News, Views & Capitol Updates on All Things Education
Edited by Senator Bob Huff
Member of the Senate Education Committee
Welcome to the Huff Chalkboard, a source for news, views and insider updates from Sacramento on California education issues. As a member of the Senate Education Committee, I am pleased to keep you updated on some of the leading stories concerning California’s education system. I will also provide some of my own thoughts on topics and challenges facing education today. Please feel free to send me your feedback and any ideas you have to improve the Huff Chalkboard newsletter. Thank you for your readership.
- Senator Bob Huff
Student safety at heart of California’s anti-seizure med debate
Parents with children who suffer from epilepsy can be haunted by the possibility that their child, while at school, could suffer permanent brain damage because of a lack of access to a potentially lifesaving medication.
California loses federal funds for teacher database
The $6-million grant must be returned because the governor cut funding from the state budget for the program to track teacher and administrator information.
New California state superintendent unveils improvement plan
California’s newly elected schools superintendent unveiled a plan and team of advisors Tuesday to tackle improvement of the state’s 9,800 schools.
Schools scramble to keep federal grants
Local officials are quickly revising some school reform plans to keep federal grants of up to $2 million per school this year for a group of campuses, including some overseen by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Educators debate length of teacher probationary period
La Cañada Unified passes resolution in support of increasing teacher probationary period from two years to three; several other local districts are considering similar action.
Calif. Forgoes Data Grant, Jeopardizes Other Stimulus Funds
When California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed spending $2.1 million in federal funds to help build a longitudinal data system for teacher information, he might have done more than just jeopardize that particular grant.
State’s high school dropout rate almost 20 percent
Nearly 1 out of every 5 students in California’s projected class of 2010 - 18.2 percent - dropped out of high school before graduation day, meaning 94,000 teenagers hit the streets without diplomas, according to data released Thursday.
California reports eighth-grade dropout rate for first time
A new system that tracks every public school student finds that about 3.5% of eighth-graders - 17,257 in all - left school and didn’t return for ninth grade. The high school dropout rate is 18.2%.
Education revolution begins at Telesis Academy in Rowland Unified
Telesis is the Greek concept of planning intelligently for a grand goal. It’s a process of education, planning and action to fulfill a noble enterprise. Rowland Unified is trying just that with its new Telesis Academy for Science and Math. It wants to revolutionize public education as we know it.
Support growing for school finance reform
A recent effort to reform California public school financing has stalled, but key players say there’s a growing consensus that the system needs to be simplified and made more equitable.
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Teachers union honesty
California’s innovation caught on quickly - and that’s where the AFT’s PowerPoint presentation comes in. Prepared (off the record) for AFT activists at the union’s annual convention in Washington, D.C. last month, it explains how AFT lobbying undermined an effort to bring parent trigger to Connecticut last year. Called “How Connecticut Diffused [sic] The Parent Trigger,” it’s an illuminating look into union cynicism and power.
Lance Izumi: Grading Jerry Brown’s charter school
The governor help found Oakland Military Institute as city’s mayor a decade ago.
The Parent Trigger: A model for transforming education
The Parent Trigger passed by just one vote in the California Senate and one vote in the Assembly. Schwarzenegger signed it into law on January 7, 2010 as part of a package of special legislation designed to improve California’s prospects in the first round of the federal Race to the Top grant competition.
Another View: Brown’s odd veto of teacher bill
How can public schools improve? In an interview with the U-T Editorial Board this spring, outgoing San Diego State University President Stephen Weber said too much emphasis was placed on “flavor of the day” reform ideas for K-12 education. Instead, Weber said, there should be an emphasis on figuring out through hard data what works.
Every American child is not above average
At Caltech, that middling student tends to be fairly high on the curve in the first place. But most of us have long ago agreed with the homespun truth of Garrison Keillor: It’s nuts to believe in a world in which “all the children are above average.”
Governor needs to fix teacher data debacle
What works and what doesn’t in California’s schools? That’s a basic question that Californians deserve to know and that Gov. Jerry Brown should want to know.
