Archive for the ‘Edsource’ Category

Advocating for Pre-K 

Saturday, May 14th, 2016
Arena Union Elementary eligible for Pre-K

Arena Union Elementary eligible for Pre-K

The final days of yearly tests approach and schools look for student achievement progress under the Common Core State Standards.

Many teachers, mainly in states using Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career assessments, better known as PARRC, complain about the weight of the tests toward accountability of school success. Some parents in those states are fed up with testing and continue to opt-out so their students miss school on test days.

At the same time, a growing set of studies advocate the need for universal pre-kindergarten as a means of preparing children so that when they attend elementary, middle, and high school they can succeed in every part of the school year.

It is also true, however, that not all states can assure parents of successful high quality pre-K programs.

After two years of legislation in the California government, the first bill was vetoed and the second bill is, as of this moment, mired in the appropriations committee, i.e., $$$.

In California, approximately 22,000 children, mainly at low-income funded sites, attend Head Start, Early Start, and state pre-schools and transitional kindergarten to prepare for later academic success. That leaves, currently, 34,000 eligible children without a program. Remember, these numbers reflect California, but the numbers country-wide average the same.

Why should the 34,000 eligible for access have a place to go? The studies provide evidence that those students over all have increased cognition, social, language (especially English Language Development), and emotional development skills – that is, they’re ready for academics. They are less likely to enter the juvenile justice system. More likely to graduate from high school. Incarceration and welfare costs decrease. Above all, parents of and students who do well in school are more likely to move out of poverty.

In Santa Clara County, where Silicon Valley economics dominate, pockets of families do not have the resources to send their 4-year-old children to pre-school. There are not enough locations in the areas where eligible children live. The state doesn’t yet provide enough resources to upgrade sites and fund teachers in the seven major school districts in the county. Some major cities manage to provide limited support of $5,000 per child for programs.

The Santa Clara county Office of Education is sponsoring Strong Start to galvanize a coalition of co-sponsors including six school districts, five early education foundations, six non-profit foundations, League of Women Voters, the 6th District PTA, and endorsed by Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, Edsource, the Clinton Foundation, and, of course, the early learning agenda advocated by the President of the United States. All to expand access to and increase investment in pre-K for all children in the county.

The main obstacle is the $$$. A Public Policy Institute of California survey shows that 68% of Californians feel it’s very important to provide pre-K to promote success in higher grades; 76% overall feel that public funds should be spent on the effort; and almost one-half of the respondents had no children under 18 at home.

Nevertheless, another PPIC question about affordability showed concern that the cost exceeds public college costs and worry about moving California budget surplus funds to support the plan. The first legislation for pre-K expansion was vetoed by Governor Brown because he states the state education budget makes revisions and any change should be made in that process.

On Friday, May 13, 2016, Governor Brown released the revised budget which must be completed by June 15 for 2016-17. Although in January the impression was that the budget could increase early learning and childcare, on Friday the governor wanted to hold the line on new programs and boost the monies to the state’s cash reserves.

On the side, it has been stated that the governor also thinks that parents should be in charge of their children until they enter school.

Let’s see our dollars well-spent! We know testing is time-consuming and can be useless. Assessments aren’t needed to see that some schools are struggling – we know that too. Tests should be analyzed to see what’s working and make further improvements.

And dollars spent to help students and families step up to better lives is worthwhile. Money should provide access to early learning for young children, ahead of their regular days in school, so their assessments and future can improve.




No Money Withdrawn Yet, But Schools Not Safe

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

The California school year still exists with no further furloughs than those already negotiated. State legislators and school personnel await funding dollar signs to evaporate. All the while a number of school foundations still join together to pursue reform goals, putting together research and reports on possible ways to help weak students get the most for their education greenbacks.

Edsource, a California forum, recently announced collaboration with five other groups in the country. The goal is to update information on expanded learning time, especially in low-income neighborhood schools, the ones affected most by poor resources to achieve student success. The research will examine after-school programs, health services, and other social services to elevate student chances for graduation from high school. For a number of years, critics of public schools and charter school promoters have endorsed the expansion of school learning time, not a favorite of long-term teacher’s union negotiators. Funds have been granted from the Ford Foundation, which has made “More and Better Learning Time” a priority in its philanthropy.

