Archives for category: California

“Students Matter,” the Silicon Valley-funded group that launched the Vergara lawsuit to block teacher tenure in California, is now suing 13 school districts for their failure to use test scores in evaluating teachers.


The goal is to compel the entire state to use value-added-modeling (VAM), despite the fact that experience and research have demonstrated its invalidity and lack of reliability.


The Southern California school systems named in the latest filing are El Monte City, Inglewood Unified, Chaffey Joint Union, Chino Valley Unified, Ontario-Montclair, Saddleback Valley Unified, Upland Unified and Victor Elementary District. The others are: Fairfield-Suisun Unified, Fremont Union, Pittsburg Unified; San Ramon Valley Unified and Antioch Unified.
“School districts are not going to get away with bargaining away their ability to use test scores to evaluate teachers,” said attorney Joshua S. Lipshutz, who is working on behalf of Students Matter. “That’s a direct violation of state law.”


The plaintiffs are six California residents, including some parents and teachers, three of whom are participating anonymously.


In all, the districts serve about 250,000 students, although the group’s goal is to compel change across California.


“The impact is intended to be statewide, to show that no school district is above the law,” Lipshutz said.


The plaintiffs are not asking the courts to determine how much weight test scores should be given in a performance review, Lipshutz said. He cited research, however, suggesting that test scores should account for 30% to 40% of an evaluation.


The current case, Doe vs. Antioch, builds on earlier litigation involving the Los Angeles Unified School District. In 2012, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the school system had to include student test scores in teacher evaluations. But the judge also allowed wide latitude for negotiation between the union and district.


The court decision was based on the 1971 Stull Act, which set out rules for teacher evaluations. Many districts had failed for decades to comply with it, according to some experts.


Will the Silicon Valley billionaires help to find new teachers when the state faces massive teacher shortages based on the litigation they continue to file?





Early returns show Scott Schmerelson defeating Tamar Galatzan, and Ref Rodriguez defeating Bennett Kayser.   Galatzan and Rodriguez are the preferred candidates of the California Charter School Association.   Big money came from CCSA and another PAC to defeat Bennett Kayser. It appears that big money won, unless there is a last-minute surge in a low voter turnout.

The big money didn’t pour so much into the Schmerelson-Galatzan race.

We always hope that David can defeat Goliath, and sometimes he does. But not always.

So, the election–if current trends continue–is a wash. Not a victory for the charter industry, not a loss for public education. A wash.

Seth Sandronsky and Duane Campbell respond to an article in The. Sacramento Bee that blamed Democrats and public school teachers for urban riots and uprisings.

They write:

“Public schools, teachers and their union lobbying efforts at the state Capitol are unable to address what really ails low-income households. There are too few jobs with livable wages in California. Nearly 1.3 million adults are officially unemployed, while California’s poverty rate is tops in the nation.

“At the same time, the Golden State also leads the United States in the number of billionaires – 131, up 23 last year, Forbes reports. We have an oligarchy amid broad-based poverty and inequality. Is this the fault of public education?

“Deindustrialization of Oakland, like that of Baltimore, creates a group of citizens who have no place in the mainstream. Police and prisons are their bitter fate in our new Gilded Age.

“Why are public schools, teachers unions and Democrats to blame for that?”

Read more here:

Julian Vasquez Heilig reports that the school board of Santa Ana, CA, will decide today whether to hire TFA to teach students with disabilities.

Why would anyone hire the least experienced, least prepared youngsters to teach children with the greatest needs?

I posted about the state of education in California, where Governor Jerry Brown pushed through a tax increase to benefit schools, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson suspended the stakes attached to tests while the Common Core is phased in, and where there have been thus far no negative consequences attached to the new regime of Common Core and its assessments. Several teachers wrote to complain that the post was far too positive, so I changed the title to a question rather than a statement. As backdrop remember that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger slashed the education budget by many billions and appointed charter advocates to a majority of seats on the state board. The California Charter Schools Association is politically active, supporting candidates who support their agenda.


This comment was posted, without a name attached.



I am not even at liberty to write what I know or feel comfortable to share what I have experienced for the fear of what “they: will do to me (yes, I know, nothing can happen to me, truth is a defense to defamation claims etc., but the fear and paranoia persists).


