Friday, January 31, 2014

California Per Pupil Spending Increases

Spending Per Student Increases, Nearly Returning to the Pre-Recession Level – California Budget Project
California’s public schools serve 6.2 million students in more than 1,000 school districts. The Proposition 98 guarantee, which is designed to ensure a minimum level of funding for California’s schools and community colleges, did not prevent deep cuts to state spending for schools during the Great Recession and its aftermath.1 In response to sizeable budget shortfalls, lawmakers reduced the state’s annual Proposition 98 spending level for schools by more than $7 billion – or nearly 15 percent – between 2007-08 and 2011-12. As a result, spending per K-12 student – after adjusting for inflation – dropped from $9,261 in 2007-08 to $7,401 in 2011-12, a decline of $1,860 (Figure 1).
State revenues have increased during the past few years due
to a recovering economy and voter approval of two revenue measures – Propositions 30 and 39 – in November 2012. Higher revenues have, in turn, boosted the Proposition 98 guarantee. The Governor’s proposed 2014-15 budget includes Proposition 98 spending per K-12 student of nearly $9,200, an increase of almost $1,800 – or nearly one-quarter (24.2 percent) – from 2011-12, after adjusting for inflation. With this significant increase, spending per student would nearly return to where it was before the recession.

See the entire report at California Budget Project.

Ed.Note: The NEA ranks California 34 of the 50 states in per pupil funding in 2012.

New Jersey’s Education Cerf-dumb » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

New Jersey’s Education Cerf-dumb » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Thursday, January 30, 2014

What could be wrong with school choice?

by Jeff Bryant
Everyone loves “choice,” right?
In a country where in a single year there are more than 100 new choices for what to use to brush your teeth, it stands to reason that maximizing “choice” might be a goal for all kinds of enterprises.
With that in mind, this week brought us “National School Choice Week”with its recurring theme that “parents should be empowered to choose the best educational environments for their children.”
In their reporting of a School Choice Week kickoff event in Houston, libertarians at Reason noted that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) headed up the speakers. “The liberal Jackson Lee and the conservative Cruz may not have much in common,” Reason noted, but both seemed intent on pressing the case for school choice.
A blogger for the Houston Chronicle also highlighted the coming together of political right and left, crowing, “Who said Republicans and Democrats can’t come together?”
For sure, Republicans and free market enthusiasts of all kinds are going to continue to press for anything under the umbrella of “school choice.” But civil rights advocates – whether Democratic or not – need to ask, if school choice is about “empowering parents,” who is doing the “empowering” and what they are doing it for?
Same Old Wine

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

School suspensions decline

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Reports California Sees Significant Drops in Student Suspensions and Expulsions

SACRAMENTO—The number of students being suspended or expelled in California declined sharply during the last school year as more schools and districts put into place measures designed to keep young people in the classroom and learning, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.
Across the state, the total number of expulsions decreased by 12.3 percent, from 9,758 in 2011-12 to 8,562 in 2012-13. The total number of suspensions—either in-school or out of school—dropped 14.1 percent, from 709,596 in 2011-12 to 609,471 in 2012-13.
"Educators across California work hard to keep students in school and learning," Torlakson said. "It can be a challenge to find the balance between maintaining a safe learning environment and giving young people the tools and opportunities they need to succeed. But we're working with schools and districts throughout the state to do exactly that."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Someone sues the schools to abolish teacher tenure ?

