Monday, September 08, 2008

The Legislature, the schools, and accountability

Budget stalemate: Day 70
The California legislature since 1994 has imposed accountability on the public schools. They have spent millions on tests. They have insisted that thousands of hours of professional work be dedicated to accountability. Their accountability work has a very weak record of reliability and validity ( See Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools. Nichols and Berliner.

Now, the legislature does not pass a budget for over 70 days.
California’s schools are open and the teachers are at work. Over 6 million children have returned 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 each 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 school accountability? Where is their accountability?
Duane Campbell
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