A variety of California programs to expand learning time have been tried for many years, especially under the gun of California’s Academic Performance Index and the current unrevised federal No Child Left Behind Act. However, the plans have been underfunded and not analyzed for successful practices although a variety of ways to help students have been tried. Read more in “Expanded Learning Time in Action” from the Center for American Progress.

Speaking of the phrase “under the gun”, arguments about weapons control have not abated nor led to consensus across the country. Last week South Dakota’s legislature authorized school employees to carry guns. The legislation, reported in the March 9, 2013, edition of The New York Times, is riddled with details to make the bill palatable. For example, South Dakota school districts decide whether to permit firearms. Four other states were mentioned that have some variation of laws to carry guns in schools.

On the other hand, Colorado is about to take a final vote to legislate background checks for private and gun show sales, limits to magazine size, and provisions to keep guns from domestic abusers. None of the Colorado bills specifically pertain to laws about firearms in schools, still being debated vociferously after Colorado local laws were upheld by the courts last year.

At the same time, a surprising survey by the General Social Survey shows that the number of American households with firearms has dropped. No matter whether the comparison is between rural and suburban families, houses with children or without, happy vs. unhappy households, gun ownership has fallen by an average of 50% since the 1970’s to 2012. Indeed, households in the South and the West have shown the greatest decline.

Let’s hope that America can make a turnaround in gun control beliefs as much as education experts are looking high and low for long-term provisions to turn around the chance for student achievement. The latest is finding the most successful strategies to extend learning time.

Appreciate Teachers

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

This year Teacher Appreciation Day lands almost at my turn to post. Good!

I’m feeling grateful that my Master’s degree program is almost complete. Yippee! I did well too!

My fourth grade students have performed well this year, and parents are already questioning if I can be their child’s teacher next year. What more can you ask for? A bountiful lunch is always served and greeted with delight, but “thanks” is most valued.

As if the negative words won’t be felt, I have seen a few full page ads thanking teachers again and again. Maybe some influence has been felt as those experts at negativity have heard from constituents, parents, teachers, or children.

How have I learned to speak to students? Find the positive. More likely to stick (if the administration is relentless) than telling kids how bad they are.

I read in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle, May 8, 2012, that San Francisco teachers, having worked without a contract for many years, are ready to strike. It turns out collective bargaining hasn’t worked for them in spite of cooperation through years of budget shortfalls, layoffs, furloughs, increased class size, and elimination of summer school. Nor has mediation worked this time. My mom said I was in my first walkout when I was only a year old. No babysitter was available, so she took me. The district and the local union settled but not until a lot of howling on both sides. San Francisco School District is the big local urban district that is really hurting.

Now that budgets are such a mess in the state (see the EdSource report), I’m happy that our district looked ahead and the teachers are middle-of-the-road types so they listen, even when they have objections.

As long as teachers feel appreciated, and not denigrated, they keep teaching all the children, easy and difficult, in schools in America.

My advice: celebrate and don’t listen to the nay-sayers.

When budgets are resolved, what do schools take up next?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Suppose the California legislature agrees to resolve the most current budget deficit of $25.4 billion as of January 11, 2011. California’s Governor Jerry Brown presented his administration’s budget this week. It includes big budget cuts (but not to K-12 budgets), as well as temporary tax extensions to be voted on in the Spring.

Suppose the California legislature agrees to revise the state and local tax system which had become so unfair that Proposition 13 passed easily in 1978. The fiscal trouble that existed then has increased many times over as the state and local governments vie for revenues.

Suppose  California citizens agree that all services cannot be paid for individually or by initiative.  Some, like fire protection, police protection, infrastructure, parks, recreation programs, and schools are better provided by communal funds.

If all that were agreed, some schools are still found in very poor areas-both urban and rural. Those schools need to be turned around. It’s not easy.