By Duane Campbell
Julie Watson of The Associated Press reports today in the Sacramento Bee that  nine public school students are suing the state over laws on teacher tenure and seniority which really means that the usual anti union corporate machine has launched a new front in the war on teachers.  See
These students ( or their parents)  want to invalidate a series of current laws which protect teachers from political interference. Their campaign foci just happen to co-inside with campaigns of a variety of the usual corporate suspects from Michellle Rhee, the Waltons, Students First, Democrats for Educational Reform, and other well financed political action committees.
However, as we learned in the campaign against bi-lingual education ( Prop.227), parent and student front groups can provide an effective campaign strategy. A law suite designed for publicity was an important element in the abolition of bilingual education for the children of California.  It will be difficult to get past the framing of the AP article to real issues.
For example, one of the parents is listed as saying that her child did not learn to read until 3rd. grade.  Something we would all be concerned about, but it is not clearly connected to teacher tenure and seniority.
More likely, the child was disadvantaged by large classroom sizes,  California’s over crowded classrooms,  and the budget cuts of the recent economic crisis.   Or, it may have been because the child did not respond well to the tightly organized scripted reading lessons now required in most classrooms. Reading resource teachers prepared to assist children falling behind were eliminated from most California classrooms in a long series of budget cuts.

Friday, January 24, 2014

When Young People Don't Vote

by Duane Campbell
When young people don’t vote. The “Policy Experts”  Just Don’t Get It
I watched the Public Policy Institute  Sacramento Forum on the California Voter Turnout on January 23.  A series of speakers presented technical issues on why many Californians don’t vote- but they missed the big picture.
It is good that they studied the small issues, such as on-line voter registration.  However, as is clear, minority young people are not registering and voting at representative numbers.
The problem is that these young people have just completed 12 years of education in California schools where the curriculum and textbooks  tell that they don’t exist. The situation in California is as bad or worse than in Arizona and Texas. 
Latino and Asian American students have been absent from the curriculum since 1986. When the 48.72 % of students who are Latino , and the 11.5 % who are Asian do not see themselves as part of the community, as a part of  history,  for many their sense of self is marginalized.   Marginalization negatively impacts their connections with school, their success in school, and their commitment to  democratic institutions  such as voting and to a democratic society.
History classes  and textbooks  should help young people acquire and learn to use the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be  find a good job and to be a competent and responsible  citizens, but they don’t.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Why Education Reform Fails

Jack Rothman.
Co-authored by Amy Rothman, psychotherapist and mediator in Los Angeles
 American education just received another beating. This one came in a December report from the Program for international Student Assessment (PISA). While the United States is the top economic and military power globally, once again our 15-year-olds scored below average in math and only middling in science and reading. American students did not make it into the top 20 on any of these tests across the 65 participating nations.

American education has been under constant criticism since the middle of the last century. A galaxy of reforms has been mounted to address the issues, but these have not produced noticeable results. We live in a permanent environment of educational reform and educational failure. The reforms focus on fixing things within the schoolhouse, but the fundamental problem that needs fixing lies outside in the broader society. 
 Diane Ravitch's recent book, Reign of Error, gives a thorough and well-researched review of our educational plight and can serve as a field manual on reform issues. In the book she excoriates the privatization movement she once championed, decrying charter schools, vouchers, "Race to the Top" testing, numeric accountability, and the rest. She believes privatization, under the guise of choice, seeks to neuter teachers' unions, use test scores to fire teachers, and shut down overwhelmed public schools. To Ravitch, this reform isn't aimed as much at improving public schools as it is at replacing and Walmartizing them. It is a type of reform that hedge fund investors drool over because it provides an unending pool of potential customers to fill the pockets of corporate executives.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Problems with the Common Core

