Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Strike vote in the Calif. State University

Mammoth Faculty Strike Looms
Many Californians know the concept behind rolling blackouts, most commonly seen during summer heat waves, in which communities go without power at different times in order to conserve energy while preventing a region-wide shutdown. Print

Students in the massive California State University system might soon need to familiarize themselves with another term: the rolling faculty walkout.
The union that represents roughly 24,000 Cal State instructors is planning to hold votes beginning in early March to determine whether to strike if its salary demands aren’t met by the system’s administration. The California Faculty Association says the faculty walkout, which would be the first of its kind in system history and potentially the most massive in the history of higher education, would likely take place this spring at different intervals across the 23-campus system to send a message to Cal State leaders while preventing a systemwide shutdown. The system enrolls some 400,000 students.
Negotiations between the union and the state system, which began nearly two years ago, are at an impasse. The current contract was already set to expire but has been extended through the negotiation process.
A third-party fact finder is working with the union and state system bargaining teams to recommend a new proposal by the middle of March. John Travis, president of the faculty association and a professor of political science at Humboldt State University, said the union is moving forward with its strike discussions despite the possibility of a deal. (A plurality of faculty “yes” votes is all that’s needed to authorize the strike.)
“Right now, it’s likely — a better than 50 percent chance,” Travis said of a faculty strike. “[The administration] has shown no movement for months and has provided essentially the same offer.”
The sides disagree over what Cal State’s faculty salary raise proposal really means. Cal State officials say the system’s offer would amount to a 25 percent salary increase from 2006-7 to 2009-10. The faculty association argues that the deal would assure just a 15 percent across-the-board raise for all professors over the four years. Travis said the union is looking for what it calls a true 25 percent raise, for all its members, over four years.
The system’s offer is beneficial for junior faculty who are eligible for “step raises” as part of the administration’s package, but it doesn’t work out for the majority of faculty members who aren’t in that position, which is why the union’s counter-proposal offers new step raises, according to Travis.
The union’s offer also intends to provide more money to instructors who were hired at the same level and in the same department as their peers but who are paid less money because of when they were brought in, Travis said. He said the faculty association is upset that executive pay has skyrocketed at Cal State while faculty salaries haven’t kept pace with inflation or the cost of living.
“The concern isn’t just about raises here,” Travis said. “This is a microcosm of the problems in the system and our dysfunctional salary structure.”
Clara Potes-Fellow, a Cal State spokeswoman, said that the system’s offer is “very generous” when compared with other industries in the state, and that the money can be used for either an across-the-board salary increase or for step increases.
She added that years marked by state employee salary freezes hampered Cal State’s effort to keep pace with systems in other states. Both sides agree that Cal State instructors are compensated well below the national average — although they disagree on how much below (the union says 18 percent and the system says 14 percent). Potes-Fellow said the system has always been below the national average in salary and above average in benefits packages.
The average salary of full-time, tenured professors is about $86,000 annually, according to CSU data. Associate professors make an average of $69,000 and assistant professors earn $58,000. About half the faculty members are temporary and earn roughly $43,000 per year.
Travis said if the faculty pay issue is settled, a deal between the two sides would likely be imminent. He said that while negotiations stalled on compensation, workload and tenure concerns are also paramount.
Potes-Fellow said the strike discussion is premature. “The negotiation process hasn’t been completed, and CSU is working hard to make the fact finding process work,” she said.
Richard Boris, who heads the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College, said that negotiations involving complex and large university systems are typically the most difficult to complete. He said the flashpoints in this discussion are the same as those in most negotiations.
“When you shed the external factors, which are the state and the culture specifics, the real issues are salaries and fairness to part- timers,” Boris said. “These issues have been there for decades and are very contentious.”
Boris said that negotiations become particularly “nasty” when state resources are thin and a system fails to hunt for adequate public money, which is the case in this situation. “Everyone’s back is against the wall,” he said.
— Elia Powers
The current salaries of CSU faculty have been determined by the California Post-Secondary Education Commission, a state body charged with providing the legislative and executive bodies of the state of California with advice and information about post-secondary issues. In their 2006 report on faculty salaries (found here http://www.cpec.ca.gov/completereports/2006reports/06-01.pdf, the Commission establishes the salary “lag” (the amount necessary to attain parity with a comparable group of institutions) at 18%. Note, in particular, that the lag for full professors is projected at 26.7% for 2006-2007.
T Nelson, Professor at CSU, San Bernardino, at 10:16 am EST on February 27, 2007

From: Inside Higher Education

Sunday, February 25, 2007

NAEP study: Schools not doing better

Study says students are learning less
By Mitchell Landsberg
Times Staff Writer

7:52 PM PST, February 22, 2007

U.S. high school students are taking tougher classes, receiving better grades and, apparently, learning less than their counterparts of 15 years ago.

Those were the discouraging implications of two reports issued Thursday by the federal Department of Education, assessing the performance of students in both public and private schools. Together, the reports raised sobering questions about the past two decades of educational reform, including whether the movement to raise school standards has amounted to much more than window dressing.

"I think we're sleeping through a crisis," said David Driscoll, the Massachusetts commissioner of education, during a Washington news conference convened by the Department of Education. He called the study results "stunning."

Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, said he found the results "dismal." After years of reforms aimed primarily at elementary schools, Fuller said the studies "certainly support shining the spotlight on the high school as a priority for reform efforts."

The reports summarized two major government efforts to measure the performance of high school seniors as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. One was a standardized test of 12th graders conducted in 2005. The other was an analysis of the transcripts of students who graduated from high school that year.

The transcript study showed that, compared to students in similar studies going back to 1990, the 2005 graduates had racked up more high school credits, had taken more college preparatory classes and had strikingly higher grade point averages. The average GPA rose from 2.68 in 1990 to 2.98 -- close to a solid B -- in 2005.

That was the good news -- or so it seemed. But the standardized test results showed that 12th grade reading scores have generally been dropping since 1992, casting doubt on what students are learning in those college prep classes.

Math scores posed a different sort of mystery, because the Department of Education switched to a new test in 2005 that wasn't directly comparable to those used before. Still, the results of the new test didn't inspire confidence: Fewer than one-quarter of the 12th graders tested scored in the "proficient" range.

The reports also showed that the gap separating white and black, and white and Hispanic students, has barely budged since the early 1990s. And while the results were not broken down by state, a broad regional breakdown showed that the West and Southeast lagged well behind the Midwest and, to a lesser extent, the Northeast.

David Gordon, the Sacramento County, Calif., superintendent of schools and a participant in the Department of Education news conference Thursday, said he found it especially disturbing that the studies focused on "our best students," those who had made it to 12th grade or who had graduated.

"It's clear to me from these data that for all of our talk of the achievement gap among subgroups of students, a larger problem may be an instructional gap or a rigor gap, which effects not just some but most of our students," Gordon said.

The reading and math test was given to 21,000 high school seniors at 900 U.S. schools, including 200 private schools. The transcript study was based on 26,000 transcripts from 720 schools, 80 of them private. The reports did not give separate results for public vs. private schools.

Policy analysts nationwide said the studies were gloomy news for the American economy, since the country's educational system already measured poorly in international comparisons.

"What we see out of these results is a very disturbing picture of the knowledge and skills of the young people about to go into college and the workforce," said Daria Hall, assistant director of the Education Trust, a Washington-based nonprofit dedicated to improving education especially for poor and minority students.

