Assembly should pass bill to name, repair 10 worst California schools
Editorial/San Jose Mercury News
01-04-2010 - Of the many education reforms proposed recently in the Legislature, Senate Bill 742 is not the most sweeping. But it's one of the smartest. The bill, which would require the state to identify and fix the 10 worst public schools, sailed through the Senate in June but is stuck in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It should be passed. It may seem surprising that this law would be necessary. Why doesn't the state already have to name and repair all its badly performing schools? In the face of opposition to broader reform from teachers unions and administrators, the bill's authors say, they had to start somewhere. The beauty of this approach is that while it seems like a small step, it's likely to have a tremendous impact beyond just these 10 schools. Year after year, nearly 1,000 schools have failed to improve on a range of key measures despite billions of extra taxpayer dollars. (more...)
New year, new priorities?
01-04-2010 - During 2009, the various educational programs and grant competitions fueled by economic stimulus funds dominated the national education agenda. The Obama administration's $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition garnered significant attention and is thought to provide a blueprint for the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Going forward into 2010, what should the No. 1 education priority be for Congress and the administration? What do you predict will define education policy this year? How much attention will Washington pay to education issues in an election year in which many other high-profile issues are already crowding the agenda? (more...)
Behind-the-scenes maneuvers on parental reforms
Blog by John Fensterwald/Educated Guess
01-04-2010 - There likely will be action today in the Assembly on compromise Race to the Top legislation, as scheduled. But instead of one big bill, two reforms opposed by the school boards association and the state teachers union will be shoved into a separate bill, which the lobbies hope to kill. At least that’s the word I got late last night, after a day of intense negotiations. Both reforms would give more power to families in chronically failing schools. So Democrats in the Assembly will find themselves having to choose between the interests of the union and that of parents. When last we left it, before Christmas, SBX5-4 has passed the Senate and was awaiting action in the Assembly. It still is. The bill would put California on firmer ground in competing for a piece of the Obama administration’s $4.3 billion school reform grant program. (more...)
Massive budget cuts to education
By Gloria Penner, Ana Tintocalis/KPBS San Diego
01-04-2010 - GLORIA PENNER (Host): The state’s budget also hit close to home this year on the education front, where massive cuts were made to both K-12 and higher education. So with me now to look at the impact of these cuts is KPBS education reporter Ana Tintocalis. Welcome, Ana. ANA TINTOCALIS (KPBS Education Reporter): Thank you. PENNER: Give us a sense of how much education actually was cut locally in K-12 school districts. TINTOCALIS: Well, I would say hundreds of millions of dollars in San Diego County. And it’s difficult because it varies among public school districts. So take San Diego Unified for example. Over the past year they saw about $200 million cut, a state funding shortfall of that amount of money. And so what they were able to do this past year, which bailed them out basically, was that they put out an early retirement plan for veteran teachers. So veteran teachers took this deal and they left. And that was one way for the district to avoid teacher layoffs. (more...)
Are students languishing in English learner programs?
By Shirin Parsavand/Intersections L.A.
01-04-2010 -- Students who enter school knowing little English often remain in English learner programs for their entire school careers. That students remain in these programs for years without becoming fluent in English has long been known, but there is little agreement on what to do about it. A recent report looked at the problem in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Nearly 30 percent of students who start first grade as English learners in Los Angeles Unified are not reclassified by eighth grade, according to the report from USC’s Tomas Rivera Policy Institute. Those who remain in English learner programs when they enter high school do worse in school and are more likely to drop out than students who are reclassified, even after controlling for past academic performance, according to the study released in October, “Qué Pasa?: Are English Language Learning Students Remaining in English Learning Classes Too Long?” (more...)
Cuts choking area school libraries
By Michelle Hatfield/Modesto Bee
01-04-2010 - The heart of most schools is the library. It's a place to check out the latest vampire book, print an English essay, learn about the differences between fact and opinion, unearth that last source for a history paper, or find refuge and quiet time to read. But as the recession squeezes funding from schools, officials have cut back on nonacademic support programs, including libraries. Take Davis High School, where librarian Stephen Walker's annual supplies budget has been stripped from $76,000 to $4,000 to cover the cost of copy paper, printer ink, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, college guides and Advanced Placement test preparation books. "When they do these cuts, they always say 'students come first,' " said Walker, noting that the library records 80,000 to 100,000 contacts with students each year. "But if you go down to the district office, you're going to see flat screens, the newest software and the newest computers." (more...)
