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  • LAUSD Magnet Schools: What is Norm Day?

    What is Norm Day? -

    If you’re an LAUSD parent, then you may have heard the staff or other parents mention “Norm Day” and wondered what it is, since this school year, it was this past Friday, September 12.

    “Norm Day” is a day approximately four after weeks after the start of the school year that is significant to parents if you feel strongly about your child’s teacher, and to school staff for a number of reasons.

    On Norm Day, the student population count is considered “official” – that means budget determinations will be made based on those numbers.

    This has a greater impact on schools than most parents realize. For example, positions that are dependent upon the number of students enrolled – such as a general assistant principal – may be added or taken away based upon the Norm Day count.

    The number of classes per grade level is also fixed on Norm Day. So, for grades K through 3, the student to teacher ratio is supposed to be 24 to 1. Now, suppose there are three classes of second grade on Norm Day, but each class has ballooned to 30 students per class. Students will be removed from each class and a fourth class will be created. (I don’t think classes would actually be allowed to get that big even before Norm Day, but that might depend on the school and/or budget constrictions.) Conversely, if the number of students is below the 24 to 1 ratio, the number of classes in the grade level may be reduced.

    Because of the movement that is sometimes required after Norm Day, LAUSD does not guarantee the placement of your child with the teacher he or she has on the first day of school. And, schools generally do not accommodate a request to change teachers until Norm Day. If you like your child’s teacher, you may find yourself breathing a sigh of relief once Norm Day has passed.

    Norm Day numbers may also be used by LAUSD to calculate a school’s budget. So while as parents we usually don’t see the day to day work of the administrative staff, Norm Day impacts them greatly by determining the number of teachers, the number of staff, the amount of discretionary funds allotted, and so on.

    Image via by Grant Cochrane.

    LAUSD Magnet Schools: Useful Links

    I’m shutting down my other website, LAUSD Magnet Schools & Beyond, and moving its content to Chief Family Officer. Our children’s education is a huge part of parenting and family life, so it’s a good fit here, and I plan to write even more about education as my older son approaches middle school age. If there’s a specific topic you’d like to see covered, please let me know!

    Useful Links re. Magnet Schools -

    Here are some useful links to help you explore LAUSD’s program options:

    LAUSD eChoices – LAUSD’s web site for program choices, including magnet schools, No Child Left Behind Public School Choice, and more.

    LAUSD GATE – LAUSD’s Gifted & Talented Programs

    LAUSD Resident School Identifier – Enter your address to find out your “home” school.

    California Academic Performance Index (API) Scores – Find out your school’s standardized test scores.

    LAUSD Student Integration Services – This office administers the magnet and other programs.

    Image via by Grant Cochrane.

    LAUSD Magnet Schools: Why the Meal Benefits Application is So Important

    I’m shutting down my other website, LAUSD Magnet Schools & Beyond, and moving its content to Chief Family Officer. Our children’s education is a huge part of parenting and family life, so it’s a good fit here, and I plan to write even more about education as my oldest approaches middle school age. If there’s a specific topic you’d like to see covered, please let me know!

    Importance of the Meal Benefits Application -

    Now that the new school year is just a month away {no kidding!}, LAUSD has sent out notices that the Meal Benefits Application is now open. Children from lower income families can qualify for free or reduced-cost meals at school, which helps them get the nutrition they need to be able to learn, and the application is intended to identify those children.

    What you may not know:

    The percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced cost meals can determine how much federal funding your school receives.

    There is a federal law called Title I, which funds primary and secondary education for low-income students. A school qualifies as Title I if a certain percentage of students qualify for free or reduced cost meals.

    At some schools in LAUSD, there are so few students who qualify for free or reduced cost meals that the meal application is mostly irrelevant. But for Title I schools, the meal application is vitally important since so much funding hinges on the number of students who qualify for benefits. The threshold to qualify as a Title I school has been adjusted in recent years, meaning some schools that previously qualified as Title I have not qualified in some recent years. At these schools especially, it is more important than ever for families to get their applications in so as to maximize the chances of restoring Title I funding to their school.

    Even if you don’t qualify for benefits, it helps your school if you complete the application because the administration is looking to capture all of those students who do qualify, and they’ll only know that’s happened if 100% of the applications are completed. Unfortunately, it used to be that there was a box you could check to state that you are not applying for benefits, but the online application doesn’t seem to have that type of option.