Mass Insight Education and Research Institute has laid out the steps to take. See

Matteson School District (SD 162) in Illinois under Superintendent Dr. Blondean Y. Davis has given an overview of steps taken to improve student success. See

Success For All is used often, especially in eastern urban areas, as a specific reform for reading/language arts.  SFA lays out school-wide steps to make sure students learn to read and understand the meaning of text.  See

Edsource’s February 2010 report “Gaining Ground in the Middle Grades: Why Some Schools Do Better” explains steps that help adolescent students succeed.  See

Suppose schools began to turn around. What’s the next step?

Testing and the tests schools use is a huge complaint, whether the scores are used to assess student success or to evaluate teachers or to determine school quality.

The first problem is the kind of test: standardized, criterion referenced, short formative tests several times a year, one summative test a year; tests provided with software.  Who decides which kind of test to use: the state, the local school board, the federal Department of Education, the publishing companies of the United States?

Here’s another list of questions to resolve: which standards are tested; what do tests measure; how do results affect promotion, teacher evaluation, and accreditation for higher education?  See the Public Broadcasting Service’s Frontline program for an in-depth analysis of testing issues.

In education, the biggest concern is the quality of each school.  Does a single test determine all of the school qualities that establish success?

One statement can be made: once the budget crisis is resolved, state departments of education must analyze the tests they use. Successful schools depend on the steps taken.

Who’s going to take the tiger by the tail, the bull by the horns, or shoulder Sisyphus’ burden?

Give Us a Break

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Don’t lose perspective says Nicholas Kristof in the 10/31/10 issue of the New York Times.  Until 2008 we had only No Child Left Behind aka NCLB (the current name for the Elementary and Secondary School Act) which has been roundly criticized in education circles in spite of the initial bipartisan send off as the new century began.

By now, in California and other states minority groups form the majority.  See the San Francisco Chronicle November 17, 2010, “When minorities are the majority” by Arun Ramanathan.  You didn’t see this happening? Our education for those students is no longer the old style sit-in-your-seat-and-drink-it-in model.

middle school renovated after a bond passed

middle school renovated after a bond passed

It isn’t even the model that mostly white student schools use nowadays, especially when students reach middle school and begin to lag behind, if they haven’t already.  For anyone, studies describe what works.  For instance, Edsource‘s report “Gaining Ground in the Middle School: Why Some Schools Do Better.”  You can leave it, but if you’re looking to change, you’d be wise to take it.

The latest anxiety is teacher education, never mind that educators have been hollering about it since the 1983 report Nation At Risk.  Give us a break–it’s a favorite worry of those who like to blame all on weak teachers.  If only teacher’s unions would let the experts get rid of “bad” teachers.  If only teacher training was upgraded.

The United States does need to look at what other nations do to find good teachers, accepting high quality scholars would help.  Raising salaries would help.  Training in critical thinking, problem solving, effective communication, and collaboration would help.  All were points made by Thomas Friedman in his Sunday, November 21, 2010, New York Times column titled “Teaching For America.”

Does the world think teacher training-whether pre-service or staff development– isn’t happening?  Does anyone think that various school boards haven’t analyzed the compensation issue, realizing that the old “steps” approach no longer works?  Do teaching institutions not try to accept the best?

Here is what everyone doesn’t remember.  In America individual states can listen to the federal government, but their decisions are made depending are where they are regionally and demographically in the country.  No one can tell all states to change.

The federal Department of Education can offer grants like Race to the Top which have excellent guidelines.  The president can be correct when he reminds the 300 million citizens of the U.S. that being well-educated is what makes a country strong.  The governors of the 50 states can designate a commission to come up with Common Core Standards and ask, but not require, the states to teach them.

However, three main things must be done no matter where you live.  State departments of education, school boards, and teachers must address the accountability issue and the assessments used to evaluate accountability.

They must address the gap in achievement for the minorities that are now the majority of traditional public, many charter public, and even parochial schools in this diverse country.  Every week another model is given accolades.

Last, state departments of education, school boards, and teachers must find a way out of the financial mess.  Whether it’s through changes in the pension system, a different road for compensation, changes in the structure of a particular school district, or the realignment of school districts, anything can be tried.  Keeping what is already there without paying is not an option.

The obstacle is to get states or regions in a state to agree on any of them.