Sunday, August 31, 2008

Republican budget proposal cuts schools

August 31, 2008 @ 4:56 PM

The Education Coalition announced opposition to the Republican Senate budget proposal that permanently cuts billions from our schools, and sets up yet another risky borrowing scheme that relies on temporary fixes and shortchanges our students by billions more in future years.


The Republican proposal cuts more than $5 billion from education and replaces ongoing money with one-time dollars that would only create a deeper budget hole next year.
The Republican proposal gives the governor the power to cut local school budgets in the middle of school year, making it extremely difficult for schools to plan or function, meet the needs of students or attract and retain quality teachers and school employees.
The Republican plan to "securitize" the lottery irresponsibly takes a big gamble with our students future, cutting schools by $2 billion and putting at risk more than $1 billion in lottery funds that currently support our schools, with only a hope that this scheme to borrow against the lottery can make up the difference.
The Republican proposal would put the Prop. 98 minimum school funding guarantee at risk, instead relying on one-time temporary funding that doesn’t address the long-term needs of our students.
The Republican plan will result in billions in more borrowing. The Public Policy Institute of California poll results show that only 8% of California voters think that borrowing is the right approach to fixing our state budget crisis. Borrowing shortchanges our students, now and in the future.
That’s why the Education Coalition strongly supports the original conference committee budget, which addresses our budget shortfall with a balanced package of cuts and on-going revenues that prevents deeper cuts to schools and students.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Schools and the California budget

The California budget remains in a stalemate. The Senate’s first vote was 3 votes short. That is, no Republicans voted for the budget. Passing a budget in California requires a 2/3 vote which requires that some Republicans vote for a budget to pass.

The proposed budget includes new “temporary” taxes. Then, in addition it requires substantial borrowing. Now I am not opposed to borrowing in general. However, at present the state has been borrowing for three years. When state and local governments borrow, they have to pay interest.
At present the interest we are paying on the borrowing is greater than the budget of the California State University system. If more borrowing is made necessary then more interest will be paid.
California dramatically under funds its schools. We rank about 27th in per pupil expenditure of the 50 states. If you compare the states and compare cost of living in each state, Superintendent O’Connell says that California ranks 49th. out of the 50 states.
In 2003, then Governor Gray Davis gave more money to the schools. In 2007 Governor Schwarzennegger gave more money in the Quality Investment in Education act. But now, in this budget crisis, we are limiting our spending on schools. California is not making educational progress in significant part because we refuse to adequately fund our schools.
So, if in response to Republican strategy the current budget can only be passed by borrowing, then in a future year there will be less money, and their will also be money spent paying interest on the debt.
This does not move us forward. Borrowing on the budget may be an unwelcome necessity. However, it does not move in any way toward school budget improvement nor toward dealing with California’s educational crises.
Duane Campbell. Sacramento

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Democrats (?) for Education Reform

from The American Prospect

The Democratic Education Divide
A pre-convention education event was full of anti-union rhetoric, even as teachers' union members remain among the most loyal of Democratic constituencies.
Dana Goldstein | August 25, 2008 | web only

An interesting report from the DNC. Very poorly informed about school reform.
This essay has value as a report of the DNC meeting. It also includes some strong assertions not supported by the available date. These should be examined..

The author says,
In Washington, D.C., the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers have been slow to embrace the mantra of uniform expectations and test-based accountability, which most national education reformers now believe are key to erasing the astounding achievement gaps between white and nonwhite students, and between the rich and poor.

The assertion that most national education reformers believe that test-based accountability is key to overcoming achievement gaps simply does not stand.

See, Collateral Damage: How High Stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools. (2007) By Sharon L. Nichols and David C. Berliner. Harvard Education Press.
And see:
Accountability Frankenstein: Understanding and Taming the Monster. (2007) Sherman Dorn.
And the numerous writings of Richard Rothstein, including Class and Schools. (2004)
And a “ Bolder, Broader Approach.” .” Here: With hundreds of educators signatory to the essay.

Persons who make this claim tend to know little about testing and even less about the effect that test based accountability has imposed on public schools.

The author then asserts:
And while No Child Left Behind is regarded as deeply flawed legislation in every quarter, it is also almost uniformly praised by policy wonks for shining a light on the achievement gap and for instituting the first national collection of education data correlated by race and family income. But the national teachers' unions wholeheartedly oppose NCLB, mostly because of its focus on standardized tests and its threat of defunding schools labeled as "failing."
See the 143 organizations dedicated to substantive reform in NCLB found here: ttp://

There is nowhere near the agreement which the author claims.