By Stan Karp

This is a revised version of a talk on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) delivered in Portland, Oregon, Sept. 20, 2013. The CCSS have been adopted by 46 states and are currently being implemented in school districts throughout the United States.
The Problems with the Common Core
The trouble with the Common Core is not primarily what is in these standards or what's been left out, although that's certainly at issue. The bigger problem is the role the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are playing in the larger dynamics of current school reform and education politics.
Today everything about the Common Core, even the brand name—the Common Core State Standards—is contested because these standards were created as an instrument of contested policy. They have become part of a larger political project to remake public education in ways that go well beyond slogans about making sure every student graduates “college and career ready,” however that may be defined this year. We're talking about implementing new national standards and tests for every school and district in the country in the wake of dramatic changes in the national and state context for education reform. These changes include:
  • A 10-year experiment in the use of federally mandated standards and tests called No Child Left Behind (NCLB) that has been almost universally acknowledged as a failure.
  • The adoption of test-based teacher evaluation frameworks in dozens of states, largely as a result of federal mandates.
  • Multiple rounds of budget cuts and layoffs that have left 34 of the 50 states providing less funding for education than they did five years ago, and the elimination of more than 300,000 teaching positions.
  • A wave of privatization that has increased the number of publicly funded but privately run charter schools by 50 percent, while nearly 4,000 public schools have been closed in the same period.
  • An appalling increase in the inequality and child poverty surrounding our schools, categories in which the United States leads the world and that tell us far more about the source of our educational problems than the uneven quality of state curriculum standards.
  • A dramatic increase in the cost and debt burden of college access.
  • A massively well-financed campaign of billionaires and politically powerful advocacy organizations that seeks to replace our current system of public education—which, for all its many flaws, is probably the most democratic institution we have and one that has done far more to address inequality, offer hope, and provide opportunity than the country's financial, economic, political, and media institutions—with a market-based, non-unionized, privately managed system.
I think many supporters of the Common Core don't sufficiently take into account how these larger forces define the context in which the standards are being introduced, and how much that context is shaping implementation. As teacher-blogger Jose Vilson put it:
People who advocate for the CCSS miss the bigger picture that people on the ground don't: The CCSS came as a package deal with the new teacher evaluations, higher stakes testing, and austerity measures, including mass school closings. Often, it seems like the leaders are talking out of both sides of their mouths when they say they want to improve education but need to defund our schools. . . . It makes no sense for us to have high expectations of our students when we don't have high expectations for our school system.
My own first experience with standards-based reform was in New Jersey, where I taught English and journalism to high school students for many years in one of the state's poorest cities. In the 1990s, curriculum standards became a central issue in the state's long-running funding equity case,Abbott v. Burke. The case began by documenting how lower levels of resources in poor urban districts produced unequal educational opportunities in the form of worse facilities, poorer curriculum materials, less experienced teachers, and fewer support services. At a key point in the case, in an early example of arguments that today are painfully familiar, then-Gov. Christine Whitman declared that, instead of funding equity, what we really needed were curriculum standards and a shift from focusing on dollars to focusing on what those dollars should be spent on. If all students were taught to meet “core content curriculum standards,” Whitman argued, then everyone would receive an equitable and adequate education.
At the time, the New Jersey Supreme Court was an unusually progressive and foresighted court, and it responded to the state's proposal for standards with a series of landmark decisions that speak to some of the same issues raised today by the Common Core. The court agreed that standards for what schools should teach and students should learn seemed like a good idea. But standards don't deliver themselves. They require well-prepared and supported professional staff, improved instructional resources, safe and well-equipped facilities, reasonable class sizes, and—especially if they are supposed to help schools compensate for the inequality that exists all around them—a host of supplemental services like high quality preschools, expanded summer and after-school programs, health and social services, and more. In effect, the court said adopting “high expectations” curriculum standards was like passing out a menu from a fine restaurant. Not everyone who gets a menu can pay for the meal. So the court tied New Jersey's core curriculum standards to the most equitable school funding mandates in the country.
And though it's been a constant struggle to sustain and implement New Jersey's funding equity mandates, a central problem with the Common Core is the complete absence of any similar credible plan to provide—or even to determine—the resources necessary to make every student “college and career ready” as defined by the CCSS.
Funding is far from the only concern, but it is a threshold credibility issue. If you're proposing a dramatic increase in outcomes and performance to reach social and academic goals that have never been reached before, and your primary investments are standards and tests that serve mostly to document how far you are from reaching those goals, you either don't have a very good plan or you're planning something else. The Common Core, like NCLB before it, is failing the funding credibility test before it's even out of the gate.

