A new strategic report for California schools, A Blueprint for Great Schools, was released by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction on Aug.9 and included a number of valuable recommendations. ( available at www.cde.ca.gov). We have seen these reports before. Recall the Getting Down to Facts report of two years ago that was to be the culmination of years of research?
The new Blueprint sets out a new mission for the California Dept. of Education. At least the report will due no harm.
Lets suppose however, that you wanted to actually improve California schooling. What would it require? For this post I will focus specifically what would be required to reduce the California drop out rate. I reluctantly conclude that only a few ideas in the Blueprint would assist.
What would it take? First. Increase the number of counselors in the schools and the number of social workers in high poverty schools. California ranks 49 out of the 50 states in these categories. The social workers could organize parents into the “wrap around” services mentioned in the blueprint.
Why won’t we add these counselors and social workers? Because that costs money. And, this is the key failing of the Blueprint. Although it details the money issues in the section on finance, it offers no directions nor solutions.
To improve the schools would require adequate funding of the schools – see Robles-Wong et al v State of California.
Why won’t we adequately fund the schools? Because the legislature can not or will not adequately fund the schools. The legislature and successive governors have failed to adequately fund the schools for over twenty years. This unwillingness to adequately fund the schools occurs precisely at the time that Latino children become the majority of students in California. There is no solution to these school issues without adequate funding.
Legislature- heal thyself.
Second. Provide career technical education to the large number of students who will respond to such programs. Relevant education and career education would keep many in school. This could include programs from digital media to auto repair. Helping students to stay in school and to prepare for careers is vital.
See the video by Pedro Noguera below.
If you are interested in an additional 50 suggestions for how to improve our schools, read my book, Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education. Allyn and Bacon 2010.
From the Press Statement:
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson Aug.9, unveiled A Blueprint for Great Schools, a report by his 59-member Transition Advisory Team calling for California to foster excellence in teaching, provide community support for families, and retool schools to make more students competitive in college and the workforce.
"We are setting our sights high because our students deserve it," said Torlakson. "As our Blueprint for Great Schools shows, there’s no substitute for investing in our children's education. But we owe our students much more than just money. We also owe them our leadership, our best thinking—and above all—our very best people."
The 31-page report was prepared by Torlakson's Transition Advisory Team, composed of leading teachers, parents, school employees and administrators as well as community, labor, and business leaders. The team was co-chaired by Stanford Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond and David Rattray, Senior Vice President of Education and Workforce Development for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
From the report on the Current Context:
Given these challenges, it is not surprising that while there have been some gains, in reading, California students ranked 48th in grade 4 and 49th in grade 8 among the 50 states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2009. In mathematics, 4th and 8th grade students ranked 45th and 47th, respectively. In science, California students ranked 49th in both 4th and 8th grades, besting only Mississippi. Graduation rates were just 79 percent in 2010, with African American and Latino students graduating at rates of only about 60 percent. And college-going has fallen below that of most other states, at only 28 percent of students now graduating from 4-year colleges, far below the national average, and about half the rate of the most highly educated states.
From the section on Finance:
Based on the budget proposed by the Governor in January for the 2011-12 school year, state funding for education has declined by 13 percent since 2007-08, without adjusting for inflation, the equivalent of a reduction of $1,100 for every K-12 student. Since then, the failure to approve a ballot initiative to extend taxes means that cuts may be even more severe over the coming year. In addition, significant deferrals of funding totaling $9.4 billion have reduced the resources for K-12 education even further.
Since the 1990s, California has consistently ranked near the bottom among states in per-pupil spending when that spending is adjusted to reflect cost differences across states. As a result, the state has higher student to teacher ratios and fewer support and administrative staff than nearly all other states. Due to the cost of living differential for California, a typical school district allocates 85 percent of its budget for personnel costs, which limits the budget options available when districts have already made substantial cuts in personnel.