The author then claims:
After all, if folks like Nancy Ruth White and the generations of teachers following her embrace of the Democrats for Education Reform agenda -- giving up tenure in exchange for higher starting salaries and merit pay tied to student achievement -- the unions will have to get with the program. If they don't, they'll risk becoming irrelevant to their own members.

The advocacy group Democrats for Education Reform does not have experience in improving schools. Look at the history of Roy Romer as Superintendent of Schools in Los Angeles.

Monday, August 25, 2008

David Bacon: Illegal People

Illegal People
How Globalization Creates Migration
and Criminalizes Immigrants

For a schedule of coming book discussions and photography exhibitions, go to:

In Illegal People Bacon explores the human side of globalization, exposing the many ways it uproots people in Latin America and Asia, driving them to migrate. At the same time, U.S. immigration policy makes the labor of those displaced people a crime in the United States. Illegal People explains why our national policy produces even more displacement, more migration, more immigration raids, and a more divided, polarized society.

Through interviews and on-the-spot reporting from both impoverished communities abroad and American immigrant workplaces and neighborhoods, Bacon shows how the United States' trade and economic policy abroad, in seeking to create a favorable investment climate for large corporations, creates conditions to displace communities and set migration into motion. Trade policy and immigration are intimately linked, Bacon argues, and are, in fact, elements of a single economic system.

In particular, he analyzes NAFTA's corporate tilt as a cause of displacement and migration from Mexico and shows how criminalizing immigrant labor benefits employers.

Bacon powerfully traces the development of illegal status back to slavery and shows the human cost of treating the indispensable labor of millions of migrants-and the migrants themselves-as illegal. Illegal People argues for a sea change in the way we think, debate, and legislate around issues of migration and globalization, making a compelling case for why we need to consider immigration and migration from a globalized human rights perspective.

"[I]ncisive investigation . . . Bacon's timely analysis is as cool and competent as his labor advocacy is unapologetic. In mapping the political economy of migration, with an unwavering eye on the rights and dignity of working people, Bacon offers an invaluable corrective to America's hobbled discourse on immigration and a spur to genuine, creative action." - review, Publisher's Weekly,

"Bacon, an award-winning photojournalist, labor organizer, and immigrant-rights activist, follows the lives of undocumented workers at the Westin Suite Hotel in California and a Smithfield meatpacking plant in North Carolina, who travel back and forth from Mexico to the U.S. . . . He ties together interviews, personal histories, and political analysis to provide a vivid image of what life is like for workers with little rights or protections in an increasingly globalized economy." review, Vanessa Bush, Booklist
"David Bacon is the conscience of American journalism: an extraordinary social documentarist in the rugged humanist tradition of Dorothea Lange, Carey McWilliams, and Ernesto Galarza.." - Mike Davis

Book webpage:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

California Star Test Results

State Schools Chief Jack O'Connell Releases 2008 STAR Program Results Showing California Students Continue to Improve
LOS ANGELES/SAN JOSE — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell today released the results of the 2008 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program that show California students continue to make steady gains in English-language arts, math, science, and social science.

"California public school students are continuing to make solid, steady progress learning the skills and concepts necessary for success in school and in life. Since 2003, 532,494 more California students have become proficient in English-language arts and 415,129 more students have become proficient in math. While we still have a lot of work to do to reach our goal of universal proficiency, this year's gains are particularly encouraging considering they build upon five years of steady growth," O'Connell said.

"The results also show significant increases in science and social science. California has some of the highest standards in the nation, and I am exceptionally proud of the hard work and dedication of our students, teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, and parents that led to this achievement," he said.

The STAR results may be found at: Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Results.

In the six years since all California Standards Tests (CSTs) were completely aligned to state standards, the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced increased by 11 points in English-language arts (ELA) or from 35 percent to 46 percent, (Table 1) and 8 points in math, from 35 percent to 43 percent (Table 5). The percentage of students scoring at the proficient and advanced levels on the fifth grade science test has increased by 22 points since 2004; the first year the test was given (Table 10).

The percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced in grades two, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine have increased in ELA by double digits over the five-year span beginning in 2003 (Table 1).

The greatest improvement over the five-year period for math was made by students in grades three, four, five, six, and seven with the proficient and advanced percentage increasing by 15, 16, 16, 10, and 11 points, respectively (Table 5).