The Lure of the Common Core

Last winter, the Rethinking Schools editorial board held a discussion about the Common Core; we were trying to decide how to address this latest trend in the all-too-trendy world of education reform. Rethinking Schools has always been skeptical of standards imposed from above. Too many standards projects have been efforts to move decisions about teaching and learning away from educators and schools, and put them in the hands of distant bureaucracies and politicians. Standards have often codified sanitized versions of history, politics, and culture that reinforce official myths while leaving out the voices and concerns of our students and communities. Whatever potentially positive role standards might play in truly collaborative conversations about what schools should teach and children should learn has repeatedly been undermined by bad process, suspect political agendas, and commercial interests.
Although all these concerns were raised, we also found that teachers in different districts and states were having very different experiences with the Common Core. There were teachers in Milwaukee who had endured years of scripted curriculum and mandated textbooks. For them, the CCSS seemed like an opening to develop better curriculum and, compared to what they'd been struggling under, seemed more flexible and student-centered. For many teachers, especially in the interim between the rollout of the standards and the arrival of the tests—a lot of the Common Core's appeal is based on claims that:
  • It represents a tighter set of smarter standards focused on developing critical learning skills instead of mastering fragmented bits of knowledge.
  • It requires more progressive, student-centered teaching with strong elements of collaborative and reflective learning.
  • It will help equalize the playing field by raising expectations for all children, especially those suffering the worst effects of “drill and kill” test prep.
Viewed in isolation, the debate over the Common Core can be confusing; who doesn't want all students to have good preparation for life after high school? But, seen in the full context of the politics and history that produced it—and the tests that are just around the bend—the implications of the Common Core project look quite different.

Emerging from the Wreckage of No Child Left Behind

In 2002, NCLB was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and presented as a way to close long-standing gaps in academic performance. NCLB marked a dramatic change in federal education policy—away from its historic role as a promoter of access and equity through support for things like school integration, extra funding for high-poverty schools, and services for students with special needs, to a much less equitable set of mandates around standards and testing, closing or “reconstituting” schools, and replacing school staff.
NCLB required states to adopt curriculum standards and to test students annually to gauge progress toward reaching them. Under threat of losing federal funds, all 50 states adopted or revised their standards and began testing every student, every year, in every grade from 3–8 and again in high school. The professed goal was to make sure every student was on grade level in math and language arts by requiring schools to reach 100 percent passing rates on state tests for every student in 10 subgroups.
By any measure, NCLB was a failure in raising academic performance and narrowing gaps in opportunity and outcomes. But by very publicly measuring the test results against arbitrary benchmarks that no real schools have ever met, NCLB succeeded in creating a narrative of failure that shaped a decade of attempts to “fix” schools while blaming those who work in them. The disaggregated scores put the spotlight on gaps among student groups, but the law used these gaps to label schools as failures without providing the resources or supports needed to eliminate them.
By the time the first decade of NCLB was over, more than half the schools in the nation were on the lists of “failing schools” and the rest were poised to follow. In Massachusetts, which is generally considered to have the toughest state standards in the nation—arguably more demanding than the Common Core—80 percent of the schools were facing NCLB sanctions. This is when the NCLB “waivers” appeared. As the number of schools facing sanctions and intervention grew well beyond the poor communities of color where NCLB had made “disruptive reform” the norm and began to reach into more middle-class and suburban districts, the pressure to revise NCLB's unworkable accountability system increased. But the bipartisan coalition that passed NCLB had collapsed and gridlock in Congress made revising it impossible. So U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, with dubious legal justification, made up a process to grant NCLB waivers to states that agreed to certain conditions.
Forty states were granted conditional waivers from NCLB: If they agreed to tighten the screws on the most struggling schools serving the highest needs students, they could ease up on the rest, provided they also agreed to use test scores to evaluate all their teachers, expand the reach of charter schools, and adopt “college and career ready” curriculum standards. These same requirements were part of the Race to the Top program, which turned federal education funds into competitive grants and promoted the same policies, even though they have no track record of success as school improvement strategies.

Who Created the Common Core?

