such as delivery, motivational skills, resource utilization, enthusiasm, discipline, etc.—this should be a combination of supervisor evaluation, peer evaluation, and student evaluation (as appropriate to the age level). There should also be some improvement aspects: the setting of individual goals by each teacher for the school year, and measuring the progress against those goals.

However, it is disingenous of the union to protest this move towards assessing teachers. It makes them look obstructionist, and as if they are protecting the bad teachers. The union should instead say: “What you did is a step in the right direction, but is flawed. We’ll have some of our AP Statistics teachers work with you to improve the numbers you are calculating to better reflect true teaching ability, and we encourage you to emphasize that numbers are just one aspect in judging overall teacher effectiveness, just as standardized tests are just one factor in judging student performance.” As a parent, I would be heartened if the Union led the charge to ensure that the LAUSD employs effective teachers, for I am sure that parents would support appropriate wages and benefits for a demonstrably high quality and effective teaching staff.


Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy, Days of Summer

We’re getting closer to knowing what is happening this summer. At least nsshere’s school plans are in a known shape.

When she met with her counselor early this year, she planned to take French 2 over the summer in order that she could fit in her performing arts electives. Alas, not a single high school in the valley was offering French 2 (they were all Spanish); in any case, the issue became moot as LAUSD has cancelled most summer school classes… and most certainly any language classes. We looked into the community colleges, but the only college offering French 2 was Moorpark College, and that class was full (as an aside, I’ll note that the LA Community Colleges have cancelled their second session of summer classes).

A lead in the los_angeles community led us to explore UCLA Extension. They have a French 2 course for $480, but it was conducted entirely in French and was in the evenings in Westwood, increasing the difficulty of transportation. A friend referred us to BYU’s Independent Study program, which also had a French 2 course ($129). Our daughter met with her counselor, who was familar with the program, and indicated it was acceptable.

Voilà! I went to the BYU site, and she is now enrolled. The bullet (of the cancellation of LAUSD summer classes) has been dodged. We will still, of course, have to arrange for a proctored final exam, but it looks like they have exam centers at CSUN and Sylvan Learning Centers in Northridge.


Helping California’s Budget Crisis

About a week ago, my daughter got a summons before 6th period. She had to go to the administrative building, and fill out a free meal application. Never mind the fact that we did fill out an application, telling them we didn’t want the free food (and they don’t make doing that easy), and we didn’t want to give all of our income information. Never mind the fact that my daughter is on a medically-special diet (gluten-free), so even if we did qualify they wouldn’t be able to feed her safe food. No, they pull her out of class (and we get a “tardy” phone call) to fill out something we said we didn’t want.

Los Angeles Unified. Bah!

Thus, it is with interest that I saw an article in today’s LA Times: “California in danger of running out of money for school meals”. According to the state’s superintendent of public instruction, California may run out of money again this year to supplement school meals, in part because more struggling families are taking part in the free or reduced-price school lunch programs. The federal government provides $2.17 to $2.57 for each free or reduced-price meal, and California provides an additional 22 cents. Last school year, the state money ran out in May, and it is likely to run out earlier this school year. So do I really want to add to the state’s deficit?

As for LA Unified, for August, September and October of this year compared with the same period last year, the district saw a 3% increase in free lunches served, a 1% decrease in reduced-price lunches and a 4% increase in the number of regularly priced lunches that students buy. The article noted that L.A. Unified has been working to increase the numbers of students — paying and not paying — who eat meals at school. Well my daughter does eat her meals at school — just not the glutenated food served in the cafeteria.

Now, I do want these programs there for the families that need them. But don’t hound the families that don’t.


She’s Growing Up

We’re now no longer the parents of a middle school student. We’re now parents of a high-school student.

Today, at around 9am, under the blazing (it was over 100°) San Fernando Valley sun, nsshere graduated from Nobel Middle School. There were over 800 students in the class (and 13 of them had A-E-Es in all subjects all three years), and we had to listen to every name called. But listen we did — with polite clapping. Other parents blew air horns, screamed in our ears, or walked into the shade to gab with their friends.

But she’s now a graduate. So where is she right now? At Nobel, of course, having gone back to 6th Period Drama class for the last time. Come July 7th she’ll start at High School, taking health, life skills, and concert academy.

I remember when she started Kindergarten. I remember when she moved to 1st grade at Vintage Elementary. But Middle School is where she blossomed, where she loved to love learning and school, where she found her passion (performing arts), and where she turned into a young lady from a little girl. I thank all of her teachers who helped her along this way.