Tuesday, October 12, 2010


By The Associated Press – from The Daily Breeze -http://bit.ly/9V60pA

10/11/2010 07:16:19 PM PDT - Los Angeles Unified said Monday it will team up with six other school systems to pursue education reforms that previously failed to gain widespread traction with districts and unions throughout the state.

The seven superintendents, who represent some of the state's largest school systems and more than 1 million students, announced the creation of a nonprofit organization called California Office of Education Reform. The group will be launched with $3 million in donations from philanthropic foundations, including California Education Partners.

CORE said it will pursue accountability and review procedures for teachers, common standards for English and math instruction and effective ways of sharing data. Another initiative is working collaboratively to turn around struggling schools.

And the group also plans to work with state lawmakers to pursue school reform legislation, said Michael E. Hanson, superintendent of the Fresno Unified School District and the new group's president.

"CORE's purpose is bottom-up education reform that is nimble enough to pursue funding and reforms outside the politics of education," he said in a statement.

The districts - Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Francisco, Fresno, Sanger, Clovis and Sacramento - agreed to pursue the changes as part of the state's entry in the Obama administration's Race to the Top competition for federal funding.

California did not win the funding after the reforms were resisted by many districts and unions, but the application process opened up communication among reform-oriented districts.

Superintendents said forming the nonprofit will give momentum to the effort.

Calif. Gov. Schwarzenegger Applauds the Establishment of CORE: California Office to Reform Education

California Newswire - Edited by Valerie Gotten | http://bit.ly/ceiVAE

Mon, 11 Oct 2010 – 20:05:06 - SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today applauded the establishment of the California Office to Reform Education (CORE). CORE was established by the seven superintendents representing those California school districts that served on the working group for the Race to the Top (RTTT) Round Two application, along with California Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss and the California Department of Education.

“The launch of CORE is a historic achievement that demonstrates to both local and national education leaders that California is serious about education reform,” said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“The status quo is not acceptable when it comes to educating our children, and CORE will strengthen California’s education reform efforts by creating a cooperative organization where state education leaders can collaboratively work on reform. I applaud the efforts of the great local school district leaders, representing over 1 million students, who have established CORE. I look forward to continue working with them to reform our education system.”

CORE is a nonprofit organization created to continue pursuing the education reform agenda each of the seven school districts committed to during the last round of competition for RTTT. The seven participating superintendents included: Ramon Cortines, Los Angeles Unified School District; Christopher J. Steinhauser, Long Beach Unified School District; Michael E. Hanson, Fresno Unified School District; Dr. David Cash, Clovis Unified School District; Marcus P. Johnson, Sanger Unified School District; Jonathan Raymond, Sacramento City Unified School District; and Carlos A. Garcia, San Francisco Unified School District.

California Education Leaders Announce New Nonprofit To Improve Schools

Samantha Yerks | Staff Reporter | Neon Tommy/USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism | http://bit.ly/dqlGwf

Monday's meeting of superintendents
Monday's meeting of superintendents

October 11, 2010 - A new nonprofit organization headed by state education leaders will focus on a unified education reform agenda across the state, said California Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss in Los Angeles on Monday.

“The status quo is no longer acceptable,” Reiss said.  “California knows every child is capable of the right education…of going to college, getting a career.”

Reiss, along with five represented superintendents, gathered at 122nd Elementary School in Los Angeles to announce the creation of the California Office of Education Reform and its commitment to education reform across district lines.

The idea for CORE developed after seven superintendents collaborated on the second round of Race to the Top, a federal program created to fund states committed to education reform.  California was one of the finalists in the second round but ultimately did not receive a federal grant, partly because of their plan to use test score analysis as part of a teacher’s evaluation, which would require negotiations with teacher unions.

Despite the failure to receive federal money, the superintendents acknowledged the need to address the “civil rights issue of the 21st century,” said Chris Steinhauser, superintendent of Long Beach Unified School District.

Using the plans that were developed in the application for the Race to the Top, CORE will focus on implementing new forms of assessment of English/language arts in grades 2, 4 and 7, and mathematics, with an emphasis in algebra, in grades 3, 5 and 8, Steinhauser said.

The leaders of CORE repeatedly stressed the significance of collaboration, both between districts and at individual schools between principals, teachers, parents and students. 

“Working together as districts, rather than competing…we can improve education for children wherever we are,” said LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

Every school will be addressed individually according to the needs of the students and teachers, Cortines said.  But CORE will begin new lines of communication between districts to enable the sharing of information and knowledge.  This will allow struggling schools to implement methods that work based on collected data.

The nonprofit will also redirect the resources the schools do have, ensuring they are used most effectively.  Not relying on government funds will enable flexibility, Steinhauser said.

California Education Partners gave $3 million to CORE in initial funding and aid in raising additional funds, said senior partner Rick Miller, who said he recognizes that superintendents are “stronger as a team than individually.”

“It is incredibly exciting and transformational to have our local communities taking a joint leadership role in advancing California public schools,” Miller said.

Additional Coverage from Google News

CONNECT THE DOTS… A little background on C.O.R.E + California Education Partners:

What Were State Ed Officials Thinking in Race to Top App?

By: Lydia Chávez | Mission Loc@al – San Francisco Mission District News | http://bit.ly/dsO0ZS

March 18, 2010 – 6:18 am | Follow instructions, write clearly, pay attention to organization. It’s all advice teachers in California commonly give public school students.

But a close reading of the state’s failed application for millions of dollars in Race to the Top stimulus funds – the biggest bonanza of federal education dollars in decades– shows that California officials failed to adhere to any of it.