Because federal law prohibits the federal government from creating national standards and tests, the Common Core project was ostensibly designed as a state effort led by the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve, a private consulting firm. The Gates Foundation provided more than $160 million in funding, without which Common Core would not exist.
The standards were drafted largely behind closed doors by academics and assessment “experts,” many with ties to testing companies. Education Week blogger and science teacher Anthony Cody found that, of the 25 individuals in the work groups charged with drafting the standards, six were associated with the test makers from the College Board, five with the test publishers at ACT, and four with Achieve. Zero teachers were in the work groups. The feedback groups had 35 participants, almost all of whom were university professors. Cody found one classroom teacher involved in the entire process. According to teacher educator Nancy Carlsson-Paige: “In all, there were 135 people on the review panels for the Common Core. Not a single one of them was a K–3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional.” Parents were entirely missing. K–12 educators were mostly brought in after the fact to tweak and endorse the standards—and lend legitimacy to the results.

College- and Career-Ready Standards?

The substance of the standards themselves is also, in a sense, top down. To arrive at “college- and career-ready standards,” the Common Core developers began by defining the “skills and abilities” they claim are needed to succeed in a four-year college. The CCSS tests being developed by two federally funded multistate consortia, at a cost of about $350 million, are designed to assess these skills. One of these consortia, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, claims that students who earn a “college ready” designation by scoring a level 4 on these still-under-construction tests will have a 75 percent chance of getting a C or better in their freshman composition course. But there is no actual evidence connecting scores on any of these new experimental tests with future college success.
And it will take far more than standards and tests to make college affordable, accessible, and attainable for all. When I went to college many years ago, “college for all” meant open admissions, free tuition, and race, class, and gender studies. Today, it means cutthroat competition to get in, mountains of debt to stay, and often bleak prospects when you leave. Yet “college readiness” is about to become the new AYP (adequate yearly progress) by which schools will be ranked.
The idea that by next year Common Core tests will start labeling kids in the 3rd grade as on track or not for college is absurd and offensive.
Substantive questions have been raised about the Common Core's tendency to push difficult academic skills to lower grades, about the appropriateness of the early childhood standards, about the sequencing of the math standards, about the mix and type of mandated readings, and about the priority Common Core puts on the close reading of texts in ways that devalue student experience and prior knowledge.
A decade of NCLB tests showed that millions of students were not meeting existing standards, but the sponsors of the Common Core decided that the solution was tougher ones. And this time, instead of each state developing its own standards, the Common Core seeks to create national tests that are comparable across states and districts, and that can produce results that can be plugged into the data-driven crisis machine that is the engine of corporate reform.

Educational Plan or Marketing Campaign?

The way the standards are being rushed into classrooms across the country is further undercutting their credibility. These standards have never been fully implemented in real schools anywhere. They're more or less abstract descriptions of academic abilities organized into sequences by people who have never taught at all or who have not taught this particular set of standards. To have any impact, the standards must be translated into curriculum, instructional plans, classroom materials, and valid assessments. A reasonable approach to implementing new standards would include a few multi-year pilot programs that provided time, resources, opportunities for collaboration, and transparent evaluation plans.
Instead we're getting an overhyped all-state implementation drive that seems more like a marketing campaign than an educational plan. And I use the word marketing advisedly, because another defining characteristic of the Common Core project is rampant profiteering.
Joanne Weiss, Duncan's former chief of staff and head of the Race to the Top grant program, which effectively made adoption of the Common Core a condition for federal grants, described how it is opening up huge new markets for commercial exploitation:
The development of common standards and shared assessments radically alters the market for innovation in curriculum development, professional development, and formative assessments. Previously, these markets operated on a state-by-state basis, and often on a district-by-district basis. But the adoption of common standards and shared assessments means that education entrepreneurs will enjoy national markets where the best products can be taken to scale.

Who Controls Public Education?