I have taught on the East Coast (not comfortable even sharing which city) and extreme necessity led me to CA.


WHATEVER YOU ARE IMAGINING in CA as “BAD”, it is worse than that. The corporate takeover is beyond insidious. This is happening in rural communities—and most CA is THAT– where people outside the state don’t even know about the worst exploitations that are going on, where principals are just figureheads, and consultants from LA and Silicon Valley are hired at unconscionable rates. The parents are often illiterate or don’t know any better in these communities. The politicians are in the hands of the big companies (I can’t even name industries for the fear…) This is the first time I have ever written a comment here. I have no words to express how bad it is. But God is my witness, when the day comes when the fear has subsided, my words will be the brightest light to shed on what is actually going on there. Whatever “negative” articles exist about Success Academies and such, nothing compares to what is actually going on in CA.


Thank you for changing the title.

More than 50% of the junior class at Palo Alto High School did not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment. It is hard to know whether the high test refusal at Palo Alto High School was a genuine opt out or just smart kids who knew that the Smarter Balanced Assessment didn’t count for anything. California has a law permitting students to opt out of testing if their parent signs a simple form.

Officials at the school said that next year they hoped everyone would take the test because it will affect the school’s state rating.

[In response to many comments by teachers in California who insist that the state is NOT on the right track, I have revised the title, turning it into a question, not a judgment.]


Jeff Bryant, one of the nation’s most sensible commentators in education, describes the chaos that NCLB and Race to the Top have unleashed on schools. Matters have been made worse by battles over Commin Core and the reaction against Common Core testing.


One state, he says, seems to be navigating these treacherous waters: California, thus far with minimal turmoil.


Bryant interviews veteran educator and former state superintendent Bill Honig about California’s path. (Note: Bill has been a good friend of mine since the mid-1980s, when he invited me to participate in rewriting the state’s history-social sciences curriculum, a document that remains in use).


Bryant writes:


“Instead of taking massive budget cuts to public schools, California is flowing more money into schools and has taken steps to ensure school funding is more equitable. Instead of tormenting teachers with shoddy evaluations, many California school principals are resisting the policy of using standardized test scores to judge teacher performance. And the state recently refused to include a teacher evaluation system based on student test scores in its application for a waiver from the mandates of No Child Left Behind laws.” 


Note that California has not started Common Core testing, nor the punitive consequences that follow. Those events seem to ignite both parent and teacher reactions, and they are seldom if ever positive.


Here is a portion of Bryant’s interview with Honig:


Bryant: For quite some time, most federal and state education policy has been dominated by what’s often called a “reform” agenda. Anyone opposed to that is accused of supporting the “status quo.” How do you see the debate?


Honig: That accusation is a transparent debating ploy. People opposed to the “reforms” understand the need to improve our schools but contend that the high-stakes, test-driven accountability measures being advocated haven’t worked. What currently passes for “reform” has caused considerable collateral damage to schools and teachers. There are better alternatives that are based on a huge amount of research, scholarship, and evidence from schools and districts. Why “reformers” don’t look at these other models as exemplars, I don’t know. California has, and the state is taking this alternative path to improve schools that I believe is more promising.


Bryant: What is California doing that is different?


Honig: In 2010 Jerry Brown was elected governor in 2010, Tom Torlakson was elected State Superintendent, and a new State Board of Education was appointed by Brown under the leadership of Michael Kirst. California’s education policy shifted as it followed a different path from many other states and different from the federal government, especially under U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Obama administration. Those policy makers have been pursuing a “Test-and-Punish” policy primarily relying on tests as a way of holding schools and teachers accountable and using threats to pressure schools.
Under Governor Brown, California has adopted an alternative approach which relies much less on testing. The California model believes educators want to do a better job, trusts them to improve if given proper support, and provides local schools and districts the leeway and resources so they can improve. We also put instruction – what goes on in the classroom and the interactions between teachers and students – at the center of our improvement efforts. When you do that, the question becomes, how do you build support and structures to increase the ability and capacity of teachers, not how do you scare them into improving. That’s why we call it a “Build-and-Support” approach.


Bryant: How would you describe a Build-and-Support approach?