"While we celebrate the progress made by all subgroups of students over the last five years, we can not lose sight of the fact that more than half of our students, and too many students of color, are still not meeting our high standards," O'Connell said. "It is good news that all students continue to improve. It is imperative that we help those students who have historically struggled the most to accelerate their learning so they may effectively and fully participate in school, the workforce, and in society."

All student subgroup populations have continued to improve since 2003, and the gap in achievement between African Americans and whites and the gap in achievement between Hispanics or Latinos and whites narrowed slightly since last year. But, overall proficiency rates for Latino and African American students were significantly lower than those of white or Asian students. (Table 14 and Table 15).

Particularly concerning are results that continue to show African American and Latino students who are not economically disadvantaged score lower in math than white students who are economically disadvantaged. (Table 8 and Table 9). In English-language arts, non-poor African American students scored at the same level as white students who are poor. Latino students who are not poor scored slightly higher than white students who are poor. (Table 3 and Table 4).

"It is a moral and economic imperative that we close the achievement gap. California cannot afford to allow our Latino students and our African American students to continue to lag academically behind their peers," O'Connell said.

"While we must close the gap that exists between all subgroups, I am acutely concerned about our African American students. African American students as a whole scored in English-language arts just one point above Latino students, a subgroup that includes a significant number of English learners. This, coupled with an alarming dropout rate among African Americans, indicates a crisis in the education of black children," he said. "My statewide P-16 Council has made a series of recommendations aimed at closing the achievement gap and improving the way we provide education services to African American students. We must redouble our efforts to find and share effective strategies that will help African American students succeed."

Note: while STAR test results continue to improve, national test results for California on the NAEP do not show improvement.
These test results are useful for district level management. They provide very little useful information for teachers.
This kind of test results primarily uses blame and shame as a strategy. Teachers working in low income and minority schools are blamed and shamed. Teachers working in high income schools are glad that they are not included in the blame. It does little or nothing to improve instruction.
To improve instruction test scores would need to be frequent and feedback provided during the teaching year.
And, teachers would need useful inservice on how to improve the scores.
On the other hand, the test results continue to indicate that the legislature and the governor have failed to adequately fund school improvement efforts. Current budget cuts will make matters worse,
Duane Campbell

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Reclaiming Education

Reclaiming Education: How to Resist the Growing Threat to Public Education
By Susan Harman and Deborah Meier (online)

AMERICANS HAVE settled on the idea that many of our nation’s problems can be blamed on our school system and that the only way to solve them is through “school reform.” It’s an old story, but it's become the bipartisan line in 1983 with the publication of A Nation at Risk (ANAR). An odd alliance pulled this story together, led by corporate lobbyists, neoconservatives, and the media, and joined by civil rights organizations, union leaders, activists, some institutional liberals (like Ted Kennedy), and some school leaders eager for the attention that brings money. Together they have relentlessly sold a story that has wasted our time, energy, and resources, and pointed us in the wrong direction.

No matter what the question is, these alarmists have the answer. Why is the economy in bad shape? Look at the lousy math scores of U.S. students in the international competitions. Why are so many young African-Americans and Latinos in prison? They didn’t learn how to read in school. Why do poor and minority children score so much lower on tests than better-off white children (the notorious “achievement gap”)? Teachers are engaging in the “soft bigotry of low expectations” and have allowed some students to fail to meet high standards without any consequences. Why are students unprepared to accept the responsibilities of adult citizenship (voting, earning a good living, taking care of their children)? Schools help promote a bleeding heart, welfare state mentality and we need to reform our accountability measures.

Dissent plans on setting this record straight with "Reclaiming Education," a series of articles that will appear in print and online. Many researchers have carefully examined, challenged, and refuted various aspects of this radical reform agenda, and their arguments have appeared in a variety of academic journals and books, but only rarely have they been published in magazines aimed at a general public. As a result, the fact that much of this research calls into question the rationale behind No Child Left Behind remains a well-kept secret.

In these pages, we intend to connect the dots between the many pieces of research and demonstrate that the educational crisis is not what the public has been led to think it is, that there is virtually no research that supports ongoing corporate and federal policies, that the media has been irresponsible and complicit in hiding the truth, that the proposed solutions are unsupported and dangerous, and that the devastating consequences we are now seeing are not "unintended." To the contrary, these radical reforms were intended by a powerful, well-funded wing of the reform agenda to dismantle our public education system and replace it with precisely the kind of marketplace reforms that are by their nature untrustworthy and unaccountable. We hope these articles will mobilize policymakers and citizens to join us in resisting this attack on our public education system and democracy.