Among other things, Hall said the transcript study provided clear evidence of grade inflation, as well as "course inflation" -- offering high-level courses that have "the right names" but a dumbed-down curriculum.

"What it suggests is that we are telling students that they're being successful in these courses when, in fact, we're not teaching them any more than they were learning in the past," she said. "So we are, in effect, lying to these students."

Although the reports came out five years after passage of President Bush's signature education reform initiative, No Child Left Behind, Hall and others said it would be unfair to blame that program for the students' poor showing. They were already in high school when No Child Left Behind was enacted, and it is primarily aimed at elementary and middle schools.

Driscoll recalled an earlier president's contribution to education reform -- the Nation at Risk report that seemed to galvanize the educational establishment when it was issued by President Reagan in 1983.

"That was a shocker," said Driscoll. "But here we are, 25 years later (and) ... we've just been ignoring what it's going to take to really change the system."
Perhaps they should try listening to the teachers rather than the school reform hustlers.
From the NAEP summary:
In 2005, NCES assessed twelfth-graders in reading and mathematics for the first time since 2002. The assessments were administered in early 2005 at the national level to a representative sample of over 21,000 students in some 900 schools. There are no state-by-state results.
The average reading score for twelfth-graders fell 6 points from 1992 to 2005, from 292 to 286. There has been no significant change since 2002.
Twelfth-grade reading assessments were administered in 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2005. In 1992 and 1994, no accommodations were offered for students with disabilities and English-language learners who needed them to participate. In 1998, NCES had two samples-one assessed without allowing accommodations and one assessed with them. Since then, NCES has allowed accommodations for students who require them, as long as the accommodation does not affect the validity of the assessment.
The percentage of twelfth-grade students at or above Proficient decreased from 40 percent in 1992 to 35 percent in 2005. The percentage at or above Basic also declined.
Examples of what students know and can do at each level can be found in the report.
Scores fell for both White and Black students from 1992 to 2005. Scores in 2005 for the other race and ethnic groups were not significantly different from 1992 or 2002.
The 26-point gap in performance between White and Black students in 2005, and the 21-point gap between White and Hispanic students, was not significantly different from the gaps in previous years.
Scores for both female and male students were lower in 2005 than in 1992. The 13-point gap in 2005 in favor of female students was larger than the 10-point gap in 1992.
The 2005 twelfth-grade mathematics assessment represents a change from previous assessments. The National Assessment Governing Board prepares new frameworks for the NAEP assessments every decade or so to stay current with changing educational objectives and curricula. The twelfth-grade mathematics assessment was based on a new framework in 2005, which means that we can't compare the 2005 results to previous assessments.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Apple's Steve Jobs: anti union

Don’t Confuse Me With Any Facts
Filed under: General — Leo Casey @ 1:27 pm
Apple Computers CEO Steve Jobs and Dell Computers CEO Michael Dell had a recent joint appearance in Austin, Texas.
Jobs, sitting atop a non-union corporation, seized the occasion to attack teacher unions; Dell offered a different point of view. “I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way,” Jobs said. “This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy.” Dell, who sat on his hands during Jobs’ anti-union comments, responded that unions were developed because “the employer was treating his employees unfairly and that was not good.”
In a reaction that would have made Pavlov proud, the anti-teacher union blogosphere has been disseminating Jobs’ — but not Dell’s — comments. If you have a lot of free time on your hands, check out the pro-corporate, anti-union Amen chorus here, here, and here.
There is a not so little fly in the ointment here. Jobs made his comments in the capitol of Texas, a “right to work” state where collective bargaining for public school educators is prohibited by law. If there is anything like the unthinking shibboleth of “life time employment of K-12 teachers” in Texas, Jobs is going to have to find a villain for his tale other than teacher unions. In fact, Edwize readers may remember the story we covered here last year of a Texas teacher of art who was fired for taking her students on a school approved trip to a museum of art, after a parental complaint of a naked statue — some life time employment. The tenor of Jobs’ comments about losing business in Texas suggests that he is quite oblivious to the status of collective bargaining in the Lone Star State, much less the ease with which Texas educators are fired for simply doing their jobs.
For that matter, there is a not insubstantial list of “right to work” states that prohibit collective bargaining for public school educators, mostly from the South and the former Confederacy: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. Note that anti-teacher union corporate partisans like Jobs never compare the educational performance of these “right to work states” to the educational performance of states with high levels of teacher unionization, despite the rather obvious counterfactual and terms of comparison.
Don’t confuse the anti-union crowd with any facts.

Leo Casey. U.F.T.

Forcing a Risky Business Model on Us
By Robert Brower
By applying an untested business model to educational reform, political and business leaders are openly promulgating forced competition among schools. They are demanding change for change’s sake, coveting any new idea that comes along to demonstrate anecdotal improvement and using flawed statistics to foist unproven changes on our schools. This strong push is more about political dogma than about raising the performance of public school students.
As educational leaders, we must make our collective voice heard loudly and clearly before it is too late. We are being driven down a tangential road by those with influence in high places who lack even basic expertise in educational research and whose desire for good political sound bites is more important than the future of our children.
Not only is the business model of reform misguided, there is not a shred of statistically significant research that supports the notion that competition will solve whatever ails K-12 education. If we succumb to this experiment of political thought, the consequences may be devastating to our economic and social future…
Unfortunately, many educators do not recognize the hidden agenda — the dismantling of public education. During recent national elections it was common to hear politicians calling for schools to be operated more like retail franchises, competing for customers in a crowded marketplace. “Why,” these proponents ask, “should public schools be protected from competition?” But I ask, "Where is the research that supports such experimentation?"
Speculative Politics
As a public school educator for the last 33 years, I believe forcing business-like competition onto schools would lead –AND HAS ALREADY LED- to many undesired outcomes, while paying little attention to cooperative endeavors that could benefit students and school programs. For instance, the competitive business world does not encourage the sharing of successful strategies, but in education cooperation is a necessity.
Rather than shaming schools into improving, we should be supporting low-achieving schools partnering with successful schools. The “produce or die” operating model of the corporate arena and academia may work with manufacturing cogs and college professors, but this business approach to education has no proven track record of success for students and schools…
Continuing to advocate a politically motivated, market-driven system of education will only delay the real work that needs to be done to help our public schools grow. We should not be at odds with one another but rather respectful of our separate areas of expertise.
Robert Brower is superintendent of the North Montgomery Community School Corporation, 480 W. 580 North, Crawfordsville, IN 47933. E-mail: rbrower@nm.k12.in.us. Jan. 2007.

And, here I am a Mac user. :-(

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Latino Teacher reduces dropouts

Good story on a local teacher, and a graduate of our Bilngual /Multicultural Education Dept. at CSU-S.

Young Teacher Helps At-Risk Youth Find Pride from the Past
Written for the web by Ayesha Thomas, Multimedia Producer

The town of Greenfield is ripe with farms, fields of tomatoes, chiles and lettuce – picked by a large migrant farm community. Tucked away in the Salinas Valley of Monterey County the town has limited education resources. The high school drop-out rate is high. For many of the youth, there are limited avenues to get out of Greenfield.

For Martin Ramirez though, one word opened his world wide open. Throughout high school Ramirez ran with gangs.

"All of my friends are either dead, locked up or in jail," said Ramirez.

But now his life is much different. Today he is a teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, a profession he never even considered.

"Never entered my mind because I was driving teachers crazy when I was in school," said Ramirez.

But one of his teachers noticed the young man didn’t only have street smarts. Mr. Dean Willingham had a heart-to-heart with Ramirez when he was 18. He simply told him he had "potential."