State finally confronts crisis of dropouts
Thursday the California Department of Education unveiled a press release that could have earthshaking impact. For the first time in any state, it acknowledges a tragic reality – the existence of the significant numbers of dropouts who do not even complete middle school before bolting, and of the massive numbers of county office of education dropouts that have been largely invisible to the public.
VIDEO: Closing schools to cut the budget?
Hoover senior fellows and members of the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education Eric Hanushek and Paul Peterson label California’s answer to the potential cuts in school funding - reducing the school year - as the worst possible policy. Hanushek and Peterson note that eliminating bad teachers could improve schools by ensuring a good teacher for everyone.
Brown’s mystifying CALTIDES veto
Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of $2.1 million for the development of a statewide database on teachers - CALTIDES - apparently ticked off U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, pleased the California Teachers Assn., and puzzled just about everyone else in education, who are left wondering, “Just what does Jerry want?”
Super teachers alone can’t save our schools
Extraordinary educators are rare and often burn out. To save our schools, says Steven Brill, we have to demand more from ordinary teachers and their unions.
Few bragging rights in test scores
California students did better than ever on the state’s achievement tests. More of them scored at the proficient level or above in math and English than at any time since the testing program began in 2003. But the pace of change may put a twist on the fabled lesson of slow and steady wins the race.
PDK finds public likes teachers, down on teacher unions, mixed on obama
Phi Delta Kappan released its 43rd annual Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup Poll on public schools. As always, there’s much to chew on.
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Graduation / Dropout Rates
The California Department of Education released its annual graduation and dropout rates this month. To see what your school district looks like, go here. Keep in mind the drop-out rate does not take into account certain students such as students who are still enrolled in high school. So while this is the official dropout rate, the number of students who have not graduated after four years of high school is actually a bit higher. The state dropout rate is 18.2 percent. But the percentage of students who have not graduated after the standard four years of high school is nearly 25 percent.
State Board of Education
Keep an eye out in the next few days for details on Governor Brown’s appointments to the State Board of Education (SBE). The California Senate is tasked with approving or denying those appointments and the deadline to vote on them is fast approaching. As a state senator who will vote on the appointments, I will be studying the Governor’s nominations very closely. Whoever ends up sitting on the SBE will significantly influence education policy in California.
New Teacher Quality Study on State Laws
A number of states across the country have embraced significant reforms to improve teacher quality. A new study compares the new laws and provides an interesting forum for comparing these important reforms as possible models for states like California.
I recently spoke with an NBC reporter on education reform legislation. Watch the video here.
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A Word on Education from Senator Huff
The Decline of Public School Choice
As a an advocate for public school choice (allowing parents to choose the best public school for their kids regardless of their zip-code) it pained me to see legislation eroding the longest running school choice program in California sent to the Governor’s desk this month.
Whether its corporations or governments, monopolies simply don’t work. And just as we have the option to choose which grocery store we shop at, school choice gives parents the opportunity to “shop” for the best public school and encourage schools to attract their “business.”
The bill sent to the Governor this week would require that certain populations of students - such as English Language Learners - would receive priority for public school choice transfers instead of using a random lottery as current law requires.
While the school choice program was only recently reauthorized by the Legislature, opponents are already back putting restrictions on the program. SB 745 limits choice by giving a lower priority to students who happen to not be in these state identified groups. In other words, if you are not an English Language Learner, but you are a struggling student in a low performing school, the state is taking away your opportunity to go to a better school. How is that fair?
Opponents of public school choice often express concerns that schools “cherry pick” certain students - which is impossible with a random lottery system. But with this new bill they do just that: cherry pick the populations they want to give a priority; but this time it’s backed by the state. The fairest way to allow students to transfer to another school district is to put all applicants into a hat and choose the number of students a school has room to accept.
To add insult to injury, this bill pushes families with veterans and military members to the back of the line. SB 745 allows schools to give priority children of military families but requires that other groups get a priority. After making the ultimate sacrifice, shouldn’t military families be guaranteed a priority too?
SB 745 erodes fair school choice and should be vetoed by the Governor.
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