The 1983 assault of ANAR is the subject of Gerald Bracey’s opening critique in Dissent's forthcoming fall issue. Meanwhile, Kathy Emery will document the agenda of the corporate wing of the reform juggernaut for the Web.

The corporate agenda was implemented quite effectively under Governor George W. Bush in Texas and came to be known hyperbolically as the “Texas Miracle” because it apparently resulted in high test scores, high graduation rates, low drop-out rates, and a narrowing “achievement gap” between students of color and whites. The “miracle” turned out to be a mirage, as Linda McNeil will argue in her contribution to this series, but before we knew this, Bush exported his “miracle” to Washington, D.C. and forced it on the entire country as the 2001 authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind. False stories lead to false solutions; this is the history of NCLB. There will be other online pieces documenting the destructive impact and current disarray of the coalition that brought us NCLB.

For instance, when President Bush brags about how much money he’s given to education, he is talking about the $6 billion that has come through Reading First grants, a part of No Child Left Behind. The awarding of these grants has been the object of investigation by the Education Department’s Office of the Inspector General. Reading First’s results (or lack thereof) have been well-documented, and Congress has just cut off the project’s funding. In our first Web article, Stephen Krashen provides a critique of Reading First. Soon to follow is another article by Gerald Bracey on international comparisons of test scores and what they do and don’t mean about our schools.

We hope that each of the author’s accounts will help readers make connections between the current wave of education reform and the larger attack on public institutions and life. We believe that while schools cannot do it all there is a great deal to be learned from research about what a progressive agenda for school reform might look like. The slogan about leaving no child behind may be grandiose, but it’s surely worthwhile pursuing such an ambition.

Please check Dissent's Web pages often for this ongoing series that aims to help impact future educational policy and rescue our schools and democracy.

Read Stephen Krashen on Reading First

Susan Harman is a semi-retired principal, teacher, psychologist, and writer, and the Coordinator of CalCARE, the California Resistance to the standards and testing madness. Deborah Meier is currently a senior scholar at New York University, and has spent the past 45 years as a public school educator, activist and writer. Homepage and Feature Photo: A classroom at Detroit Holy Redeemer High School (Wikicommmons).

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

California school budgets and the children

The budget stalemate and children
Once again Californians are treated to a budget standoff-as we have been so often in the last 10 years. This is not a failure to govern on the part of the legislature although it is portrayed as such in local sound bite news reports. The majority party could have passed a budget on June 15 but it is blocked from governing by the Republican minority including Roger Neillo, co-owner of the Sacramento Neillo auto dealerships.
It is clear that a budget resolution will require some cut back and some tax increases. It makes a great deal of difference which taxes will be increased. Republicans use the requirement of a 2/3 vote on taxes to block majority rule and to prevent tax increases. This is misgovernment by ideology.
In the next two to three weeks schools across California will be opening. Over 6 million children will be returning to school. Some 477,000 will be entering first grade in over 5,000 schools. Each of these schools have a budget and each of these budgets are in confusion while the state decides what to do about their budget crisis. At least 25% of the schools will not be ready for the students because the school doesn’t know what its budget will be.
Will the school have an ELL teacher or two?
Will there be a reading coach?
Will class size be 24 or 32? Which really means we will have to re-organize eah of the classes and the teachers.
What will happen to the new programs established last year under the Quality Education Act?
Shall the district hire a new teacher or only a 30 day substitute ?
Do we have the money for an ELL specialist or will the money be for an Algebra teacher? And when we finally hear if we have the money, will the well qualified Algebra teacher have moved to another state where this annual disruption of their lives does not occur? Really, would you wait 2-3 months each year to see if you had a job?
And, even in mainstreamed classes, will there be two English Learners or eight?
These are but the start of the many decisions that need to be made. Rather than beginning school in late August, far too many classrooms will have to wait until October while the budget gets decided and allocations are made.

This is a state that ranks 47th. in math and about 48th in reading. A state budget impasse each year creates 4-6 weeks of school disruption, confusion, and disorganization.
And then the legislature calls for accountability?
The budget impasse is not only about whether legislators and their staff’s can attend their respective party conventions. The impasse is also about the annual disruption of education for thousands of California students, and the disruptions of health care payments, and the disruptions of state worker pay, etc.

Duane Campbell