Archive for the ‘waivers’ Category

School and November Elections

Monday, October 8th, 2012

School critics come in two groups.

a desert high school awaits November elections

a desert high school awaits November elections

The first think teachers’ unions are anathema to improvement for low-performing schools and only for-profit elementary to high school charters and colleges are the answer.

The second, foundations call attention to states who have received Race to the Top grants or ‘waivers’ and turn in plans that game the outcome to show evidence of turning around poor-performing public schools.

In the 15% of U.S. public schools that carry a heavy burden toward recovery, teachers hear over and over about the “quiet revolution” called by Arne Duncan, the United States Secretary of Education, aimed at quality teacher evaluation as an important goal to improve student success. See Motoko Rich’s “Loopholes Seen at Schools In Obama Get-Tough Policy,” The New York Times, October 5, 2012.

Nonetheless, this is October of an election year. Teachers have other issues on the table. As an example in California, the state in perpetual budget crisis, teachers are gearing up for the election to support the initiative that stops cuts to school district budgets and helps pay down the state’s deficit. Since the measure involves raising tax revenue it has loud advocates and opponents. Everyone knows California schools were once the envy of the nation but without a change will generate more layoffs, inability to renovate dilapidated infrastructure, loss of programs.

Another California initiative is one of the deceptive measures that are written to fool the uninformed voter. While it claims to stop special interest money in politics, especially union funds, the measure exempts ‘super PACs,’ corporate special interests, and very wealthy Americans. Teachers are spending plenty of time educating voters about this deliberately misleading proposition.

On top of election issues on teachers’ minds, gasoline prices have skyrocketed in the last two weeks. Despite explanation of the circumstances in California and the governor’s action for early changeover to ‘winter blend’ from ‘summer blend’ gasoline (all used to minimize pollution on the state’s highways), not only teachers, but parents of students, are paying the price. What kind of disruption is that causing in low-income neighborhoods? A very local problem that plays its part in the difficulties of elevating student success. See San Francisco Chronicle, October 8, 2012.

Local or statewide or national, critical issues take over the attention of teachers at the same time they are called on to improve public education. It’s a political football!

Dilemmas for California Schools

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Recent media news shared states’ compromises on tenure and dismissal of “poor” teachers, certainly a concern for low-performing schools.

small island high school

small island high school

These issues were reported as part of the talks on teacher evaluation outcomes. This week California newspapers are taking sides on the legislature’s Assembly Bill 5. This bill finally revises the Stull bill, longtime and out-of-date legislation that designated procedures for California teacher evaluation.

Like most evaluation legislation, this bill has pro and con appeal and a compromise position has not appeared. The bill was designed to take advantage of the United States Department of Education’s application for a “waiver” to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates for 100% student grade level proficiency on state-designated exams in reading and math by 2014.

Long time complaints about the inability to reach the NCLB goals have come up against the need to improve teacher, administrator, and school evaluation, including tenure and dismissal for poor performance.  The use of yearly state exam data for evaluation fingers a sore point.

Aside from local teacher evaluation controversy, the current U.S. government administration constantly attacks the year-old Congressional resistance to passage of proposals for state aid to provide jobs for laid-off teachers (and police and fire fighters) in order to stay on track to improve student academic success.

In addition, tuition tax credits and continued financing of Pell grants for college students is in danger of spending cuts. Government aid for college completion to prepare graduates to enter the job market with fewer horrendous debt burdens should be valued as an economic boost. Nevertheless, spending cuts to education are possible in the new year depending on the November election results.

In November in California, Prop 30, the tax initiative to benefit school budgets, dominates the news. In the meantime, however, legislators, teachers’ unions, and the public must confront the AB 5 bill.

The California Teachers Association (CTA) supports the bill’s “meaningful feedback to teachers to help them improve their craft.” San Francisco Chronicle, “Open Forum On Teacher Evaluation” by Eric Heins, August 24, 2012. The article stresses the wording in the bill to provide collaborative reform from teachers, administrators, and community. The evaluation process spelled out in the bill clears up the uncertainty and inconsistency in the earlier legislation and requires evaluation more than once a year.

The bill’s critics (New Teacher Project, Center for Future of Teaching and Learning, EdSource among many) reject the bill because it removes the requirement to use state student assessments as one measure of teacher performance.

While the state education superintendent, Tom Torlakson, insists the bill will be a successful application for a waiver, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education disagrees.

Just as the Obama administration continues to justify job proposals to help schools in spite of obstruction, the California state legislature must find a compromise (as 38 states have done) between the powerful CTA and multiple dedicated education groups to establish a satisfactory teacher-administration evaluation process.

Stand up for legislation that helps kids

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

This warm summer parents continue to worry about finances: how to pay the mortgage and other utilities, buy food, save for health care premiums, clip early coupons for school supplies, and contemplate a short vacation if they have money left. They don’t have much time. School begins mid-August unless students go to a year-round school which is already in session.

In the meantime, the news media tells how conservatives in the House of Representatives have determined a reauthorization of Farm Bill HR 6083 and reduction of the deficit by cutting funds for food stamps and school lunches ($16.1 billion to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP]). Note that small farmer surpluses reduce the cost of school lunches and provide products for food assistance to families with low-incomes. The farm bill will, however, spare cuts to agribusiness subsidies.

California is one of the fifty states with hefty budget problems still unresolved. Students, notably in low-income neighborhoods, will go back to schools for which renovation money has been yanked to bolster other state services.  The California lawsuit settled in 2005 to fund repairs in dilapidated schools with health and safety hazards has never been adequately implemented. Teachers and students continue to walk over fallen ceiling tiles and skirt around mouse traps.

With some nerve, conservative pundits criticize the one federal program authorized under the current administration to give states waivers to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.  States that provide a good plan to reform their low-performing schools will be allowed to adjust the unreachable required 2014 levels of proficiency in math and reading. Congress, as this blog has noted time and again, has not been able to legislate a revision to the NCLB Act. Nevertheless, Michael Gerson of The Washington Post, “The Quiet Overturn of NCLB,” July 20, 2012, wrote, “New accountability systems will once again be so confusing that no taxpayer or parent can understand them.” Such a statement doesn’t note the abundance of excellent accountability systems that are being implemented and have been explained in this blog.

Last, if, by December 2012, the erratic Congress doesn’t resolve its fight over raising revenue and chopping government funds, parents, teachers, and students will feel a severe contraction of services to education and the safety net.

What will happen? Education will be gutted and the safety net will shrink because federal funds to the state will shrivel. Notice of these calamities is reported in the Annie B. Casey Foundation annual rankings.

Talk to your Congressional representatives. Thank them if they are looking out for education needs; correct them if they do not see the outcomes for students on end-of-year votes.