xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Don't Forget South Central: April 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Video of Mr. Queen at the New York Stock Exchange

You can also click directly to the NYSE link here, for better video quality.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

HE DID IT! Lamar Queen Wins Ring the Bell Contest!


“Ring the Bell” National Contest Winners Honored for Outstanding Achievements in Math

NEW YORK— A math teacher who engages his students through rapping his lessons and a young math scholar opened trading on the New York Stock exchange Wednesday as the grand prize winners of the nationwide “Ring the Bell” contest, recognizing excellence in math education. Reign Glover, a 10th grade student at Choctaw High School in Choctaw, Oklahoma, and Lamar Queen, an 8th grade Algebra teacher at Los Angeles Academy, a middle school in South Central, Los Angeles, were named as winners for their skill, dedication and innovation in math education.

Get Schooled, the national education initiative co-developed by Viacom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the New York Stock Exchange co-sponsored the contest as part of Financial Literacy Week and in recognition of President Obama’s pledge to improve American students’ performance in math and science.

“Improving math literacy is vital to our country’s workforce and our competitive role in the world economy,” said Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, who accompanied the winners and Celebrity Education Ambassador, actor Hank Azaria, at the bell-ringing ceremony. “This contest honors those who not only understand the importance of a good math and science education, but are shining examples of it.”

Math scholar Reign Glover impressed contest officials not only with her outstanding math accomplishments, but the fact that she balances her demanding course load while managing to help take care of her five younger siblings in a single parent home. Also a student athlete, Glover maintained straight A’s over the last year and a half following an unexpected move from inner–city Los Angeles to Oklahoma and a tragic family loss. For the last two summers, she has participated in the prestigious Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth summer program, completing a three-week advanced math course at the University of Santa Cruz. She has been invited back this year for the CTY program at the Roger Williams University in Rhode Island where she will study game theory economics.

“Reign’s compelling drive to succeed against the odds and her inner strength” sets an inspirational example to others, according to Sara Hahn, a former teacher who nominated Glover for the contest. Hahn is the cofounder of Determined to Succeed, an educational nonprofit she started with Azaria that mentors and tutors disadvantaged youth.

In an essay written by one of his peers, winning math teacher Lamar Queen is recognized for his innovative teaching style, composing his lessons in the form of math raps. His first rap, “Slope Intercept Form,” became an instant hit with students, who once considered his class boring, and received more than 50,000 YouTube hits (www.youtube.com/watch?v=REjcPZeypVg). Three years later, Queen and a fellow middle school teacher released a Web site, www.musicnotesonline.com,  which features CDs and DVDs filled with songs and videos using Queen’s original music that are helping hundreds of students learn math concepts.

The essay stated, “[Queen] has developed a whole range of entertaining and educational raps for students of regular and higher math, and has turned on students to a subject they once feared.”

“NYSE Euronext's collaboration with Viacom's Get Schooled initiative reinforces the importance of being innovative and creative in how we reach today's youth with the fundamentals of education and financial literacy," said Duncan Niederauer, CEO, NYSE Euronext.

The “Ring the Bell” winners were chosen from a national pool of nominations that included students and teachers from dozens of middle and high schools across the country. In addition to having the opportunity to ring the New York Stock Exchange Opening Bell, Glover and Queen also received an all-expense paid trip to New York City, a chance to meet Get Schooled Celebrity Education Ambassador Hank Azaria, a backstage tour of the New York Stock Exchange, a Dell “Nickelodeon Edition” laptop and other prizes.


The Get Schooled Foundation connects, inspires and mobilizes people – from policymakers and corporate leaders to communities and kids – to improve high school graduation and college completion rates in the U.S.  It provides resources and information and creative programming that engage a range of audiences to address America’s education crisis. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, the Get Schooled Foundation’s co-founders include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom, including its divisions BET Networks, MTV Networks and Paramount Pictures.
Jimmy Pascascio
6th Grade Teacher
Los Angeles Academy Middle School

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lamar Queen, the Rapping Math Sensation Entered in Get Schooled Ring the Bell Contest

 When the Get Schooled foundation asked for nominations for outstanding math teachers in its Ring the Bell Contest, one name stood out among the other:  resident superstar teacher Lamar Queen!  Below is the essay that was submitted on his behalf:

In 2007 a new Algebra teacher arrived at our urban middle school in South Central Los Angeles. Lamar Queen was the kind of teacher that you know off-bat will have a bright future.
His calm demeanor, impeccable dress, and rapport with students was instantaneous. We knew he would be destined for greatness.

Well, it didn't quite work out that way. His students got over his youth and looks and soon started complaining about class being boring. Mr. Queen was mortified. He became stressed.

He showed up at our school's New Teacher support meetings and admitted he couldn't sleep well at night trying to figure out a way to make class more engaging. And that's when the magic began.

Mr. Queen began writing his lessons in the form of math raps. He wanted these raps to pass the stiff criteria our students use to deem what is "cool" or "not cool." His first rap, Slope Intercept Form, was a huge hit with students due to its original lyrics and beats. Soon, a youtube video followed, and Mr. Queen became a certified superstar in the 'hood. He has developed a whole range of entertaining and educational raps for students of regular and higher math, and has turned on students to a subject they once feared.