'Race to Top' viewed as template for a new ESEA
By Alyson Klein/Education Week (subscription required)
01-04-2010 -- Educators hoping for a glimpse at the next rendition of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act may want to take a close look at the rules for the Race to the Top program, which pushes states to adopt education redesign principles that federal officials say are likely to be the cornerstone of the Obama administration’s plans for a new ESEA. The $4 billion Race to the Top competition, created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aims to reward states for making progress on a series of redesign “assurances,” including turning around low-performing schools, improving teacher quality and distribution, bolstering state data systems, and improving the use of data and assessments. Those themes are likely to inform the U.S. Department of Education’s plans for reauthorization of the ESEA, of which the 8-year-old No Child Left Behind Act is the most recent iteration, said Carmel Martin, the department’s assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development, in an interview with Education Week reporters late last year. (more...)
A good move for South L.A. neighborhood
By Scott Gold/Los Angeles Times
01-04-2010 -- As part of a plan to bring affordable housing to a gritty part of town, city officials want to relocate a metal finishing firm charged with illegal dumping. She suspected that the source of their troubles was the little plant across from the school. She began poring over government documents. She knew little English at the time, but some words jumped out, such as "emissions." And yet, at every turn, officials kept telling her the area was safe. "I just thought: 'But how do you know that?' " she said. She joined forces with the nonprofit Assn. of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known by its acronym ACORN, becoming president of her neighborhood chapter. That gave her a bigger platform. City Hall began taking notice. Government regulators came next. (more...)
Natomas budget cuts hit classrooms; parents worried
By Diana Lambert/Sacramento Bee
01-04-2010 -- Natomas Unified School District officials have reached deep into classrooms to balance their budget. They have cut days from the school year, reduced class periods for most juniors and seniors, relaxed graduation requirements and eliminated summer school. And parents are worried. "They need to start putting the kids first," said Elena Quintero, president of the Inderkum High School Parent Teacher Student Association. She is concerned about the district's decision to reduce the number of units required for graduation and to cut counselors. "Counselors now don't even have the time to go over a schedule with kids, let alone go over graduation requirements and college applications," said Quintero, whose son is a freshman at the school. (more...)
Beverly Hills schools want to boot out-of-district 'opportunity' students
By Christina Hoag/San Jose Mercury News
01-04-2010 -- Threats on Facebook, name-calling, security guard escorts — tempers are running high around schools these days in this normally sedate enclave of ostentatious wealth. The reason: The Beverly Hills school board is preparing to boot out 10 percent of its students as it ends a decades-old practice of allowing out-of-district pupils to attend city schools on "opportunity permits." The move has upset many so-called permit parents — mostly middle-class families living in the tonier areas of Los Angeles who are loath to send their children to the beleaguered Los Angeles Unified School District, where more than a quarter of high-schoolers drop out. "Every family on permit is outraged," said Simy Levy, a Los Angeles resident whose two daughters attend school in Beverly Hills. "It's incredibly unfair." The plan, which is expected to get final board approval next month, comes as Beverly Hills Unified School District switches to a budget plan financed directly by the city's well-to-do tax base instead of with state money based on enrollment. (more...)
Living the education gap as a San Jose teacher
Commentary by Iliana Perez/New America Media
01-04-2010 -- In Washington, D.C., as politicians discussed health care and the economy, a group of students, educators and organizers convened at the Opportunity to Learn Conference to talk about what was most urgent to us – education. We gathered at the Marriot Hotel in Arlington to talk specifically about the education opportunity gap - the gap that divides students based on their access to education. Rather than focusing on comparing school achievement, the conference focused on schools’ accessibility to resources, quality teachers and effective curriculum. We stepped away from measuring achievement and asked the more fundamental question: “How can all students be assessed at the same standard of achievement if they are not receiving the same level of education?” As causes and solutions were discussed, we collectively surfaced ideas that ranged from national legislation to changing neighborhood bus schedules. (more...)
The California Education News Roundup is a daily publication that highlights news and commentary about California educational policy, educational reform, and related items of interest to California's educational justice community. Included are brief summaries and links to full articles from mainstream media, ethnic media, and select blogs. The News Roundup also features local education stories related to statewide education issues or to local advocacy campaigns. Finally, the Roundup includes selected national stories that may affect California educational policy and reform.