"Nobody had told me that. Truth is I didn’t even know what potential meant. I was 18 years old and I said 'potential?' I go, 'What does potential mean?'"

He quickly learned the definition and with Willingham’s help he decided to put that potential to the test. He applied and was accepted to American River College. In the fall of 2000, Ramirez piled his belongings into his car and headed up 101-North from Greenfield to Sacramento.

Ramirez would be the first in his family to go to college. And despite the opportunities that lie ahead, he admits his dreams were still small.

"All I wanted was a little certificate to work in a front office. I remember the counselor Mr. Ruedas asked 'Why? why do you want to do that?'"

Manuel Ruedas works at ARC with students on developing their education and career goals. He says it’s not uncommon for first-generation students to fail to fully understand what they can do with a college education, mostly because they’re the first in their families to pursue an education.

"They need role models. They need to see their peers achieving academically so they can follow the same path," Ruedas said.

Ramirez found his role model in Dolores Delgado-Campbell a professor at ARC.

"I started meeting him in my Mexican-American history class. And I befriended him because he was a really nice young man. And he looked eager," said Delgado-Campbell.

Ramirez not only took a liking to his new mentor, but the subject matter she introduced him to.

Learning about his Mexican ancestors inspired Ramirez. He felt all Latinos could benefit from their history. So he buckled down, hit the books and learned all he could. He then went to Delgado-Campbell and asked if there were classes where he could learn to teach the history about his ancestors.

Delgado-Campbell and Ruedas both recommended he go to CSU Northridge. After he graduated from ARC with honors that is where he went. Ramirez majored in Chicano and Ethnic studies.

After graduating from Northridge with honors, Ramirez made his way back to Northern California to attend Sacramento State’s Multi-Cultural/Bi-Lingual Education program.

The director of the program Duane Campbell (husband of Dolores Delgado-Campbell) says training minority educators and administrators such as Ramirez is essential in helping to close the achievement gap.

"Having a Hispanic president of the college doesn’t necessarily lead to more Hispanic graduates," said Campbell. However, he says if minority students see other people of color achieving success academically and professionally, they will be encourage to believe they do belong in college, and they can graduate.

Ramirez takes that knowledge with him each time steps foot on the campus of Luther Burbank. "We need more educators of color," Ramirez says. "If the student sees someone that looks like them and can relate to them every single day...that person is telling them look, look at me,look at you. You can do it."

During school hours, Ramirez teaches a world history, economics, and Latino/Latina leadership class. After hours, his classroom transforms into special hub where he takes time to mentor students having a hard time in and outside of class.

Ramirez believes the extra hours it takes to mentor students is well worth it. Occasionally, Ramirez will bring in yearbooks and graduation photos from some of his younger family members who have graduated from college. He hopes when his students see the pictures that they can envision themselves one day walking around a college campus.

"They don’t know anyone there and they don’t know anyone telling them they can make it there. And I believe repetition and examples helps them to make an action plan for themselves." said Ramirez.

His students have taken a liking to Ramirez’ style. Watching him interact with them, you can see how they look up to him as not only as a respected authority on their culture, but also a big brother and for some even a father-figure. At one meeting Ramirez sits down with two students to catch up on what’s going on in their lives. Elisabeth Starr catches him up on her activities at her church and softball.

Before she met Ramirez she didn’t believe she would live to see her 17th birthday. Starr admits she got into fights at school and had a hard time staying focused. However, learning about her Mexican history has given her a new perspective on her education.

"We had to fight to be in school. So now that we have a choice to be in school it made me really think. They fought hard back in the day for us, so I should make it mean something and be here," said Starr.

For Ramirez, he believes all schools should make it a point to teach students something valuable about their own cultures.

"Students need to be taught things that relate to them. We’ve been taught the same history over and over. We need to teach them a little bit about their own history," Ramirez said. "I guarantee you we’ll have less problems in the classroom."

Created: 2/19/2007 11:49:50 PM
Updated: 2/21/2007 8:07:12 AM

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

NCLB controversy

Back to Article
Educators ponder who gets left behind
Renewal of federal education law sparks debate over testing

Nanette Asimov, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, February 19, 2007
Like a strict teacher demanding precision from her students, No Child Left Behind has inspired reactions ranging from anger to admiration during the five years it has re-shaped public education in every city and hamlet in America.

Now that Congress is preparing to reauthorize the 2002 federal law, groups representing a range of interests -- educators, employers, testing advocates, testing foes and politicians of every stripe, including the president -- want the rules rewritten to reflect each of their points of view.

But as the congressional debate kicks off, this much appears certain: The law's basic premise requiring every student everywhere to score at grade level by 2014 will be kept intact, regardless of how improbable success may be.

And schools that persistently fail to meet annual benchmarks for improvements in test scores still will be subject to a range of penalties -- from having to help students find a new school to shutting down altogether.

What Congress may change are some day-to-day rules.

Like the law itself, the rules are aimed at getting back to basics:

What's a highly qualified teacher? What makes a school successful? What's fair if you don't speak English or have a learning disability? Should testing focus exclusively on math and English? How much money should be spent, and how do we know if it's well spent?

Criticism about the highly prescriptive law has come mainly from educators -- traditional allies of the Democrats, who now control Congress. But Democrats such as East Bay Rep. George Miller and Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy not only helped write the bipartisan No Child Left Behind law, they've been among its greatest champions.

"This is a defining issue about the future of our nation and about the future of democracy, the future of liberty and the future of the United States in leading the free world," Kennedy said of the law when it passed. "No piece of legislation will have a greater impact or influence on that."

But the California Teachers Association's parent organization, the National Education Association, which represents more than 3 million teachers, has declared No Child Left Behind fundamentally flawed. What the teachers dislike most is that the law essentially sends bad schools to the corner with a dunce cap.

"No Child Left Behind is the worst thing that's ever happened to education,'' said Barbara Kerr, president of the union's California arm. "It's punitive. It's the scourge of many of our teachers."

The union wants Congress to expand the definition of successful schools to include those that improve somewhat -- not just those that raise test scores by the prescribed amount.

The union is not alone in demanding this change. Other educators, including state school superintendents, school board members and even parents have been asking Congress for it for years.

The way it is now, each public school must make adequate yearly progress. That means more students must score at grade level every year until everyone is proficient in 2014, though each state can set its own pace. Last year in California, the law required only one-fourth of students to score at grade level at each school. About 60 percent of schools met that goal.

Missing the state's goal two years in a row triggers consequences at schools that get federal funds for having a high proportion of low-income students -- as most California schools do.

Some consequences are welcome, such as new money for tutoring, more training for teachers and added technical assistance.

But some are not: Schools must tell students they can transfer to a higher-scoring school. If the low-achieving school continues to miss adequate yearly progress goals, more extreme measures can be imposed: Teachers can be ordered replaced or the school can be turned over to outside management or shut.

Many educators are asking Congress for a broader definition of success.

Business leaders -- the students' future employers -- are arguing just as fervently against making it easier to meet progress benchmarks.

"There is no more important or easy-to-understand measurement of student academic achievement than whether a child is reading and learning math at grade level," said Jim Lanich, president of the advocacy group California Business for Education Excellence. "By focusing on grade-level proficiency for every student, every year, in every subject, and by requiring reporting for each subgroup of students, it's easy to see which students are improving and which students are losing ground."

"Subgroup" is edu-speak for students sorted by ethnicity, poverty, language skills and special needs. No Child Left Behind also requires each subgroup in a school to make adequate yearly progress.