As an African-American male, in a community desperate for role models, Mr. Queen has lived up to the promise we saw in him. We are lucky to have him in our school. His video is at

If Mr. Q.U.E. wins the contest, he gets a free round-trip ticket to New York City to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, April 28th, 2010!  Stay tuned for details, as we are awaiting word about the winners.  Feel free to contact Lamar at lamar.queen@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook at Mr. Q.U.E.'s fan page.  His music can be found at musicnotesonline.com

photo from lawattstimes.com

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It IS That Bad

This week at LAAMS we found out our counseling staff will be reduced in half next year, with each counselor carrying an 850:1 load of students.  Our deans are being reduced from three to two, and our categorical program coordinators reduced from two to one.  We may also lose an Assistant Principal, in our school of 2,400 students in South Central Los Angeles.

And we thought we were having discipline problems this year?

My position as half time GATE coordinator that oversees 700 Gifted/Advanced Students will very possibly be eliminated.  How will these 700 students and their families be served during one conference period, in addition to the 150 other students I teach in the classroom?

If forward progress paused this year because of the layoffs, it will most certainly reverse direction with these "final blow" cuts to our school.  If it wasn't for our fiercely dedicated teachers, our school may have collapsed already.  But we have spirit.

It is beside the point to moan about how these cuts will hurt kids.  All involved know that.  What is important to consider is how decisions have been made at the top; how the Governor protects the wealthiest Californians at the expense of the least.  How the President and Arne Duncan have decided to use Race to the Top Funding to further their own reform plans that have, through wide consensus in the education community, been deemed as not viable.  These funds, by the way, are awarded not by need, but by how much each state agrees to pursue the reforms the feds are pushing.  “We don’t know how many winners there will be,” Duncan said. “Quite frankly, there will probably be a lot more losers than winners in the first round.”

When our country collapses because we created a nation of uneducated, throwaway youth while fostering the development of hedge fund managers and the ruling class, let's be clear that it all started when we decided to kill public education.
Post by AvalonSensei, aka Martha Infante

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cutting the School Year Short

This week, members of the United Teachers of Los Angeles will vote to approve 12 furlough days in the next 15 months. These furloughs translate in to a 5% pay cut. Should teachers vote for this measure, as a way to preserve jobs? Yes.

It is completely understandable why many UTLA members may want to vote this measure down. It is unclear whether the LAUSD has cut enough from its own bureaucracy in order to justify a pay cut for teachers. Although many districts have their budgets posted online as a way of promoting transparency, getting accurate numbers from LAUSD is like pulling teeth. As teachers see it, vast mismanagement of funds, and poor management in general led to a surplus of workers in a district with declining enrollment. Now, to balance the budget, teachers are asked to sacrifice pay. This is not okay.

Other UTLA members believe in the "last hired, first fired" way of fairly dealing with layoffs. That might make sense except at schools like L.A. Academy a.k.a. LAAMS (and Markham MS, and Fremont HS, and Jefferson HS) where no one wants to work, and thus are overly represented by bright-eyed, new teachers who had no other choice of where to work (we call them unknowingly lucky.)  When cuts come our way, we lose more teachers than in any other part of the district. In the 2009 Reduction in Force, South Central Los Angeles bore 40% of all the layoffs. Again, not okay, and the reason why the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the district.

Clearly, the system isn't perfect. The time has come for UTLA to take the lead in ensuring the fair distribution of new teachers across the district if it wants to maintain the current seniority system used to conduct layoffs. Otherwise, every time there is a turn in the economy, schools like LAAMS will be decimated and our students will be left as they are now, bereft of teachers who chose to work with them, planned to stay at our school for a long time, and were invested in the school and its programs.

From a teacher's point of view, starting over with new staff is at best, making no forward progress.  It takes time for teachers to learn about their new school, become familiar with the culture and climate, and to decide whether it is a place that is respectful and valuable for them to commit to.  All momentum towards academic improvement is stopped, and in many cases, goes back the other way.

A possible solution: across the board pay cuts. Every school and office takes the same cut. Teachers can keep their district seniority if they transfer to a hard to staff school, and they will be virtually guaranteed employment because the average years of experience at schools such as mine (84% teaching <5 years) is on the lower end. But if they insist on staying at a LACES HS or a Bravo HS, they run the risk of being laid off in a RIF year. This seems fair. On an issue like this, it is imperative for the agenda to be student, not adult-centered.

Finally, the shortening of the school year is the lesser of two evils  Far more harm will come to schools if you layoff the very people willing and able to make a difference in students' lives.  When we lost the people you see in the sidebar of this blog, it was like a piece of our collective LAAMS heart died.  We will never be able to replace the Ms. Sanlins and Ms. Umbers we lost to the budget cuts.  And it is a move that can never be undone.  Those 12 days will go by in a flash, but the loss of experienced and talented teachers is forever.

So UTLA members, we ask that you vote yes on the CBA.  The future of LAAMS depends on it.

Photo by Aaron Short