“One thing that does seem a clear distinction (with the winners) is the specificity with which many of the states went into in their applications…” Rick Miller, [Deputy Superintendent of California Department of Education’s the P-16 Policy and Information Branch, which is responsible for developing policy and practices to close the state's achievement gaps and for identifying best practices and developing strategies to better use data and share solutions. In addition, the Branch also oversees internal and external communications – Miller left CDE following failure of the RttT application – smf] , told local districts and other stakeholders in a March 8 conference call.

The finalists “had a very clear idea of exactly what they wanted to do and how they wanted to do it,” he said.

Miller and Kathryn Radtkey-Gaither, undersecretary for education [part of the governor’s office – smf] , urged those on the call to read California’s application. Let them know, Radtkey-Gaither said, if there are any “Oh-my-gosh-what-were-they-thinking-moments.”

Understanding how the state fell short, both said, will help as California prepares its application, due June 1, for Phase 2 Race to the Top funding.

Because a majority of San Francisco’s low-performing schools are in the Mission District and funding here is crucial, Mission Loc@l read the state’s failed application, reviewed those of some of the winners and spoke to Miller about some oh-my-gosh-moments.

First, the background.

It was only last November that Washington announced the Race to the Top rules, but by the January deadline 40 states and the District of Columbia submitted applications.

Reviewers read and scored each for a total of 500 potential points. Four days before Miller’s call to stakeholders, Washington had announced 16 finalists. California was not on the list.

It was unclear by how many points California trailed the finalists, but Radtkey-Gaither said the state “lost at least 100 points.”

Still, there’s an opportunity to do better, state officials said.

At the same time the Phase 1 winners are announced in April, the scores and reviewers’ comments will be made public for states to use in preparing their June 1 applications. Washington has said that at least half of the $4.35 billion in Race to the Top Funds will be saved for the second round.

Until April, no one will know for sure where reviewers found California’s application wanting. But other news emerged about the finalists.

Fourteen of the 16 winners, Education Week reported, got technical assistance grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

California never applied for a Gates grant, Miller said Wednesday, because one criterion was that states have policies that offer tenure in three years rather than two.

Nonetheless, California had plenty of help. The core team of eight staffers that drafted the application drew on the governor’s staff, education department, state board, and consultants from West Ed and the American Institute of Research, according to Miller.

It proved too many.

Oh-My-Gosh-Moment #1: Form

The application guidelines suggested a basic A to F outline that allowed applicants to earn points in increments. Take, for example, Section D, “Great Teachers and Great Leaders,” for 128-points. The feds broke this down into nine subsections worth anywhere from 5 to 28 points.

New York and Florida, two finalists similar to California in the size of their public school systems, addressed each subsection in order, using the federal description, the possible points to be earned, and making their cases. Then, they moved on to the next subsection.

California too used the basic A to F section heads, but then departed from form by combining subsections, a move that made scoring – very clearly delineated in titled subsections – difficult.

“We noticed that as well,” Miller said Wednesday about the difference. “Our theory was that it was going to be more sort of readable and understandable. We did notice that we were different than the other states and it’s maybe something we correct.”

Both Florida and New York also helped reviewers by using a repetitive structure of bold headings throughout each subsection.

New York used a framework of Goals, Activities, Timeline and Responsible Parties.

Florida’s included Key Highlights, Responsible Parties, A Timeline Chart, and Outcomes.

California’s application generally, but not always, opened with Our Foundation, followed by Goals and Strategies. But too often, it bounced around among subsections. The effect was confusion as to what was being addressed.

“I think that we were trying to tell a story, a narrative,” Miller said by way of explaining why California had failed to devise its own internal framework for subsections. “But I think we are seeing what seemed to work for the reviewers and we will adjust.”

Oh-My-Gosh-Moment #2:

New York and Florida offered concise arguments, buttressed with charts to match. Although at 136 pages, California’s application was much shorter than the others (it could have been the size of the font used by other states) it often reads like a disorganized argument that’s poorly backed up.

Take, for example, the section, “Improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance.”

New York states its plea early: “Our teacher and principal effectiveness reforms begin with new and more rigorous professional standards for teachers and principals.” The authors quickly lay out a plan to develop standards, using the new funds.

California also begins clearly with the state recognizing “the need to restructure and re-orient its systems for teacher and principal evaluations…” The section then devolves into an internal debate with itself.

On the one hand, “state law already requires the use of student achievement data in evaluation,” to support teacher and leader evaluation, a law clarified by recent legislation, the authors assert.

On the other hand, the next paragraph cites a 2007 study finding “weaknesses in California’s typical teacher evaluation process,” with officials “skeptical of the quality of the data that are collected through classroom observations typically used in performance reviews…”

Miller defended the internal contradictions. Even if the laws have never worked, he said, reviewers needed to know that the state has “the statutory framework to accomplish goals.”

He agreed the finalists offered more specifics throughout their applications. He pointed, for example, to the section on teacher evaluation systems. Finalists included various percentages of a teacher’s evaluation that would be tied to a student’s progress.

California mentioned no firm number. Instead, despite discrediting its efforts to date in an earlier section, the state promised to develop “voluntary state models for evaluating teachers and principals” and encourage local districts to develop their own models.

The lack of details makes California appear reluctant to commit to anything. Miller said the vagueness was, in part, intentional. The state needed time to work out the details in collaboration with hundreds of stakeholders.

Those on the March 8 conference call were warned, however, that the timeline for collaboration would have to be moved forward to develop details for sections the authors now suspect fell short. They named three: the section on teachers and leaders, low-performing schools and the states success factors.

In the next round, Miller said, California must “be a little more clear in how as a state we intend to move forward.”

Miller, however, will not be along for that ride. He said Wednesday he’s moving on to create a new consulting firm, New California Education Partners.

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