Having financed the creation of the standards, the Gates Foundation has entered into a partnership with Pearson to produce a full set of K–12 courses aligned with the Common Core that will be marketed to schools across the country. Nearly every educational product now comes wrapped in the Common Core brand name.
The curriculum and assessments our schools and students need will not emerge from this process. Instead, the top-down, bureaucratic rollout of the Common Core has put schools in the middle of a multilayered political struggle over who will control education policy—corporate power and private wealth or public institutions managed, however imperfectly, by citizens in a democratic process.
The web-based news service Politico recently described what it called “the Common Core money war,” reporting that “tens of millions of dollars are pouring into the battle over the Common Core. . . . The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation already has pumped more than $160 million into developing and promoting the Common Core, including $10 million just in the past few months, and it's getting set to announce up to $4 million in new grants to keep the advocacy cranking. Corporate sponsors are pitching in, too. Dozens of the nation's top CEOs will meet to set the plans for a national advertising blitz that may include TV, radio, and print.”
At the same time, opposing the Common Core is “an array of organizations with multimillion-dollar budgets of their own and much experience in mobilizing crowds and lobbying lawmakers, including the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, the Pioneer Institute, FreedomWorks, and the Koch Bros.” These groups are feeding a growing right-wing opposition to the Common Core that combines hostility to all federal education initiatives and anything supported by the Obama administration with more populist sentiments.

Tests, Tests, Tests

But while this larger political battle rages, the most immediate threat for educators and schools remains the new wave of high-stakes Common Core tests.
Duncan, who once said “The best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina” and who called Waiting for Superman “a Rosa Parks moment,” now tells us, “I am convinced that this new generation of state assessments will be an absolute game-changer in public education.”
The problem is that this game, like the last one, is rigged. Although reasonable people have found things of value in the Common Core standards, there is no credible defense to be made of the high-stakes uses planned for these new tests. Instead, the Common Core project threatens to reproduce the narrative of public school failure that just led to a decade of bad policy in the name of reform.
Reports from the first wave of Common Core testing provide evidence for these fears. Last spring, students, parents, and teachers in New York schools responded to new Common Core tests developed by Pearson with outcries against their length, difficulty, and inappropriate content. Pearson included corporate logos and promotional material in reading passages. Students reported feeling overstressed and underprepared—meeting the tests with shock, anger, tears, and anxiety. Administrators requested guidelines for handling tests students had vomited on. Teachers and principals complained about the disruptive nature of the testing process and many parents encouraged their children to opt out.
Only about 30 percent of students were deemed “proficient” based on arbitrary cut scores designed to create new categories of failure. The achievement gaps Common Core is supposed to narrow grew larger. Less than 4 percent of students who are English language learners passed. The number of students identified by the tests for “academic intervention” skyrocketed to 70 percent, far beyond the capacity of districts to meet.
The tests are on track to squeeze out whatever positive potential exists in the Common Core:
  • The arrival of the tests will pre-empt the already too short period teachers and schools have to review the standards and develop appropriate curriculum responses before that space is filled by the assessments themselves.
  • Instead of reversing the mania for over-testing, the new assessments will extend it with pre-tests, interim tests, post-tests, and computer-based “performance assessments.” It's the difference between giving a patient a blood test and draining the patient's blood.
  • The scores will be plugged into data systems that will generate value-added measures, student growth percentiles, and other imaginary numbers for what I call psychometric astrology. The inaccurate and unreliable practice of using test scores for teacher evaluation will distort the assessments before they're even in place, and has the potential to make Common Core implementation part of the assault on the teaching profession instead of a renewal of it.
  • If the Common Core's college- and career-ready performance levels become the standard for high school graduation, it will push more kids out of high school than it will prepare for college. The most vulnerable students will be the most at risk. As FairTest put it: “If a child struggles to clear the high bar at 5 feet, she will not become a ‘world-class’ jumper because someone raised the bar to 6 feet and yelled ‘jump higher,’ or if her ‘poor’ performance is used to punish her coach.”
  • The costs of the tests, which have multiple pieces throughout the year and must be given on computers many schools don't have, will be enormous and will come at the expense of more important things. The plunging scores will be used as an excuse to close more public schools and open more privatized charters and voucher schools, especially in poor communities of color.
This is not just cynical speculation. It is a reasonable projection based on the history of the NCLB decade, the dismantling of public education in the nation's urban centers, and the appalling growth of the inequality and concentrated poverty that remains the central problem in public education.

