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Just a quick follow-up on my piece, "A Tale of Two Education Reformers" on charter school activist Steve Barr and the Green Dot charter school "chain" he set up in Los Angeles.  Just saw this Education Week blog piece, "Network of Green Dot Schools Raises Performance, Study Finds" talking about the success of Green Dot's takeover of Locke High School, an failing urban school in Los Angeles.

From the piece...

Students attending a cluster of Los Angeles schools overseen by the charter operator Green Dot significantly increased their test scores and persistence in school, and took more challenging courses than comparable peers, a newly released study has found.

The schools were part of what was originally Alain Leroy Locke High School, an academic low-performer located in an impoverished neighborhood in the south part of the city.

With permission from the Los Angeles Unified School District, Green Dot took over the school in 2007 and began its transformation into a series of smaller charter schools.

The study, conducted by researchers at UCLA's National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, known as CRESST, compared Locke students entering 9th grade against demographically similar students from the same set of feeder middle schools who ended up attending different high schools. Two cohorts of students, one of them entering the Locke schools in 2007 and another, larger group entering in 2008, were compared against against peers in other schools.

I share this as follow-up on the point I was trying to make in my piece that charter schools are just a tool, that can be used for either progressive or not so progressive reasons.  A progressive Democratic Party activist like Steve Barr used the charter law to help families in a disadvantaged neighborhood have a public school that would do better by their kids and give more of them a chance to go on to college.

I agree that in red states, the school chartering laws are being used to undermine the traditional public education system and the unionized teachers that staff them.  But in a blue state like California, charter schools have generally been a positive addition to the spectrum of public schools, and allowing caring activists like Barr to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem!

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)

    Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

    by leftyparent on Thu May 17, 2012 at 04:59:03 PM PDT

  •  Be prepared to commenters questioning that (0+ / 0-)

    there is such thing as a failing public school and that charter schools can possibly be successful.

    •  Thanks for the heads up!... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, angelajean

      I understand progressive politico's issues with charter schools.  They are definitely used in red states to bash teachers and their unions.

      But I keep trying to get people to have a more nuanced view here.  In a blue state like here in California charters have had a positive role to play in improving public schools.  We have no conservative majority in our government here trying to bash teachers!

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Thu May 17, 2012 at 05:15:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I remember one of my coworkers got involved (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        angelajean

        in a charter school soon after it became legal. It was a small school and parents taught some classes themselves. Afaik, it worked pretty well.

      •  And Birmingham wasn't red-state privatization? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        radical simplicity

        California is no different from the red state charters.  Maybe Locke worked, but really, this would be the exception to the rule that charter schools are part of a grand union destabilization project.

        and there's no ' in politicos.  

        -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

        by Dave in Northridge on Thu May 17, 2012 at 06:29:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There is a spectrum of charter schools... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          angelajean

          in Los Angeles, and many of them offer (within the tight constraints of state educational standardization) some degree of an alternative learning path, or a learning venue that is perhaps smaller and more personal than the typical urban public school.

          For example, my daughter went to a conventional public elementary school with over 600 students. Later, she went to a high school with over 5000 students.  Sandwiched in between she went to an alternative K-8 charter middle school that had just around 120 students, and had a program that was very different than the conventional public school offering.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:26:32 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  This is great news for the kids that had these (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, Nance

    schools in their neighborhoods. I have always thought that smaller high schools were part of the solution. I wish more school districts could find a way to make it happen.

    •  Small high schools was Bill Gate's brilliant idea. (0+ / 0-)

            It was tried and didn't work.

      The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

      by Azazello on Thu May 17, 2012 at 06:03:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It seems to be working for these schools. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello

        Maybe it really depends on the community? Maybe we just need to have more freedom in many of these school districts to try new ideas?

        •  Every town has Potemkin charters, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          radical simplicity, Funkygal

          that "seem to be working." They're a minority of charters. The majority of charters do no better than trads, and some are out-and-out scams. I don't think there are any revolutionary methods out there waiting to be discovered. I think I know what "education reform" is all about.

          The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

          by Azazello on Thu May 17, 2012 at 06:25:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  But the same can be said for public schools... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Azazello, Nance

            some are great and some are horrible.