    If you do qualify for meal benefits, you must complete the application in order for your child to receive those benefits throughout the school year.

    Image via by Grant Cochrane.

    LAUSD Magnet Schools: Gifted/High-Ability vs. Highly Gifted Magnet Schools

    I’m shutting down my other website, LAUSD, and moving its content to Chief Family Officer. Our children’s education is a huge part of parenting and family life, so it’s a good fit here, and I plan to write even more about education as my older son approaches middle school age. If there’s a specific topic you’d like to see covered, please let me know!

    Gifted/High-Ability vs. Highly-Gifted Magnets -

    LAUSD offers two types of magnet schools for gifted children: Gifted/High-Ability Magnets and Highly Gifted Magnets.

    Gifted/High-Ability magnet programs are intended for students who demonstrate the ability to work two years above their grade level in academic subjects. By contrast, Highly Gifted magnet programs are only open to students who score 99.5% and above on an LAUSD intellectual assessment, with priority given to those who score 99.9%. Unlike other magnet schools, which are open to all students, verification of a student’s abilities are required before a student will be considered for a Gifted/High-Ability or Highly Gifted Magnet.

    Gifted/High-Ability Magnet Programs

    Applicants to a Gifted/High-Ability Magnet must meet one of the following criteria:

    1) Demonstrate the ability to meet all four of these critical thinking and problem solving skills in their primary language:

    • Explain meanings or relationships among facts, information or concepts that demonstrate depth and complexity;
    • Formulate new ideas or solutions and elaborate on the information;
    • Use alternative methods in approaching new or unfamiliar mathematical problems; and
    • Use extensive vocabulary easily and accurately to express creative ideas

    The child’s teacher and principal will determine if the child meets all four characteristics. This is generally the type of assessment used in the lower grades before students begin taking standardized tests. Teachers are directed to consider these characteristics regardless of a child’s behavior in the classroom (e.g., quiet children who do not speak up in class are not automatically presumed to lack understanding).

    2) Have percentile scores of 85% or above on standardized norm-referenced tests in both total reading and total math. For the California Standards Test, that means students must achieve scaled scores as follows:

    • 445 or above in English-Language Arts (Grades 2-11) and
    • 450 or above in mathematics (Grades 2-7) or 450 or above in Algebra I, II, Geometry, Integrated Math I, II, III, or High School Summative Math

    At LAUSD schools, standardized testing begins in the second grade. However, note that while these criteria are still listed as current on the LAUSD web site, the district no longer administers the CST due to the switch to Common Core Standards. Thus, this method of determination of eligibility is apparently being re-evaluated by the district.

    3) Be identified as gifted by an LAUSD school psychologist in the intellectual, high achievement or specific academic ability categories.

    Highly Gifted Magnet Programs

    To be eligible for admission to a Highly Gifted magnet, students must score 99.5% or higher on an LAUSD intellectual assessment. Priority for admission is given to students who score 99.9%, and students who score above 99.5% are admitted depending on space availability.

    Schools may identify prospective students for assessment. Alternatively, parents may request an assessment through the child’s current LAUSD school.

    Note that LAUSD cannot use test results from private sources in place of the LAUSD-administered assessment. However, test results from private sources may be used to supplement the evaluation.

    If your child attends a private school, contact the Gifted/Talented Programs Office at (213) 241-6500 to learn how your child can be verified for the magnet program you are interested in.

    Image via by Grant Cochrane.

    LAUSD & Charter Schools

    LAUSD & Charter Schools -

    According to, “[c]harter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The ‘charter’ establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success.”

    Within LAUSD, there are two types of charter schools – a “conversion charter” whereby an existing public school is converted to a charter school, and a “start-up charter” established by a member of the public. Some charter schools are affiliated with LAUSD, while others are independent.

    District-affiliated charter schools adhere to all LAUSD guidelines and policies but have more autonomy with their school budget and curriculum choices than traditional schools. They can purchase services from LAUSD, hire LAUSD teachers who remain part of the teachers’ union, and have access to free LAUSD facilities.

    Independent charters have even greater autonomy than district-affiliated charters but receive no organizational support from LAUSD, meaning they must handle their own hiring, employee benefits, payroll, facilities management and more.

    Charter schools are public schools. There is no formal tuition, but most schools fund raise and solicit donations. Many schools also have substantial parent participation requirements.

    There are over 180 charter schools within LAUSD. You can find a list of charter schools here.

    Image via by Supertrooper.