Fighting Back

Common Core has become part of the corporate reform project now stalking our schools. As schools struggle with these new mandates, we should defend our students, our schools, and ourselves by pushing back against implementation timelines, resisting the stakes and priority attached to the tests, and exposing the truth about the commercial and political interests shaping this false panacea for the problems our schools face.
There are encouraging signs that the movement we need is growing. Last year in Seattle, teachers led a boycott of district testing that drew national support and won a partial rollback of the testing. In New York this fall, parents sent score reports on new Common Core tests back to the state commissioner of education with a letter declaring “This year's test scores are invalid and provide NO useful information about student learning.” Opt-out efforts are growing daily. Even some supporters of the CCSS have endorsed a call for the moratorium on the use of tests to make policy decisions. It's not enough, but it's a start.
It took nearly a decade for NCLB's counterfeit “accountability system” to bog down in the face of its many contradictions and near universal rejection. The Common Core meltdown may not take that long. Many of Common Core's myths and claims have already lost credibility with large numbers of educators and citizens. We have more than a decade of experience with the negative and unpopular results of imposing increasing numbers of standardized tests on children and classrooms. Whether this growing resistance will lead to better, more democratic efforts to sustain and improve public education, or be overwhelmed by the massive testing apparatus that NCLB left behind and that the Common Core seeks to expand, will depend on the organizing and advocacy efforts of those with the most at stake: parents, educators, and students. As usual, organizing and activism are the only things that will save us, and remain our best hope for the future of public education and the democracy that depends on it.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Martin Luther King Jr. Economic Justice and Workers' Rights

by Thomas F. Jackson
In 1968, a united black community in Memphis stepped forward to support 1,300 municipal sanitation workers as they demanded higher wages, union recognition, and respect for black personhood embodied in the slogan “I Am a Man!” Memphis’s black women organized tenant and welfare unions, discovering pervasive hunger among the city’s poor and black children. They demanded rights to food and medical care from a city and medical establishment blind to their existence.
That same month, March 1968, 100 grassroots organizations met in Atlanta to support Martin Luther King’s dream of a poor people’s march on Washington. They pressed concrete demands for economic justice under the slogan “Jobs or Income Now!” King celebrated the “determination by poor people of all colors” to win their human rights. “Established powers of rich America have deliberately exploited poor people by isolating them in ethnic, nationality, religious and racial groups,” the delegates declared.

Friday, January 17, 2014

State Board of Education approves funding rules

The California Board of Education on Jan.16, approved the funding formula presented  by Gov. Jerry Brown and approved by legislators last year which  gives districts additional dollars based on their share of low-income students, English-language learners and foster children.
School District administrators lobbied the board for months arguing for more  leeway for  schools.  School districts want flexibility to spend such money for all students in the district, but civil rights advocates fear that administrative decisions and bureaucracy will  dilute the intended impact on the targeted students  to   benefit more affluent children.
A coalition of 30 education and advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Advocates and the Children’s Defense Fund in California, sought an amendment Thursday requiring that new funding be “principally directed toward serving students in need”.  The board ultimately approved rules without that change.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Public School Reform ?

Seth Sandronsky
Take the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001. Add its heir, the Race to the Top Fund (RTT-TF), part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Under NCLB and RTTTF, pupil scores on standardized tests are center stage in public K-12 school reform. Public school principals and teachers with students who fail to measure up to learning standards based on test scores face harsh penalties, ranging from schools closing, with employee layoffs, to openings of charter schools (brick-and-mortar and online).

There is more to this learning and teaching dynamic than meets the eye. For instance, off-stage are for-profit corporations. Their fiduciary responsibility is to private shareholders, not public interests. So what is the interplay between the corporate sector and public K-12 school reform?