            If there aren't any revolutionary methods out there, then what do you suggest we do to help kids in neighborhoods with struggling schools? Or do you believe that there are no struggling schools?

            And if schools like these charters that lefyparent is writing about are working, then why shouldn't we applaud that community for finding a solution that works for them? Any school that can make changes like they have while still having to deal with NCLB should receive some kind of credit no matter the governance model of the school.

            •  What do I suggest ? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Funkygal

              Jobs for all, less income inequality. These are the issues; blaming public schools is just scapegoating. And no, by the way, the same can't be said for traditional public schools. 85% of charters do worse than the average trad. school. Most of the model charters get gobs of outside funding and many counsel out poor students. Charters are a part of the corporate privatization campaign. "Education reform" is about the $$$, not the kids. Don't fall for it.

              The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

              by Azazello on Thu May 17, 2012 at 06:42:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I don't see it as blaming... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                angelajean

                I see it as unshackling public schools so they can evolve, diversify and stay strong in the new milieu of the 21st century.  IMO, standardization of public education, not privatization, is really choking the institution and keeping it from evolving to become what people need today.

                Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                by leftyparent on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:30:02 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  There is no "new millieu of the 21st century." (0+ / 0-)

                  That was 20th century hype. Humanity doesn't change when the calender flips over and it's surprising how many of our social problems are the same as they were in the 19th century. I just don't see how defunding and dismantling our public schools solves anything and I know for sure that calls for more "school choice", GHW Bush's phrase by the way, play into the hands of corporate privatizers.

                  The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

                  by Azazello on Fri May 18, 2012 at 12:03:22 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  "School Choice" has become a catch phrase... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    angelajean

                    for the right.  I'm talking about "many educational paths" that include conventional instructional school, more holistic schools, democratic-free schools, and various forms of learning outside of school.

                    Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                    by leftyparent on Fri May 18, 2012 at 03:34:34 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

        •  If you dig deeper, the study was funded by (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          frandor55

          Bill &Melinda Gates foundation which loves charter schools .  I would take any claims about charter schools
          with a grain of salt because it is being promoted as a silver bullet by the education deformers.Besides funding from billionaire foundations - Gates, Walton (Walmart) and Broad, tons of hedge money is pouring in , Wall Street just loves them. Just like yesterday's "miracle" economies are today's basket cases (Ireland comes to my mind), today's miracle charters could become tomorrow's basket cases. I haven't kept up on this specific school lately but this from last year :

          http://www.schoolsmatter.info/...

          Geoffrey Canada's Harlem charter school was touted as a success and he was doing rounds on the lame stream media. Until it wasn't - when the standard of the test were raised, the bubble popped.

          Not to say charters can't be good, but I am very weary because of the money pouring in to promote them while attacking public schools and teachers unions.

          If you haven't seen this already :
          http://www.dissentmagazine.org/...

          "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

          by Funkygal on Fri May 18, 2012 at 04:26:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I will wait to see if someone "drill baby drill" (0+ / 0-)

            into the school's performance for reasons mentioned above.  

            "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

            by Funkygal on Fri May 18, 2012 at 04:28:39 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  True, and the Gates Foundation has... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            angelajean

            gone over to the "dark side" and drunk the Koolaid of standardization, top-down control of students and teachers, and the high-stakes testing that goes with it.

            Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

            by leftyparent on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:33:02 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  That is one of the reasons I have problem (0+ / 0-)

              with the type of study you linked to.

              "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

              by Funkygal on Fri May 18, 2012 at 03:05:02 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Fair enough, your concerned about the bedfellows.. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                angelajean

                I get that.  I just think the schools Steve Barr started and restarted through Green Dot were a step forward, not backward, in the evolution of public schools.  Innovation generally doesn't come from a committee of "educrats", it comes from activist individuals and groups who commit themselves to making change happen.

                Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                by leftyparent on Fri May 18, 2012 at 03:37:39 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  It's not just that charters are used (0+ / 0-)

    in red states to undermine traditional public schools and those who teach in them. It's a larger issue; the neo-liberal drive to privatize. When the corporations finish their take-over, by the way,  K-12 education will still be compulsory. It just won't be as good and it will cost more, like our for-profit healthcare.

