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Welcome Administrators! Thank you for visiting our website. Your interest signals an awareness that the knowledge and skill of classroom teachers maximize student learning. ISCA is part of UTLA’s initiative to improve teaching. Hence, ISCA’s work is called UTLA Lesson Design Study. We invite you to partner with us. For more information, please contact Charlotte Higuchi, Director, at (213) 639-0804 or Day Higuchi, Associate Director, at (213) 639-0802.

What is ISCA?
The Institute for Standards, Curricula and Assessments (ISCA) is affiliated with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the union representing the more than 40,000 teachers and other non-management certificated staff of the Los Angeles Unified School District. ISCA is part of the nonprofit United Teachers Educational Foundation at UTLA. ISCA was founded in 1999 under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education (For further background, click here.) ISCA has received subsequent contracts with schools and grants from Washington Mutual, State Farm Insurance, the California Teachers Association, and other donors.

What Does ISCA Do?
ISCA guides teachers through UTLA Lesson Design Study, an intensive teaching-as-research-and-development process that invests in the creativity, content knowledge and intellect of teachers. In lesson design study, teachers design units (a series of lessons) and assessments that measure student learning from those lessons.

The lessons are taught (field-tested) and measured against the students’ performance on the assessments. Based on the outcomes, the lessons and assessments are redesigned in detail and disseminated to colleagues at their schools.
UTLA Lesson Design Study derives a great deal from what is known as "Japanese Lesson Study," which the Japanese teachers simply call research, and includes back-mapping from standards. But UTLA Lesson Design Study goes beyond these elements. It is a unique and overwhelmingly positive experience for teachers. Here are administrator and teacher responses to Lesson Design Study:

  "I have never seen the like of the enthusiasm with which they [teachers] returned. They spoke of the ways teachers ought to be supported. Positive word of mouth from the first, Track A, cohort motivated a group from Track B to sign up. Track B teachers came back wanting to make the process the norm for their entire track."
  – Veronique Wills, Principal
Foshay Learning Center
  "I want to give my utmost endorsement to the ISCA for the help it has given many of teachers in Lesson Design. One of my first year teachers told me today how happy he is to be working on his unit and that he can’t wait to use it in the classroom. That is indicative of the success and enthusiasm with which teachers at John Muir Middle School have taken to the Institute [ISCA]. New ones canít wait to sign up when they are "off track" and others are going back for a second or third time. Not one teacher has ever been disappointed that they chose to be in the program."
  – Neal Kleiner, Former Principal
John Muir Middle School
  "It was real...I was asked to be intellectual and creative. The quality was superb. It respected my intelligence and ability to design lessons. There is more depth to my teaching now. The students feel respected because this unit challenges them. And as a result, they are more attentive and serious about their work."
  – Jacqueline Barrios-Ramirez, NBCT
Foshay Learning Center
English, Gr. 8-11
  "It brings out the best in every teacher. It helped me reach a peak in my teaching. I felt that I had become an extraordinary teacher. It is the BEST professional development program that I have discovered. And I have been practicing it for the past 4 years. Every teacher needs to go through the process."
  – Charlene Brown, Chapter Chair
Foshay Learning Center
Mathematics & Social Studies
Gr. 6-8
Why Does UTLA Support the Work of ISCA?
Teachers support Lesson Design Study because of the standard it embodies and the benefits it brings to schools. UTLA Lesson Design Study1 embodies:
The professional life of teaching that is implied by standards such as the California Standards for the Teaching Profession and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Good professional development:
Is keyed to participants’ teaching choices
Deepens content knowledge
Adapts pedagogy to what is being taught
Focuses on students as learners
Provides a profound understanding of standards-based teaching
Addresses the real complexity of teaching
Is designed by teachers

Benefits to Participating Schools are as Follows:
Benefits to Students and Teachers2
Helps student academic performance
(86% teacher agreement on survey)
Improves teaching
(98% agreement)
Collaboration improves lessons and assessments
(98% agreement)
Increases knowledge of standards-based teaching
(93% agreement)
Administrators and teachers at one middle and high school noted that:
Student discipline problems decreased because the lessons and assessments were well-designed
Overwhelming majority of new teachers said they felt more confident and effective because they were better prepared
Capacity/team building
Teachers are willing to teach lesson design study to other teachers
(87% agreement)
Teachers feel supported by administrators when administrators support lesson design study
(87% agreement)
Lesson Design Study extends collaborative work done on regular professional development time: For example, the science department can brainstorm ideas for lessons on how to get students to successfully write scientific hypotheses and design experiments to verify them (no mean feat), then the teachers can attend Lesson Design Study to write units.
Online access to units and performance assessments: Every participating teacher becomes an ISCA network member, and each participating school can download the units, assessments and resource material developed by teachers from that school. Grade-levels, departments, grade-levels within departments, or small-learning communities can draw from this source to create sets of units tailored to their needs.
Networking between teachers from different schools
During seminars, when several schools work together
At ISCA-sponsored Parent/Community/Teacher Conferences

How to Bring Lesson Design Study to Your School
Gather at least 10 teachers interested in participating
Set up an appointment with key staff and UTLA Chapter Chair to meet with the ISCA Director or Associate Director (213-639-0802) to discuss the details of how lesson design study works, answer questions, and encourage participation.
Schedule training-seminar dates

Funding Sources that Have Been Used or Considered by Participating Schools
Title I funds
State or federal funding or grants targeted for schools not meeting their API or NCLB growth targets
Year-round schools funds
Technology grants
Funds set aside for conference attendance
Private grants for professional development


Veronica Aragon, Principal, Wilmington Middle School
Neal Kleiner, Principal (retired), Muir Middle School
Ed Robillard, former Principal, Manual Arts High School
Veronique Wills, Principal, Foshay Learning Center
Josephine Zarro, Assistant Principal, Wilmington Middle School
Juan Quintinilla, Title I Coordinator, Manual Arts High School
Susie Chow, Coordinator, The Support Network for National Board Certification
Mary Lewis, Administrator, Alternative Certification and Teacher Support Unit
Prof. Wellford "Buzz" Wilms, Director, Educational Leadership Program, UCLA

1UTLA has authorized ISCA to refer to its lesson design study as UTLA Lesson Design Study.
2From Teacher Surveys of Lesson Design Study, May 2006, Prof. Wellford Wilms, UCLA, a statistical analysis of a survey of teachers at Foshay Learning Center.


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