In coming months, advocates for students in these subgroups will appear before Congress to argue that fewer kids should have to be tested, that more English learners should be allowed to take a different test from children who are fluent and that students in different subgroups should be allowed to improve at differing rates.

Their key rationale is that the law unfairly paints many schools as failures, and that asking all students to reach the same benchmark ignores the fact that not all start from the same place.

"There is no 'standard' student, so why are we using standardized tests?" is how one 17-year-old student in San Francisco, Theresa Muehlbauer, once described the problem.

But one group representing low-achieving students will tell Congress just the opposite -- that the law has never been more necessary.

Russlynn Ali, executive director of Education Trust West, an advocacy group in Oakland, says bringing every child's skills up to grade level is the major civil rights battle of the 21st century -- and that broadening the definition of successful schools would weaken No Child Left Behind at its core.

"For the first time in our history, we have publicly committed to meeting the needs of all children who enter the schoolhouse door, regardless of the background or level of achievement they bring with them," Ali recently told the California Board of Education. She was urging the state to aggressively implement the federal law.

Miller, the Martinez Democrat who helped write the law and now chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, which is holding reauthorization hearings on it, said Congress is leaning toward the broader definition of success.

But he said another constituent's proposed change is already dead in the water -- the recommendation by President Bush that the government offer vouchers for private and religious school tuition.

That "didn't pass muster when Republicans controlled the Congress," he said, "and it certainly won't pass muster now that Democrats do."

E-mail Nanette Asimov at nasimov@sfchronicle.com.

© 2007 Hearst Communications Inc.

and more:
It is all not as simple as news writers and politicians would have us believe:

.. Second, who said anything about abandoning a school improvement agenda? Third, what makes you think NCLB has a school improvement agenda? NCLB doesn’t even measure school or student improvement. Nor does it really measure achievement gaps (e.g., schools that make AYP have achievement gaps that are as large, and often larger, than schools that don’t, gaps are measured at only one cut point, etc.).Which of its measures do you believe have been demonstrably proven to improve schools or student achievement? Can you identify any present in- school reform, or set of reforms, that has shown results that are large enough to close from ½ to a full standard deviation in achievement gaps? If not, isn’t that a set up for kids and educators: Achieve a goal for which there is presently no school reform means available for doing so? And can you point to any school or school system, here or abroad, that’s even close to 100% proficiency in challenging subject matter, which is what NCLB requires even though we know that most, but not all, states have lower standards than that? (If NAEP proficiency level becomes the standard, then, of course, every state will have unrealistically high standards.) Have the laws of individual differences been repealed anywhere but here?
How nice that NCLB allows its supporters to feel they’re on the side of the angels, but none of them have to produce unattainable results and suffer the demoralization and other consequences of “failure.” Other folks with equally noble sentiments would prefer not to see yet another generation of disadvantaged children sacrificed to high-minded false promises and, instead, do something that can actually make a difference while also holding schools accountable for things that are attainable, valuable and under their control.
[from Bella Rosenberg]

Legislature and high school dropouts

Yesterday's report on SB 1209 was picked up by the California Progress Report.
Today: Dropout deluge alarms officials!
Bills target state problem by increasing early help and limiting outside jobs to C-average teens.
By Laurel Rosenhall - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PST Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Could preventing a high school student from holding a job if he doesn't have good grades keep him from dropping out? Would offering a struggling middle schooler extra counseling and after-school programs keep her on the path to graduation? What about giving high school students more access to college-prep classes and high-level career training? Could that stop them from leaving before they earn a diploma?
The Legislature will debate those questions over the next two years as it takes on a package of bills designed to get at what many consider a crisis in California's education system: the throngs of students who drop out.
Exactly how many leave high school without a diploma has been hard to pin down because the state's student identification system is not complete. Recent research suggests that it's about 30 percent of each class -- or roughly 150,000 students a year.
"Why are we allowing this to continue?" asks Sen. Darrell Steinberg.
The Sacramento Democrat known for tackling complex social issues and building consensus among colleagues has turned his attention to high school.
"Issues cry out to you as needing attention, and this is at the top of my list. It affects children, families, schools, communities and has major economic consequences for the state," Steinberg said.
"We need to make a systemic commitment to eliminating this high school dropout rate."

….She also found support at school. Reyes switched from River City to McClatchy High School, where she formed a close relationship with a teacher. She joined a program for at-risk students that stresses values such as courtesy, integrity and perseverance.
Reyes told the select committee that lawmakers should fund similar efforts to stem the flow of dropouts. She also said they should consider more training for teachers in how to communicate with teenagers, more English-language support for immigrant students and more college-prep classes for everyone.
Increasing the availability of college-prep classes is one proposal among the five bills Steinberg is pushing as part of his dropout prevention agenda. Fewer than half of California high schools now offer enough college-prep classes to allow all students to participate in the curriculum, according to UCLA researchers..."
Senator Darrel Steinberg makes an important attempt here. The failure to deal with dropouts is a serious problem of schools. The next question is will the proposed programs help? Past efforts by the legislature do not give a great deal of confidence.
One piece of legislation which did help was to provide funds for teacher-parent home visits sponsored by Area Churches Together. Building relationships works. Relationships also work on the drop out rate. The legislature could provide the resources to provide teachers with the time to build relationships rather than to drill for tests.
Building relationships takes time and mony. It is unclear of Steinberg's proposals will deal with the real issues of high school dropouts.
Duane Campbell

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

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A radical change in education

A radical change for two union militants
The former dissidents, now powerful insiders, shaped the tough tactics that got L.A. teachers more than just a raise.
By Joe Mathews
Times Staff Writer

February 15, 2007

At United Teachers Los Angeles, veteran classroom instructors Joel Jordan and Joshua Pechthalt were longtime outsiders, considered a bit too radical for a union long known for its progressive politics.

Now, as leaders at the nation's second-largest teachers union, they are applying their ideas in ways that could reshape Southern California's politics and schools.

On Tuesday came the largest practical demonstration of the union's new approach to date: a three-year union contract.

The agreement was sealed after months of unusually confrontational rhetoric and aggressive public protests staged by the union's leaders. And the deal's details — particularly its mandate for class size reduction and new job protections for union activists — reflect the long-standing emphasis by Pechthalt, Jordan and their allies on broadening UTLA's advocacy beyond salary and benefits.

"This contract is a representation of our vision, in a concentrated and limited form," Jordan said after a news conference to announce the agreement.

In the months ahead, union leaders say, they intend to use a similar approach in two other big battles: the March 6 elections, which could reshape the Los Angeles school board, and the implementation of a state law that, if it survives court challenges, could grant Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and perhaps the union itself greater influence over the district.

UTLA's more aggressive stance is personified by A.J. Duffy, the dapper, occasionally bombastic union president who communicates with the membership and tussles with the press. But according to people both inside and outside UTLA, the strategy has been shaped by the little-known Jordan and Pechthalt, self-described "union militants" who now hold key leadership posts.

Jordan, a top staffer, and Pechthalt, a vice president, have long ties to activist politics and to Villaraigosa, a former UTLA staffer who once represented Pechthalt in a grievance against the Los Angeles Unified School District. Along with Duffy and two other allies, Pechthalt and Jordan were unexpectedly swept into power in elections two years ago by a membership frustrated at stalled contract talks.

