Friday, August 26, 2011

Torlakson: NCLB sanctions not appropriate

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today called on U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to provide state schools with immediate relief from the flawed policies of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
"Relief is needed immediately before more schools suffer for another school year under inappropriate labels and ineffective interventions," Torlakson wrote in a letter to Duncan.
The letter warns that many schools with rising student achievement will be mislabeled as failing under the "one-size-fits-all" approach required under NCLB. In addition, the letter notes that NCLB restrictions on how districts can use funding will further burden schools already hit hard by budget cuts.
Torlakson proposed that California be allowed to freeze the imposition of sanctions and mandatory identifications for the coming school year at last year’s levels.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Schools short on money, but long on tests

Steven Krashen,

Schools are "facing tough budget choices" (August 24) and cutting back on teaching positions, tutors, support staff, summer programs, and extracurricular activities. According to an ASCD survey (SmartBrief poll, 2011-12), 78% of respondents said that they are "experiencing a lack of funding and it has affected student learning.
Unmentioned in the Ed Week article is the fact that at the same time money is so short, we are keeping a number of useless tests and actually increasing testing to astonishing levels, in the face of empirical evidence showing that these tests do not increase student achievement

A clear example of a current useless test is the High School Exit Exam used in many states. Studies consistently show that high school exit exams do not lead to more college attendance, increased student learning or higher employment. In fact, researchers have yet to discover any benefits of having a high school exit exam.

The US Department of Education is planning an astonishing increase in testing. In addition to end-of-year tests, there will be tests in reading and math near the end of school year and testing several times during the year (interim testing), In addition, the Department is encouraging pre-testing in the fall and testing other subjects as well.  Recently, the Department announced plans to test children before they enter kindergarten.  In addition, all tests will be administered on-line, a huge expense.  There is no evidence that the new tests will help children.

We all agree that assessment is part of teaching and learning, but our philosophy should be "no unnecessary testing":  Determine which tests are useful and eliminate the others. Over-testing is choking our schools both intellectually and financially.

Stephen Krashen

Friday, August 12, 2011

Blueprint for California Schools?

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  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.