Sunday, April 18, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates:

Superintendent  of Public Instruction
There are three candidates for Superintendent who have any reasonable chance to win; Gloria Romero,  Tom  Torlakson, and  Larry  Aceves.
Romero and Torlakson have similar advantages and disadvantages.  They are both termed out legislators seeking a new position, not leaders in education.
In the last two years California’s  k-12 schools have received over a  $16 Billion  cut back in funding.   California presently ranks  45th  of the states in per pupil spending and last among the states in class size.   Currently the Governor proposes to reduce  k-12 spending by another  $2.4 Billion.
Since funding is a legislative issue, at first consideration it might seem that the two retiring legislators would have the greatest possibility of convincing the legislature and the governor to adequately support public schools.  However, the prior to Superintendents Jack O’Connell and Delaine Easton came directly from the legislature and presided over the schools during times of massive funding cut backs.   We just do not have evidence that being a Senator – even the Chair of the Senate Education Committee – does much good once you leave that office and become the Superintendent.

To understand the issues in this race you need to understand key issues in k-12 education.  This will also prepare you to understand the emerging debate of the re-authorization of ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) currently known as No Child Left Behind.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Death of Public Education ?

The death of public education
Lack of money is killing our schools
April 6, 2010 +
THE NEWS says we are watching the death of public education before our eyes. Detroit is closing more than 40 schools, Kansas City wants to close more than 40 percent of its school buildings. Other cities have been closing schools over the last decade. Boston avoided closings in its most recent budget deliberations, but still must slash custodial staff and postpone building repairs.
It is no secret that American education is at a great divide, unrivaled in most of the developed world. The United States spends $9,800 per public primary and secondary education student, which is technically high by global standards.
But meanwhile, children of the wealthy are being trained at private schools at more than triple the expenditures. In the Boston area, day school tuition rates are closing in on $35,000.
Our investment in public school teachers is paltry for the wealthiest country in the world. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the United States ranks in some measures behind England, Italy, Japan, Scotland and way behind Germany in starting teacher pay. The average expenditure on college students in the United States amounts to $24,400 per college student, two and a half times more than the $9,800 per-pupil spending in the public schools.
Beneath the numbers is the resegregation of children on the basis of class, race and immigration status. Prison spending soared so much, that by 2007, five states spent as much or more on corrections than on higher education, according to the Pew Center on the States.
In monetary terms, we have given up on millions of children. “I don’t think necessarily that public education is dead, but certain parts of it are dying,’’ said Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University professor who headed President Barack Obama’s education transition team. “The programs of the 1960s and 1970s that helped make education more equitable were mostly eliminated in the 1980s and never put back.
“We’re disinvesting in a significant way. With the huge decline in America of manual labor jobs that are being off-shored or digitalized, the vast majority of jobs are knowledge based. If we do not invest that way, we really can’t survive as a nation. To deeply underfund public education as we are doing does not make any sense.’’
Author of the 2009 book, “The Flat World and Education,’’ Darling-Hammond says neither poverty, nor the diverse nature of the American population are excuses not to educate everyone. Several countries were behind the United States decades ago in education and now have passed us.
She cites the example of Korea, which “in the space of one generation . . . moved from a nation that educated less than a quarter of its citizens through high school to one that now ranks third in college-educated adults.’’
She noted how Singapore, where 80 percent of families live in public housing, was tops in the world in fourth-grade and eighth-grade math assessments in 2003. “When children leave the tiny, spare apartments they occupy in high-rises throughout the city,’’ she wrote of Singapore, “they arrive at colorful, airy school buildings where student artwork, papers, projects, and awards are displayed throughout, libraries and classrooms are well-stocked, instructional technology is plentiful, and teachers are well trained.’’
It is enough to make one consider whether America needs to start from scratch. Whatever we are doing, it is not working. For instance, Darling-Hammond said Obama has an education platform that could rival the last serious education president, whom she considers to be Lyndon Johnson, but “to date has not squarely embraced the idea of equity. He did a great job coming out of the box on higher education, but inequity in elementary and secondary education is continuing to widen.’’
Johnson once said you cannot “take a person who for years has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘You are free to compete with all the others.’ ’’ Today millions of American children once again need our help to get to the starting line.
Derrick Z. Jackson can be reached at
The Boston Globe.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

California hopes dim for RTTT

In the article State hopes dim for Race to the Top funds by Laurel Rosenhall in the Sacramento Bee today, she claims that union opposition and poor student tracking system plagued the California application for RTTT.
While this is accurate, it avoids the important questions.  Why was there union opposition?  The writer notes that she contacted the relevant unions but did not receive a call back.
However, the opposition of the unions CTA and CFT was well documented in the hearings on the Romero legislation and in their own publications.  The writer had a professional obligation to publish the arguments.
The unions opposed RTTT because it blamed teachers for problems in the society of poverty and the economic crisis.   They opposed the RTTT legislation because it promoted the use of unreliable and invalid tests  and then would use these test scores to evaluate teachers.  And, they opposed RTTT process because the potential funds were not going into the classrooms where funds are desperately needed, but were to go to consultants to write more reports about what should be done.  RTTT would fund the consultant class, not classrooms.  Why should teachers participate in that?