Their dissident status had been cemented over two decades. They staged demonstrations without the approval of union leadership. They supported bilingual education when California voters didn't, opposed standardized testing as it became popular and questioned whether homework was necessary. They published a newsletter criticizing the labor movement and their own union, particularly its focus on electing school board members to secure power and good contracts.

Instead, they said, UTLA should reinvent itself as the base for a social movement that would engage in aggressive organizing of parents and communities, confront even friendly politicians and use militant tactics rarely employed by staid public employee unions.

"UTLA has never realized its full potential, which is to organize at schools, with teachers, parents and the community," Pechthalt said. "We need to create a broader movement for public education."

But this approach has caused alarm among some in the union and in political circles. Rank-and-file teachers and even other UTLA officers suggest that in their zeal to change the organization, the new union leaders have neglected some of the nuts and bolts of unionism.

"UTLA is a labor union and has the structure and mechanisms and funding and politics of a labor union," said Warren Fletcher, a union chairman at City of Angels School downtown, who has been both ally and critic of Pechthalt and Jordan. "I'm concerned that we're approaching things from the perspective of some sort of grand movement."

Jordan, 64, an avuncular alternative-school teacher, and Pechthalt, a funny, mustachioed social studies teacher, met 20 years ago. They were introduced by a mutual friend, UCLA professor Robert Brenner, a classmate of Jordan's at Beverly Hills High School.

A trumpet player in his youth, Jordan became radicalized during the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley, where he was a student. He left graduate school to teach in the Oakland public schools. He quit to drive a truck and later became an organizer in Los Angeles for Teamsters for a Democratic Union. By 1980, Jordan had returned to teaching. He eventually took a job at Mid-City Alternative School and stayed close to Brenner.

"We both developed the same sort of emphasis, a first principle that the activity and organizing of the membership of a union, rather than the leadership, is the key to power," Brenner said.

Pechthalt, 53, took a class from Brenner at UCLA during the 1980s on social theory and comparative history. Pechthalt was the son of radicals. His father, a Colombian immigrant, was a chicken farmer turned politician who briefly moved the family back to South America when Pechthalt was a child. His mother, a bookkeeper, actively opposed the Vietnam War.

Brenner had a lasting impact on Pechthalt. The professor argues that the world economy and global capitalism are in decline, a view that Jordan and Pechthalt say they share.

"Joel and I developed a critique of the narrow trade union perspective," Pechthalt said. "With the tightening of the economic pie, the only way to challenge that was to build a broad-based social movement for public education."

During UTLA's last strike, a nine-day walkout in 1989, Pechthalt and Jordan organized a rally in Exposition Park with Villaraigosa's help. In 1992, Pechthalt led a one-hour wildcat strike at Manual Arts High School, which included 30 teachers and 1,500 students, to protest cuts. The district tried to discipline Pechthalt; Villaraigosa guided his successful grievance.

About the same time, Pechthalt and Jordan began publishing A Second Opinion, a newsletter that frequently criticized UTLA. Among their contributors were other dissidents, including Julie Washington, now a vice president, and David Goldberg, now union treasurer.

"We need to once more begin transforming the image of teachers as friendly Caspar Milquetoast do-gooders into a unified, mobilized and proud bunch of unionists," Pechthalt and Jordan wrote in August 2004.

By then, Jordan was running a campaign to take over the board of directors and three officer positions with a slate of dissidents called United Action. The slate did not field a presidential candidate, and did not think Duffy, the only challenger to incumbent John Perez, stood a chance.

But Duffy, an unsinkable sort who favors fine suits and two-tone shoes, was undeterred. The son of a Brooklyn insurance executive, he was slow to learn to read and "was a tremendous disappointment to my parents," he said. In his 20s, Duffy moved to Philadelphia, where he lived in a commune and started a day-care center.

After moving to Los Angeles, Duffy earned his teaching credential. He taught social studies at Drew Middle School near Watts and special education at Franklin High in Highland Park. He frequently ran afoul of principals but sharpened his fighting skills in grievances.

Though campaigning for the union presidency on his own, Duffy found he agreed with Pechthalt and Jordan on the need for militancy; United Action endorsed Duffy, and vice versa.

Their timing was good. In February 2005, the frustrated membership elected the entire slate, including Duffy.

The new leaders claimed some victories for their new approach. They persuaded teachers to wear red shirts on Tuesdays as a sign of union solidarity. They pushed the district to reduce some of the mandatory assessments of students that teachers complain take class time. They also supported other unions. Duffy and Pechthalt were arrested during a demonstration in favor of airport hotel workers last September.

The leaders' philosophy also led them to a deal they came to regret with Villaraigosa to support state legislation granting him more influence over the school district.

They opposed his initial bid for a full takeover, instead pressing him behind the scenes to pursue a partnership with the union. The compromise legislation, AB 1381, was negotiated behind closed doors in Sacramento. That secrecy, along with provisions granting more power to the superintendent, upset some of UTLA's rank and file, and opponents gathered signatures for a referendum on the deal.

After AB 1381 became law (it has since been blocked by a judge), members voted to overturn the union's support of the agreement, leaving UTLA an official opponent of the law its own leaders negotiated.

"Many of the current officers of UTLA do not have a clue what the rank-and-file membership has to say about educational reform or raising student achievement or protecting public education and does not seem to take the time to even bother to find out," former union vice president Becki Robinson wrote to The Times after the deal.

The reversal left Villaraigosa deeply skeptical of the union's ability to deliver on any agreement, said sources close to the mayor. In school board races this spring, the mayor and the union are backing different candidates.

Union officers saw the contract fight, in part, as a chance to make amends for AB 1381 — and mobilize as they had promised.

They sponsored a tour of campuses to highlight overcrowding and held two massive rallies of teachers. They broadcast radio ads calling for smaller classes and more authority for parents. And they repeatedly threatened to strike.

"We have to destroy this district," Duffy, 62, told teachers last month at Nightingale Middle School in Northeast Los Angeles. "We have to pull it apart. We have to dismantle it. The only way to do it is with conflict."

The contract was sealed Monday, as the union began a strike authorization vote. District officials said negotiations gained momentum when Jordan personally joined the talks.

The deal produced a 6% raise — less than the 9% the union had previously demanded but more than some school board members thought was prudent. Union leaders, for their part, emphasized their gains on non-salary issues that were often the subject of articles in the old dissident newsletter.

The contract includes both reductions in and caps on class sizes (which will average about one or two fewer students per class). It gives new protection to teachers active in UTLA; anyone transferred for their union activities can appeal to a mediator.

Said their ally Washington, who was on the negotiating committee: "This is just a beginning."




Begin text of infobox

Pushing militancy

For 15 years, teachers Joshua Pechthalt and Joel Jordan, now top officials of United Teachers Los Angeles, published a newsletter called A Second Opinion. Among the frequent contributors were current union vice president Julie Washington and treasurer David Goldberg. In articles with headlines such as "The Illusion of Reform Through 'Cooperation,' " A Second Opinion argued that the union should eschew conciliation in favor of more militant public actions. Some excerpts:

On the need to make the union part of a greater social movement:

"Such a movement in the street would of necessity involve those most affected by and involved in education, teachers and support personnel, parents, students and community — as well as other users and providers of human services. Its methods would be mass demonstrations, job actions and direct action, not just traditional lobbying."

— Unsigned editorial, September-October 1991

On the failure to pursue a strike during a previous contract dispute:

"In the final analysis, UTLA leaders refused to lead a strike because they were more concerned about embarrassing our 'friends' in Sacramento than about fighting for a decent contract."

