Prognosis: California Will Wrangle

Post by CJN

Happy New Year!  Take Care Productions wishes it would be, but it won’t happen until the state has exhausted itself fighting over ‘spending cuts’ and ‘increasing revenue’.

Writers in the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times have scratched their heads over low-performing schools that are not improving test scores.  Whether it shows up in an effort to call out poor teachers by using the “value-added” formula or in the bleak results when analyzing low rates of student proficiency, no one is happy.

The California Teachers Association  strong-armed California’s passage of the Quality Education Invest Act (QEIA) which uses the Academic Performance Index (California’s API) as the indicator of scholastic improvement.  In six years (2004 – 2010) the 500 QEIA schools reached an average of 21.2% proficient students.  That’s good enough?  It means 68.8% still weren’t on track.

Why?  Is it the ‘test’ or is it teacher evaluation? The media has written article after article. Universities have spewed forth document after document to talk about low-performing schools and poor quality tests or low-performing schools and poor  teacher evaluation.

On the other hand, Mary M. Kennedy of Michigan State has reminded everyone of the attribution error, ignoring the working conditions of the teacher, preparation time, materials, work assignments, untreated student characteristics.  As if no matter the conditions, a good teacher can make the difference.  Maybe, but it takes time.  And the “value-added” attribute doesn’t make the grade when school boards as well as unions insist on old evaluation tools.

In British Columbia, Michael Shumatcher hits the button when he reminds the country of the demographic issue, urban or rural, and struggling populations who could use spending to promote the neededlearning tools instead of useless evaluation tools.

Or read Thomas Stephens, professor emeritus at the College of Education and Human Ecology, Ohio State University, who says one can find many good evaluation tools.  His hit is that the multi-billion dollar test industry won’t be pleased.

Let’s move on to California’s Sue Miller from Santa Monica who is representing the teachers who do all the work and need praise, not vitriol.

Which brings us to the wrangling likely in California which is deeply in debt from state to local entities.  Although many groups have been studying the problem, it comes down to cuts and taxes.

There will be no change in the tax plan to 1978’s Proposition 13 which started California down a long, dark road.  With effort, there may be a revision to the system of taxation generated by the proposition.  If you have read the article in SF Chronicle‘s January 2 edition “Prop 13 in urgent need of retrofit” by Michael Gervais and Dontae Rayford, defunding special districts and creating regional property tax boards are the options suggested.  Neither change addresses the money that corporations don’t pay in taxes.

Governor Brown has been sworn in this week for a third term and one can figure that the dysfunctional sections of the California State Department of Education will get cuts, along with all state entities.  Let’s see if the temporary taxes made to balance previous budgets will be maintained.

The National Education Association in the January/February 2011 NEA today issue includes “The Long and Winding Road” by Mary Ellen Flannery and Kevin Hart. The writers covered the entire country and found priority schools that teachers have had some say in transforming.

However, the deficit is so large in California that it is hard to see how the state test (CST) and the evaluation system are going to be top priorities.  It is possible like Mary M. Kennedy has said that turning around low-performing schools should be the top priority.

Will that transformation ever happen?

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