    The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

    by Azazello on Thu May 17, 2012 at 06:08:06 PM PDT

    •  Charters aren't private - they are public schools. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, Nance

      If your problem is with charters for profit, then focus on that profit motive. Let's make it illegal to run a public school for corporate profit but let's always remember that charter schools still are public schools - funded by public dollars and approved by a public education system whether it be at the state or local level.

      •  they divert funds (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello

        from district budgets.  De jure public, de facto private.  Are you somehow invested in the system, angelejean?

        -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

        by Dave in Northridge on Thu May 17, 2012 at 06:32:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Well of course they're funded by tax money, (0+ / 0-)

        that's the whole point. Half the revenue for for-profit healthcare comes from governments and in the defense "industry" it's 100% It's too late to make it illegal to profit from publicly funded education, people are already doing that. Meanwhile we're dismantling the current non-profit system as fast as we can. Trust me, when it's gone, we'll never get it back.

        The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

        by Azazello on Thu May 17, 2012 at 06:33:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Then why not applaud the progressive successes (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Azazello, Nance

          and see if we can't see more of them repeated?

          •  Privatization is not progressive, (0+ / 0-)

                 and besides, most of the "successes" cheat.

            The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

            by Azazello on Thu May 17, 2012 at 06:44:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You know, I don't think you mean to, but you (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Azazello

              sound like those guys who say that all teachers are lazy and earn too much money. Or the ones that say all public schools are failing.

              None of that is true.

              Nor is it true that most successful charter schools cheat.

              Maybe it's your way of trying to reframe the issue. It isn't working for me. Maybe it will work with other progressives.

              •  I'm not reframing, (0+ / 0-)

                I understand the issue. Have you looked at the mess with for-profit colleges ? That's what's coming to K-12, you can take that to the bank.

                The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

                by Azazello on Thu May 17, 2012 at 07:05:58 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The study I found identified 14% for-profit... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  angelajean

                  charter schools in the country, at least as of 2006.  That 14% generally have a non-profit parent organization which then contracts with a for-profit school management company.

                  That means the other 86% of charter schools are true non-profits.

                  http://www.leftyparent.com/...

                  Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                  by leftyparent on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:41:39 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Everyone who is (0+ / 0-)

                  bothering to read here understands the issue.

                •  Laws vary state-by-state (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Azazello, angelajean

                  In California, for-profit charters, are disallowed. There is not a single one.  You also state in another post that there are masquerading for-profit charters under a non-profit umbrella.  I'm not sure what you mean by that.  Could you provide me with an example?

                  Credulant (adj): Something that is not fully credible because it is unsourced but it sounds true so it is accepted without argument.

                  by xajaxsingerx on Fri May 18, 2012 at 10:59:04 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I'm pretty sure I never said that, (0+ / 0-)

                    about "masquerading." I do believe that charters are part of the corporate takeover, the privatization, of education in America. Do you remember how it happened in health care ? Non-profit hospitals were much more numerous than they are now. During the 80s and 90s, there were middlemen who went around the country buying non-profit hospitals and HMOs. They then turned them into for-profits and sold them to large chains, becoming fabulously rich in the process. What is now a non-profit charter school will not necessarily be a non-profit 5 years from now. You can read about how it happened in health care in Critical Condition, Barlett & Steele, '04. I've been following the War on Public Education for more than 20 years. You can believe me now or believe me later. It's about privatization; it's about the $$$.

                    The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

                    by Azazello on Fri May 18, 2012 at 11:33:10 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I may have confused (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Azazello, leftyparent

                      your comment with another person's.  I apologize.  I think, though, that there are fundamental differences between the Charter movement (at least as it is in California) and the privatization of healthcare. Here in California, there can be no profit for a Charter organization.  

                      Each charter has its finances managed by "Funding Agent," which must be either an existing school district or the State Board of Education.  these Funding Agents, in exchange for 1% of the funds, control the flow of money between the state and the charter.  Charters are also required to file quarterly and annual financial reports to both the funding agency and the charter holder that demonstrate, to the dollar, where their money is going.  