— Editorial, April 1993

On strikes:

"We also have to take on the notion that the people of Los Angeles will view a strike negatively. We can do that by championing genuine school reform that raises per-pupil spending, lowers class size, creates smaller, more humanistic schools and challenges the illusion of reform…. If parents see that UTLA is the only organized force willing to fight for real school reform, we will gain their support whether we strike or not."

— Pechthalt, March-April 2000

On the value of school board elections:

"The current state of negotiations underscores the failure of President Perez and the other officers to offer a strategy that builds the power of the union to win a good contract and improve conditions at the schools. Rather, Perez has prioritized using the union's resources to endorsing candidates, winning friends at the school board and the state Legislature, and then relying on them to deliver the goods."

— Pechthalt, January-February 2005

On testing:

As long as poverty remains pervasive and funding for public education a low priority, we must view the clamor to raise test scores with skepticism. The market mentality that pits students against one another for limited college slots and the possibility of a decent life, while teachers feverishly teach to tests so they can move up the career ladder, is the antithesis of what real education should be."

— Pechthalt, April-May 1998

On former Supt. Roy Romer

Arrivederci Romer

Goodbye, we're not your fools

District of a million administrators

Mini districts full of your dictators

Money spent on bureaucratic waste

Far from our schools

Arrivederci Romer

It's time for us to part

Beaudry, Belmont, Broad call out to haunt us

You make our class size swell so you can taunt us

The Rockies beckon. Can't you hear them calling in your heart?

— Brian Wallace, retired teacher, fall 2004

On the Iraq war:

"The values of tolerance, respect for diversity, alternatives to violence, and critical thinking that we try to instill in our students are also in jeopardy…. Corporate media domination has allowed the Bush administration to get away with selling the American public an ever-shifting package of justifications for war without subjecting them to closer scrutiny."

Jordan, April 2003

JOE MATHEWS, Times Staff Writer

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Testing the limits of NCLB

Testing the Limits of No Child Left Behind

By James Crawford
Hispanic Link News Service, 25 February 2007

A grassroots rebellion against the No Child Left Behind Act is sprouting all over the country. It’s long overdue. What’s surprising is that the most active opposition is growing in a conservative state. And it’s being waged on behalf of immigrant children.

State and local officials in Virginia are defying a federal order to test these students in a language they don’t fully understand. U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings insists that, after just one year in United States schools, children learning English must take the same standardized tests as native-English speakers – regardless of the language barrier.

About 70,000 students in Virginia are now classified as English language learners. Many would be set up to fail if the feds get their way.

School boards throughout the state are voting to resist the mandate, which they consider unreasonable and harmful to children. Fairfax County, for example, is among several districts that have resolved to use assessments for English learners only when they are “fair, valid, reliable and appropriate.”

By doing so, Virginia schools risk losing millions in federal funding. The state’s Republican-controlled legislature, anticipating that outcome, is making plans to sue Secretary Spellings.

This is not about evading “accountability.” Virginia already requires schools to assess students’ progress in learning English. For several years they have been using such tests – which serve a valid educational purpose – to determine whether students are making “adequate yearly progress” under the requirements of No Child Left Behind.

But Spellings says that’s no longer good enough. All students must tested for “grade level proficiency,” she argues, or they will be left behind.

Never mind that assessment experts say English-language achievement tests are “neither valid nor reliable” for English learners. In other words, we can’t count on such tests to generate meaningful information about student progress – a reality that even the U.S. Department of Education does not dispute.

“English language learners are far more likely to fail standardized tests than native English-speakers,” says Queens College professor Kate Menken. But “this does not indicate that the students or those who educate them are failing” – only that the tests are not designed to measure what these children have learned.

Drawing on her research in New York City, Menken warns that using invalid tests to make educational decisions often “results in classroom teaching strategies that are inappropriate for English language learners.” Schools feel increasing pressure to teach to the test and to eliminate effective programs like bilingual education.

Yet this is precisely what the Bush Administration is demanding. “High stakes” are attached to grade-level assessments, and No Child Left Behind requires that all kids be tested. Where scores are low, schools must be labeled failures and subjected to sanctions. Educators can ultimately lose their jobs.

What better way to give English learners an early taste of failure? To stigmatize them as a burden to their schools? And to discourage instruction in their native language, because students must “perform” in English or else?

The federal mandate is a bit like requiring hospitals to use faulty thermometers to measure every patient’s temperature, then relying on the results to rate doctors’ performance and make decisions about medical care.

Nonsensical rules are not unknown in the federal bureaucracy, but the requirement to use invalid tests is in a class by itself. What’s really going on here?

In a word: politics.

No Child Left Behind was the centerpiece of “compassionate conservatism,” the strategy that put George Bush in the White House. With the law up for extension in Congress this year, the Administration is trying to bolster its rationale.

Schools will never do a good job for Hispanics, the logic goes, unless they are forced to do so. High-stakes testing, backed up by the threat of harsh penalties, provides a handy crowbar.

So what if the system is irrational, unfair, and unlikely to improve instruction? By making public education look bad, it will pave the way for privatization – the Right-Wingers’ ultimate goal.

Blaming the schools also diverts attention from the real causes of underachievement. These are much tougher and more expensive to address: poverty, family illiteracy, inadequate health care, inequities in school spending, and a shortage of teachers trained to meet the needs of Left Behind groups, including English learners.

When the nation finally gets serious about providing excellent schools for all kids, this is where we will invest our resources – not in additional tests of dubious value. Meanwhile, let’s hope the Virginia rebellion continues to spread.

James Crawford is President of the Institute for Language and Education Policy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Republican incompetence: again

Would You Buy a Used Law from This Woman?

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings made headlines last summer when she declared that the No Child Left Behind Act is "like Ivory Soap. It's 99.9 percent pure." That was just the beginning of her unabashed sales pitch.
Spellings has been touting NCLB as a rip-roaring success in boosting academic achievement. "According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP]," she says, "9-year-olds made greater reading gains in five years than in the previous 28 years combined." In fact, as Stephen Krashen has shown, virtually all of those gains occurred before the 2002-03 school year, when NCLB took effect.
Now Spellings has issued a misleading report about the progress of English language learners. In a letter to the Washington Post, she claims that ELLs' 4th grade reading scores "increased by 20 points from 2000 to 2005, more than three times better than their peers." And she credits NCLB for this accomplishment, which suggests remarkable progress toward overcoming the achievement gap.
If only it were true.
Technically speaking, the reported increase is accurate. But that's because ELLs' performance took a nosedive in 2000. Then their scores rebounded over the next three years – that is, before schools began to implement NCLB. The graph below, from the Education Department's own web site, provides a more instructive picture of what's going on. It's clear that no statistically significant gains have occurred for 4th grade ELLs in reading since 2003. (That's true for 8th graders as well.)
NAEP Scale Scores, 4th Grade Reading, 1998-2005

*Significantly different from 2005
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Nation's Report Card, 2005
Independent analyses of NAEP scores for all students, conducted by the Harvard Civil Rights Project and Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), have also shown virtually no progress in reading or math since 2003. Nor could they find any evidence that NCLB has reduced the achievement gap between racial and ethnic groups.
But the Saleswoman-in-Chief remains undaunted. She continues to "cherry pick" data designed to bamboozle Congress and the public into believing that this law is working for kids. Don't buy it.

