Monday, February 19, 2007

Imposed school reforms cost students $, do not improve schools

We know that the politically imposed school reforms have not worked, but the legislature does not.
Unfortunately the legislature usually will not look at the data. A new report from Education Testing Service again shows that school achievement in the nation and in California has –at best-been stagnant for the last twenty five years. (Kirsh, Braun, Yamamoto and Sum, 2007) The achievement gap between mostly middle class and white students and the growing poor and working class Latino and Black student populations, whether measured by test scores, drop out rates, or college attendance narrowed slightly between 1970 and 1988. There has been little improvement since 1990. ( NAEP, 2005. Perie and Moran)
California’s scores are lower than the national average and they are not significantly different from those in 1992. Contrary to claims by the California Dept. of Education, on the national NAEP test, the decade of test based school reform has not significantly improved scores in reading and math. (NAEP, 2005) There are good reasons why most schools have not improved. ( Rothstein, 2004, Anyon, 2005)
Working together at the school site can work. There are many examples of improvements of specific schools
In July 2006, The California legislature passed SB 1209 (Scott), entitled Teachers: teacher credentialing: out-of-state teachers: professional growth programs: teacher compensation. SB 1209 had 19 provisions, and claimed to be the implementation of existing law particularly SB 2042. Important issues in the bill include expansion of funding for charter schools, revision of teacher preparation laws for interns, provisions requiring ELL preparation and others. Provisions of the bill also mandated implementation of the teacher performance assessment system in all credential programs as of July 1,2008. These provisions required the application of the unproven process of teacher performance assessment WITHOUT BUDGET ALLOCATIONS. Interestingly, teacher preparation programs already used performance assessment for their fundamental decisions, however the assessment process is based upon clinical supervision over time rather than upon a single test as favored by testing advocates at the CCTC.
SB 1209 was presented to the legislature by Senator Scott as implementation of the several ideas advocated in reports by the Center for Teaching and Learning at UC Santa Cruz. Both major teachers unions agreed to SB 1209 in support of other provisions in the bill. Many of the provisions are indeed designed to improve teacher preparation. However the items in dispute – changes to Section 44259 (3) of the Education Code will create havoc in teacher preparation and is already reducing teacher preparation to teaching to the test.
There was no discussion of the testing mandates in committee hearings while the legislature considered SB 1209. Indeed it is doubtful if the legislature or their staff understand what performance assessment is, and certainly do not understand the major weaknesses of the current state of assessment.
The bill SB 1209 (Scott) from 2006 imposes an unfunded mandate which will cost new teachers hundreds of dollars. One possible consequence of focusing on this new performance assessment in a test situation is to significantly reduce the dollars spent on teaching or supervision in order to pay for assessment. A second possibility is to pass along the significant cost of testing to teaching candidates. Our brief estimate is that it would cost $400 - $500 per candidate. Is this the way to recruit new people to teaching?

A major function of bureaucracies, in this case the Commission on Teacher Credentialing and their staff is to keep the public out of decision making. Their role is to substitute their own views for information. Since the 1990’s, the CTC and the California School board have been dominated by ultra conservative, pro corporate elements.
CTC staff and members make certain that the persons who do the work, teachers, faculty in teacher preparation, are not listened to.
In those rare occasions when the public breaks through the bureaucratic front, both CTC and the State School Board arrange for hearings where only their own “experts” are allowed to speak. In summary, the role of these bureaucracies, and at times of legislators and consultants to is block or prevent democracy.
We are presently looking for a legislator willing to sponsor legislation to repeal this unfunded mandate.

The issue is similar to the legislature deciding upon a reading program or a math program. In this case, the legislature accepted the CCTCredential Commission’s narrow definitions teacher preparation and assessment. The imposition of a regressive system offensive to teacher preparation professionals was passed with no discussion in the legislature of the impact. This is not democracy. This is incompetent meddling by the poorly informed.

Duane Campbell
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