                      Having both helped run a charter, having written a charter, having shepherded charters through approval, and having taught in several of them, I can assure you that the profit motive is not a charter motive.

                      Credulant (adj): Something that is not fully credible because it is unsourced but it sounds true so it is accepted without argument.

                      by xajaxsingerx on Fri May 18, 2012 at 12:16:25 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I live in Arizona, (0+ / 0-)

                        the meth lab of democracy. We have much looser charter requirements here and lots of dubious strip mall charters. After pushing the idea that the public schools are "failing" the Right demanded vouchers. People were suspicious and rightly so. They couldn't get their wish right away, so they settled for charters, the next best thing. After all, charters are premised on the idea that traditional schools are broken and must be "reformed."

                        The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

                        by Azazello on Fri May 18, 2012 at 12:25:56 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  If I lived in AZ (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Azazello, angelajean

                          I'd be against charters, too.  Please believe me when I say it's different here in CA.

                          And you're correct as to the premise of charters -- but I don't think I could argue that our inner-city public schools aren't failing their students.  The graduation rate from our local district schools is under 37%.  Ours at Locke is only a little bit higher, but it is - a little bit - higher.

                          Here in California, over 40% of freshmen at CSU do not return for their sophomore year -- the supermajority therein cite an inability to keep up with the work rather than the cost of tuition as their reason.

                          We need to be doing something different -- whether it be in the districts or in the charters -- because what we have been doing is not successful for those who have the greatest need for quality public schools.

                          Credulant (adj): Something that is not fully credible because it is unsourced but it sounds true so it is accepted without argument.

                          by xajaxsingerx on Fri May 18, 2012 at 12:31:15 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  My belief is that underlying social problems, (0+ / 0-)

                            the results of a 30-year class war, have more to do with outcomes than teachers unions or failing schools. Politicians of both parties, having been complicit in said class war, would much rather scapegoat the schools than admit that their policies have failed large numbers of American families.

                            The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

                            by Azazello on Fri May 18, 2012 at 12:45:57 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I agree wholeheartedly (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Azazello, angelajean

                            and,as a union member, I certainly don't believe we are the problem.

                            But whatever the cause is, I strongly believe that searching for ways to mitigate the damage cannot wait and, even if the approaches are detrimental to long-term efforts at change within the system, we also need to remember that every year that passes is the only year that millions of students have in their current grade and that every year we do nothing, we continue to damage those who can afford it the least.

                            Charters are by no means the solution, and their implementation in many areas have made them part of the problem, but if the alternative is to make no changes while we fight a long-term, generational, policy battle, then I will continue to put my effort into creating a strong charter alternative.

                            But then again, I live in Ca and have that luxury...

                            Credulant (adj): Something that is not fully credible because it is unsourced but it sounds true so it is accepted without argument.

                            by xajaxsingerx on Fri May 18, 2012 at 01:44:03 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                        •  East / West divide? (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Azazello

                          Maybe this isn't true in Arizona, but here in the northeast rich kids just don't go to public school, full stop.  That's the problem that I see with the public school system: it's actually a two-tier system, where those who can afford it go to private schools, and everybody else goes to public school.

                  •  Some chater schools are non-profits but... (0+ / 0-)

                    contract the running of the school to a for-profit management company.  But again, based on the 2006 study, that's only about 14% of charter schools!

                    Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                    by leftyparent on Fri May 18, 2012 at 03:43:32 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                •  Higher ed in the US is extremely strong (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  angelajean

                  Most would say, thanks to a diversity of public schools, non-profits, and public-private joint ventures.

                  Not saying there aren't problems with for-profit colleges, and of course it's not at all clear that the postsecondary system we have can scale to serve the numbers that it needs to, much less the numbers the K12 system serves, but if you're seriously trying to argue against "privatization" of K12 education, you should probably try to avoid talking about higher ed as much as possible, because its an example of exactly the kind of system reformers want, and it's working pretty darn well.

  •  Can our high school get $15million dollars? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radical simplicity, tardis10

    http://www.nytimes.com/...
    "The school has become a mecca for reformers, partly because the Department of Education Web site hails it as an exemplary turnaround effort.