From http://www.elladvocates.org/index.html#selling

Monday, February 12, 2007

California legislative meddling and pandering

About each decade someone in the legislature decides to re-write the rules for teacher preparation. They write in response to a view that teacher preparation programs need revision and that they will not change without outside pressure. In the case of SB 2042 (2000) and SB 1209 (2006) the California legislature has mandated a precisely controlled curriculum for colleges and universities. They have the power to re-write programs because the programs lead to a state credential (license). The state’s right to issue credentials gives them the power to control the teacher preparation curriculum.
In the case of SB 2042 (2000) and SB 1209 (2006) the California legislature has mandated a precisely controlled curriculum for colleges and universities. ( See prior posts)
Note that the legislature does not yet mandate such curriculum in other fields, such as history, sociology, chemistry, etc.
The legislature and staff members presume to know what is best for teacher preparation with little consultation with professionals in the field. And, they have made major destructive errors.
Part of the problem seems to be the presumption of the legislative staff that they can make these decisions. Of course they are aided by advocacy groups, including education professionals who want to advance an idea, a program, and/or their personal careers. For example, less contested items of both 2042 and 1209 were supported by advocates of BITSA, the beginning teacher support system and by advocates of conservative school control ( Emory, 2004). This allows legislators and staff to get testimony on their side for interventions into the curriculum of higher education institutions.
To some degree then teacher preparation is being treated as an troubled step child of the university. The legislature will intervene here while not intervening in other academic fields. And, the governor has an large bureaucracy to assist with this intervention in the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
Once established, the pattern of legislative meddling is likely to grow. By extension the current legislation could well be interpreted to say that the academic preparation of future teachers (usually the B.A.) will cover the standards for the disciplines as developed by the California State Dept. of Education. You can argue from the current law that all teachers must take a U.S. history course or courses which cover the material in the California K -12 standards for history and government classes covering precisely the k-12 government standards. In fact people are already making this argument. And similar arguments are being made by Margaret Spelling, the Secretary of Education, on a national level.
These legislative interventions in the university curriculum may well be the proverbial camel with his nose under the tent.
With reflection upon this specific intervention we, the faculty, made a strategic error which we should recognize as we go forward. We were recruited into an extensive process of developing curriculum and an assessment model (PACT) in response to the state intervention and the “leadership” of private and elite universities. This took hundreds of hours of time. We could have instead spent our time more effectively developing a political resistance to the legislative/bureaucratic intervention.
Although the political power of the neo conservatives in politics has eclipsed as a result of the 2006 elections, the persons whom they placed in administrative and policy positions remain well entrenched. There will be additional interventions. If you read the statements of Margaret Spelling on higher education you can see the outlines of what is coming.
Our experience with SB 1209 and SB 2042 teach me that we need to intervene politically at an earlier stage. Early interventions require an improved policy development and monitoring apparatus and the development of legislative skills among faculty. Here is an example of developing new legislative/policy vehicles.

Duane Campbell

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Strange events in NABE

See the edjustice link to the right.
Bilingual Education at a Crossroads? A Divided NABE meets in San Jose; Board Further Discredits Itself by Inviting Anti-Bilingual Ed Keynote Speaker.
An important story.

Also see: The Decline of Bilingual Education:
How To Reverse a Troubling Trend? By James Crawford
August 2006


Friday, February 09, 2007

California Legislatures and bureaucrats

In conflicts such as the imposition of an unfunded mandate in SB1209 (Scott), I have re learned a lesson which I will share with you. In many cases such as SB 1209 (Scott) the role of legislators and their consultants is to make major decisions on issues that they know little or nothing about. ( see prior post)
They have the arrogance of power combined with a massive deficit of information.
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 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.

And the following:

Experts Go on Strike—Could Last Months, Non-Experts Say
Posted on Feb 4, 2007
By Andy Borowitz
Satirist Andy Borowitz pokes fun at the media’s reliance on the know-it-alls who often shape our opinions.
In an unprecedented labor action that could directly impact American journalists’ access to space-filling quotations, America’s experts went on strike today, seeking payment and benefits for their oft-quoted remarks.
For decades, journalists who have been up against deadlines with many column inches to fill have called upon experts at colleges, universities and think tanks in the hopes that the loquacious sages would spew forth much-needed verbiage.
In exchange, the experts have asked little more than that the journalists spell their names correctly—but all that is about to change, the striking experts hope.
At a massive rally of disgruntled experts at the University of Minnesota, professor Davis Logsdon, a leading expert and the president of the United Experts Union, fired up the crowd of irate know-it-alls.
"As experts, the time has come for us to stand together and refuse to give away our opinions for free,” Logsdon said. “And a recent study shows that 98 percent of you agree with me.”
Tracy Klujian, one of two dozen or so non-experts who crossed picket lines at the University of Minnesota to work as so-called “replacement experts” for the duration of the strike, said he had “no idea” how long the work stoppage could last.
"Maybe it could go on for months,” he said. “But I don’t know much about labor unions and stuff, so you’re really asking the wrong guy.”
Elsewhere, in an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Adm. J. Fallon said it was time for the United States to redefine its goals in Iraq to something more realistic, such as “chaos.” 
Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate : Andy Borowitz

Duane Campbell

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More need for fact checkers; The California State of Education

The State of Education in California, and the real state of education in California.
President Bush is famous for being in denial about the state of the war in Iraq. It seems our Superintendent is learning from him.
California Superintendent O’Connell gave a Sate of the Education Address on Jan 7, 2007.
It is here:
Lets begin to look at this presentation. We know that the superintendent is a declared candidate for Governor, so we should consider the speech in that light.
There must be a retreat house or training program somewhere where politicians ( like O’Connell), speech writers, and press advisors learn the skills of presenting these reports without being restricted by reality or the data. Unfortunately too many media sources report these assertions as facts.

Page 1:

"We’re asking no less than proficiency in all subjects when measured by the toughest standards in the nation – for all students, right now, regardless of whether they come to school speaking another language, whether they’re poor and hungry, confused, scared, psychologically damaged or mentally challenged."

Yes, California has among the toughest standards in the nation. There is no measured evidence that California has significantly improved reading scores over the last decade. See the NAEP scores for California. So, we have tough standards written by committees, but we have not done the things needed by teaches to improve student learning environments.

Page 2.

"Now, that may seem counterintuitive – we know the exit exam is the minimum our students need to know in order to graduate. But in fact, by holding students accountable for reaching even that standard, we’ve seen that not only have our students reached that bar, they’ve gone higher than they ever thought they could. As a result of the exit exam, students are working harder, learning more and persevering in school."

This statement could be proven or dismissed based upon data. Where is the data? And, in considering the data be certain to investigate the real drop out rate. One way to increase a CaHEE score is to “encourage” low scoring students to leave or to transfer to another school, or just be absent for a week.

Page 2.

"It’s been a long time coming, but today we all know, appreciate and embrace the fact that data matters. We know – because research tells us – that successful schools adhere to our rigorous standards, and build a culture around data-driven decision making."

Well, he has it half right. Data matters. And an honest sharing of the data matters. We look forward to a day when data is presented without the slight of hand used so often by politicians and the media writers for the Calif. Dept. of Education.

The second sentence: Research tells us- that successful schools adhere to our rigorous standards, and build a culture around data-driven decision making.
O.K. What research are you referring to? Most of this is assertions, not research. Research by Dan Laitsch, (2006), and Richard Rothstein (2004), and Gerald Bracey (2003) do not support your assertions. It looks as if your press writer is simply making assertions. What research?

"I want to make certain that the data we collect meets the highest standards, and I want every school and district to make data a top priority. So I thank those school districts who have worked overtime to provide the quality data we need to better serve students and schools."