We turn to Kaplan Test Preparation (KTP) schools.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Persistent Educational Inequality

An excellent video explanation by Dr. Wayne Au

"Recolonizing Our Classrooms: 
The Race and Class Hypocrisy of Corporate Education Reform"


His talk starts at 27 minutes. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

California budgets and schools

by Duane Campbell
On January 9, California  Governor Brown proposed a budget for the 2014/2015 fiscal year.  It will be subject to changes until July 1 when it should pass and become the state budget.
The California Budget Project describes one of the major issues for schools.
1.     The Governor’s proposed budget eliminates outstanding obligations to K-12 school districts and increases funding for the state’s new education funding formula. Specifically, the Governor’s proposed budget:
o   ·  Eliminates $5.6 billion in outstanding debt owed to schools. The Governor’s proposed budget provides more than $2.2 billion in 2014-15, and $3.3 billion in 2012-13 and 2013-14 combined, to repay previously deferred payments to K-12 school districts, which reached $9.5 billion at the end of 2011-12.
o   ·  Provides $4.5 billion to continue implementation of the state’s new education funding formula. As part of the 2013-14 budget agreement, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) restructured the state’s education finance system. The LCFF provides school districts a base grant per student, adjusted to reflect the number of students at various grade levels, as well as additional grants for the costs of educating English learners, students from low-income families, and foster youth. The Governor’s proposed budget provides $4.5 billion to fund LCFF grants for K-12 school districts and charter schools in 2014-15, and $25.9 million to fund LCFF grants for county offices of education – all of which include cost-of-living adjustments.

What does this mean for you and I.  First, this is not a gift.  These allocations are required repayments to the schools for debts owed under Prop. 98.
How will this budget be allocated? Most of this is up to the individual school districts and boards of education.  As you know school budgets were devastated by the economic crisis and these “deferred payments” made it worse.  Now, how to rebuild.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Pre-K for all California Children- Proposal

And, a response
SB 837 would make Transitional Kindergarten Available to All Four-Year-Olds in CA
(Sacramento) – In recognition that too many California children are missing out on the early education they need to succeed in school, Senate President Darrell Steinberg is introducing the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2014, which will make one year of high quality, voluntary transitional kindergarten available to every four-year-old child in California.
By providing transitional kindergarten (TK) for all, SB 837 will fill the gap in critical early education for our youngest students, where only one in every four preschool-age children is now eligible for the current transitional kindergarten program and only half of California’s low-income children are served in Head Start or State Preschool. Study after study has shown that children attending high quality preschool programs perform better throughout their subsequent years in school and graduate from high school at a higher rate than their peers. This is especially true for low income students, and SB 837 will help bridge that achievement gap.
This is a worthy endeavor. However, while proposing this important new program the California legislature has not fulfilled its prior duty.  We, the people, passed Prop. 30 to adequately fund the schools. School funding has not been restored- yet.California ranks 49th. of the 50 states in counselors per student, 49th. in students per classroom,   and 50 of the 50 states in librarians per student.
The legislature should first provide adequate class size and  counselors for the existing schools.  They should restore an environment for teaching and learning.  Then, they should provide social workers for all low income schools to develop programs to lower the drop out rates. It is policy subterfuge to propose new programs while the state continues to dramatically underfund the existing programs. 
Back to the press release from Senator Steinberg. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Education Reform - Now What ?

Jeff Bryant
All the reviews of last year’s top education news stories are out and the consensus view is 2013 was a “pivotal year” for the nation’s education policy, to quote Texas superintendent John Kuhn.
The pivot from what to what has various interpretations, but 2013 was a year when “an education uprising” made many left-leaning people’s lists of positive developments.
Just like what’s happening in the economic arena, where a populist rage against inequality and systemic unfairness is causing even President Obama to take notice, anger over inequity and unfairness of policies labeled as education “reform” has stirred the masses into action and sent a clear warning sign to policy leaders in 2014, an election year.
Dysfunction Junction
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