    But progress is coming at considerable cost: an estimated $15 million over the planned four-year turnaround, largely financed by private foundations. That is more than twice the $6 million in federal turnaround money that the Department of Education has set as a cap for any single school."

    •  Maybe they could... (0+ / 0-)

      Maybe your high school could start applying for grants, etc. and and use this school as an example that worked. Some of the things they added are these:

      The charter operator's model is based on setting high expectations for students, creating strong parent involvement, directing a significant amount of money to the classroom, keeping schools open on extended hours, and maintaining a safe learning environment, among other areas of emphasis.
      If a charter school can attract the dollars, why can't a traditional public school? I know of a traditional high school that brought in more money by putting a charter right on campus - it's not an ideal solution in some ways but it was an intriguing solution.

      It might be worth talking to your local school district and/or school board to see how you might help make it happen.

      •  I'm not a big fan of the concept. These success (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tardis10, ballerina X

        stories with charter schools in tough neighbor hoods always seem to have a shelf life. I'd prefer honest reform and funding of the entire public schools system.

        •  Don't we all! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          leftyparent, Nance

          But that reform will only happen one community at a time.

          I think the best we can hope from a national effort is to get rid of the insane testing standards. Our national efforts are a joke.

          Seriously, why not work to change your local high school?

          I envy people who live in one community at times. As a military family, we move constantly and we just don't have the  ability to work with a school, a school district, or a school board in ways that can make a long term difference. My single experience on a Charter Council was eye-opening in so many ways and it is amazing what we could do for the local level but couldn't even begin to do at a state level.

          •  Agreed, standardization is the key... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Nance, angelajean

            that is strangling our public school system and keeping our local schools from truly reflecting the will and wisdom of individual communities in favor of centralized control in faraway state capitols.

            Remove the standardization and let communities put forth an array of public schools representing all sorts of alternative paths for learning and let families choose the path that is best for their kid.

            Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

            by leftyparent on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:46:51 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Wonder where the "progressive" Barr stands (0+ / 0-)

    on this issue these days :

    http://www.schoolsmatter.info/...

    Personally, I learnt not to just judge people by labels, but rather by what they actually do.

    "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

    by Funkygal on Fri May 18, 2012 at 04:34:59 AM PDT

    •  I am just putting him up there... (0+ / 0-)

      as an example of what a progressive Democratic Party activist can do to improve things for our young people through the mechanism of school chartering in a blue state like California.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:49:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I teach at Locke (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nance, angelajean

    And thank you for posting this.  I used to post regularly about my school, its successes and its struggles, but I stopped because each and every time I let it drop that I was at a charter school, the content of my post was dismissed by many members of the community because I was working for a tool of the darkside.  

    You have inspired me to get back on the horse.  Until the left acknowledges that, like you said, charters are simply a tool and can be used for good, we are going to be stuck in an entrenched battle of beliefs that sacrifices the needs of our most vulnerable in the name of ideological purity.

    I would send my child to Locke as it is now.  I would never have sent it to Locke as it was under LAUSD.  The students are the same ones -- it is a neighborhood school that is open enrollment for all that live in its service area.  It does not and cannot cherry-pick its students.  It must meet the same standards of education as any other comprehensive high school.  Even so, it visibly outperforms Jordan, Fremont, Gardena, Dominguez and Compton.  The difference is in the district-level oversight and administration.  

    FYI:  Greendot teachers are unionized and paid considerably better than our counterparts in LAUSD.  We have suffered no layoffs and have only 3 furlough days next year.  We are still offering 182 student days per year, which is 18 more than are being offered at LAUSD.  

    As a thirteen year veteran teacher who has worked in large districts, independent charters, and now a charter district, I can tell you that my experience here is better than anywhere else.

    There are terrible charters.  There are states where charter law has been used as a bludgeon against public education.  There are charters, even in California, that abuse the system (I'm looking at you Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts), but they are not popular in the charter community.

    One last thought:  Several charters are shuttered each year due to poor performance.  How many district schools suffer the same fate when their performance has been consistently sub-par for many more years?

    Credulant (adj): Something that is not fully credible because it is unsourced but it sounds true so it is accepted without argument.

    by xajaxsingerx on Fri May 18, 2012 at 10:55:57 AM PDT

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