Honig: It’s what high-performing districts, states, and countries have done. They’ve built successful teams at the school site that have an ability to continue to improve. They provide support structures and resources to bolster the effort. They put a strong liberal arts curriculum in the center, like the Common Core, which is what we use in California. Teachers visit each other’s classrooms. Teachers and principals in these schools talk to each other about what works and what doesn’t and how to do it better next time. They tap into the vast knowledge of successful teaching approaches that has been developed in recent years. And they use information about student performance to do better. This approach is just like the strategy that industry and professional outfits have followed for years. There’s a tremendous amount of research, scholarship, and experience supporting these policies. They work.


Bryant: What are the advantages a Build-and-Support approach has compared to Test-and-Punish?


Honig: The problem with test-driven reform coupled with punishments is that it causes schools and teachers to spend too much time on test-prep, to narrow the curriculum to just what is tested at the expense of deeper learning, to game the system, and even to cheat. Science, history, humanities, understanding of the world, civic education, and a broad education all suffer. And it reduces cooperation because teachers are made to compete against each other. Fifty years ago, W. Edwards Deming argued that heavy evaluation schemes based on fear don’t produce strong performance boosts. Engagement and team-building do. School districts that have used the Build-and-Support approach have gotten stellar results. Districts primarily following the Test-and-Punish strategy have floundered. This misplaced emphasis on punitive approaches has taken a severe toll on educational morale and performance.”


The school board in Burbank, California, is close to hiring Matthew Hill as its next superintendent. Hill currently works for the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he oversaw two disastrous technology programs: the $1 billion iPad fiasco, which was canceled after disclosure of emails showing possible collusion with Apple and Pearson; and the botched MISIS student tracking system, which left thousands of students without schedules.

Hill has never been a teacher or a principal. He is a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Academy, founded by billionaire Eli Broad. Its graduates are known for an autocratic management style and are taught to bring business methods to schools. Many have been ousted by angry parents.

There will be an informational public session this afternoon with Hill, where the public may ask questions.

A recent poll reported in the Los Angeles Times produced interesting results and a divide between Latino and white voters.


Latino voters support standardized tests, while most white oppose them.


Both groups support public schools (as compared to privately managed schools), but Latino voters support them by larger margins.


A majority of Latino voters, 55%, said mandatory exams improve public education in the state by gauging student progress and providing teachers with vital information. Nearly the same percentage of white voters said such exams are harmful because they force educators to narrow instruction and don’t account for different styles of learning.


None of the voters know that the new Common Core exams provide no information about how a student is progressing other than a score; they offer no diagnostic information whatever so there is nothing that a teacher or parent learns other than how many answers they got right compared to others in the same grade.


Voters were critical of tenure, assuming it means a lifetime job, with whites more critical than Latino and black voters.


Latino and black voters believe that more money should be put into schools in poor neighborhoods to improve them:


Nearly half of voters surveyed said publicly funded, independently run charter schools offer a higher-quality education than traditional public schools. Still, a majority of white voters, 56%, believe the state should invest in improving existing schools instead of spending additional money to create more charters. Minority voters held on to that belief more strongly, with support between 67% and 69%.


Eight out of 10 black and Latino voters said putting more money into schools in economically or socially disadvantaged areas would improve the quality of public education somewhat or a lot, compared with 68% of white voters.


The article includes an interview with Dan Schnur of the University of Southern California, brother of Jon Schnur, the architect of Race to the Top. USC conducted the poll.



In an article funded by the Walton Family Foundation, Education Week sums up the sad history of the “parent trigger” law. Clearly, the writer struggles to show the accomplishments of the law, but it is hard to hide its failings.

Two people–Gloria Romero (former state senator in California, former director of Wall Street-backed Democrats for Education Reform in California) says she wrote the law. Ben Austin, former leader of Parent Revolution, says he wrote the law.

The Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and other foundations poured millions into Parent Revolution, hoping that parents would vote to turn their public schools over to charter operators.

At the end of the day, five years later, here is the scorecard: six states passed similar parent trigger laws. “So far, nationally, only one school, Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, Calif., has been transformed into a charter while another six schools in the state have used the parent-trigger law in some way to secure changes on their campuses.”

Only one school turned charter, and that happened only after a bitter fight among parents. Parents who did not sign the parent trigger petition were not allowed to vote in choosing a charter. Ultimately only 53 out of 600 parents selected the charter operator to take control of their public school.

Some reform.


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