Good goal. I certainly hope that you achieve it. Note, what the CDE does is collect data. It does not improve teaching nor teaching conditions. It collects data. At least we could expect quality shared data.

"My friends, this is our struggle. Real, measurable progress has been made since the institution of standards-based education. Thousands of young adults are entering the world better prepared for success. "

Data please.

"Today we are holding ourselves accountable for the results of all children. And when we see significant groups of students falling far short of the goal of proficiency that we hold for all students — we must act. Today, equipped with specific knowledge of those gaps, we must focus as never before on solutions."

Good goal. I look forward to the cde holding itself accountable. And, the State Board of Education. Thus far you have held yourself only accountable for writing standards. Please hold yourself accountable for student reading, math, and civics achievement.

"We need to honestly use the data we now have, and also have an honest conversation – a courageous conversation some would say — about our individual subgroups, and their individual struggles within our standards-based context. I know every child in this state can learn and has great potential. I refuse to believe or accept anything less."

Good goal. You had an opportunity to do both of these in this report of the State of Education in California. You haven’t done it today. I look forward to more improvement in this area. Many of us share your goal.

"It’s time to examine our beliefs, to examine the data, to examine strategies and to hold ourselves accountable for getting better results. This year I will be doing all of those things."

Amen. Well, you could have started today with this speech.

"I’m proud of the career technical education standards and frameworks my department has developed – they’re a model not only for our schools but for other states and even other nations."

Amen. Proud standards. California’s performance in career technical education is far behind many other states.

More to follow.
Duane Campbell
We welcome comments on the state of education in California.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Who needs fact checkers ? We're writing about education


The cover of the July 25, 2005 issue of Fortune featured a takeoff on the old Charles
Atlas body-building ads from the comic books of my youth. On the beach, a brawny
China (in a bathing suit made from the Chinese flag) bullies a scrawny Uncle Sam. The
text on the cover asks “America: the 97-pound weakling?”

In The Fifteenth Bracey report, I made note of the cover and one of the statements from
reporter Geoffrey Colvin: “Our primary and secondary schools are falling behind the rest
of the world’s.” About this statistic I commented, “No evidence was offered, no doubt
because none exists.” Well, that’s true, but it turned out that I had overlooked the
statement and the statistics that would cause so much mischief.

Those came in a section where Colvin wrote about the increasingly well-educated globe
saying, “In engineering, China’s graduates will number over 600,000, India’s 350,000
and America’s only about 70,000.” Colvin’s timing was impeccable—his article arrived
just as a group of fear mongers at the National Academies were putting the final touches
on Rising Above the Gathering Storm, pretty much an echo of the Colvin article that
included his figures for engineers. “The Gathering Storm” carried a particularly ominous
tone--Winston Churchill had used that phrase as the title of his book on the coming of
World War II.

Colvin’s numbers had already caused Carl Bialik’s broad eyebrows to arch. Bialik’s
Wall Street Journal column, “The Numbers Guy” tracks down various statistics,
repudiating some, elevating others. Unlike most things at the uber-capitalist WSJ,
Bialik’s worthwhile column is free, www.wsj.com/NumbersGuy.

Bialik could not locate the original source, but he did find a number of skeptics and wrote
about their doubts in an August column. Ron Hira of the Rochester Institute of
Technology pointed out that CEO’s have nothing to lose by crying wolf: “There’s only
an upside for them. It deflects attention from the fact that they’re offshoring more work.
And there’s no cost to them—the government is going to foot the bill [by subsidizing
engineering schools]. The increase in supply of engineers is going to keep wages down.”

When Rising Above the Gathering Storm appeared in early October, Bialik returned to
the stats. “Now that the National Academies has lent its imprimatur to the numbers,
they’re likely to be circulated more widely in an industry effort to boost government
investment in engineering education that might not be in the best interest of American
technical workers.” Good guess.

The National Academies are formed by the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of
Engineering, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council.
Richard Freeman at Harvard told Bialik that his studies showed that many of the Chinese
“engineers” would come out of two- and three-year programs and that the number of real
engineers graduating from Chinese universities would be more like 350,000.

When Bialik approached Deborah Stine, who had led the National Academies team, she
told him “we assumed Fortune did fact-checking on their numbers” (!!). She also said,
“We appreciate your bringing it up.” She pointed Bialik towards a study from the
McKinsey Global Institute which had used a figure of 550,000. As Bialik noted, though,
the McKinsey study focused on how nine out of ten Chinese “engineers” would lack the
skills to qualify for employment at a multinational corporation.

The matter appeared to have been put to rest with the publication of an in-depth study by
Gary Gereffi, Vivek Wadhwa and a team of researchers at Duke University. They
confirmed Freeman’s numbers coming up with 351,537 for China, 112,000 for India and
137,437 for the U. S. A lot of what China and India called engineers, America would call

The matter was not put to rest. The Duke report appeared in December. Calling the
original numbers “mangoes to litchis” comparisons, Wadhwa gave his figures some
visibility in a December column in Business Week Online. In April, 2006, I dedicated
part of a Kappan Research column to debunking the original numbers and in May I
published “Heard the One About the 600,000 Chinese Engineers?” in the Sunday
Outlook section of the Washington Post.

The Washington Post piece popped up on hundreds of Web sites in North America, Asia
and Europe. Not that that did much good. The National Academies imprimatur stuck.
Not only did it stick outside of the National Academies, it stuck inside as well. Asked by
Christian Science Monitor reporter, Mark Clayton, what the new figures meant, Stine
replied “I don’t think we believe that all these new numbers change the ultimate
recommendations we have. The U. S. is well behind other countries.” Jeez, why bother
with numbers at all?

In the meantime the larger figures prevailed in speeches by Secretary of Education
Spellings, Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez, Senator John Warner, Rochester
Institute of Technology President, Alan Simone, and, in a variation on the theme, Bill
Gates. They turned up in columns by journalists Hedrick Smith and Fareed Zakariya.

Some few people did speak of the “engineering gap” in the same skeptical voice we now
use to refer to the earlier “missile gap,” but I imagine the vision of hordes of Chinese
engineers will live on statistically for many years. Indeed, the experience allowed me to
formulate Bracey’s Law of Statistical Longevity: Any statistic, no matter how bogus,
that appears to reflect badly on the education system and raises fears about the future is
guaranteed a long life.

Bialik, Carl. (2006, 26 August). “Outsourcing fears help inflate some numbers.”

Bialik, Carl. (2006, 27 October). “Sounding the alarm with a fuzzy stat.”

Bracey, Gerald. (2006, 21 May). “Heard the one about the 600,000 Chinese engineers?”
Washington Post, p. C3.

Clayton, Mark. (2005, 20 December). “Does the US face an engineering gap?”
Christian Science Monitor, www.csmonitor.com/2005/1220/p01s01-ussc.htm

Colvin, Geoffrey. (2005, 25 July). “America isn’t ready: here’s what to do about it.”
Fortune, pp. 70-82.

Farrell, Diana and Andrew J. Grant. (2005). “China’s looming talent shortage.”
McKinsey Quarterly,

Gereffi, Gary and Vivek Wadhwa. (2005, December). Framing the engineering
outsourcing debate: Placing the United States on a level playing field with China and
India. Durham, NC: Duke University.

Wadhwa, Vivek. (2005, 13 December). “About that engineering gap...”

Read the entire Rotten Apples in Education Awards, 2006. By researcher Gerald W. Bracey. Here
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