Edvoice - Issues

Editorial: The pendulum swings too far on school accountability

September 5 | Los Angeles Times

By The Times Editorial Board

Is California’s commitment to school accountability dead? Probably not, but it’s certainly withering.

The days of California’s Academic Performance Index and the federal No Child Left Behind Act are over, and they won’t be missed. The API’s obsessive insistence on measuring schools solely on the basis of a couple of annual tests led to an era in which arts, science and physical fitness were given short shrift. No Child Left Behind layered a set of rigid, punitive rules on top, and the Obama administration’s attempts to dictate school policy through its Race to the Top initiative was overly intrusive.

California’s response to federal school accountability law falls short

September 3 | CALmatters

By Dan Walters 

One of the less heralded – albeit, one of the more important – of the many clashes between Sacramento and Washington these days has to do with accountability for educating the state’s 6-plus million K-12 students.

Gov. Jerry Brown, state schools Supt. Tom Torlakson and the state Board of Education have indicated by word and deed that they want soft oversight of how local schools are performing. That’s particularly true regarding how well schools are using billions of dollars in extra state aid to close the “achievement gap” separating poor, Latino and black students from their more affluent white and Asian classmates.

Editorial: Report cards for California schools needed

September 1 | San Francisco Chronicle

By Chronicle Editorial Board

The California Legislature is strongly resisting federal action on almost all fronts — climate, civil rights, environment, immigration, law enforcement — but not education. There is demonstrated support for an annual report card on how each school spends local, state and federal funding and what progress it has made on measures of student academic achievement. The Brown administration however is resisting such concise reporting. It should not.

By Sept. 18, California must submit to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos its plan for spending $2.6 billion in federal education funding. While that sum represents just 3 percent of total funding for California’s K-12 schools, the required state-developed accountability plan would serve as a blueprint for a broader plan for all education spending in California.

Chased out of Arkansas as a child, Shirley Weber won’t back down in California Capitol

August 31 | CALmatters

By Jessica Calefati

When Shirley Weber and her siblings fled this place as children in 1951 on a midnight train bound for California, their destination seemed so distant and unfamiliar to the relatives who stayed behind that they called the state a foreign land.

As Weber stood at the edge of her family’s 100-acre farm on a recent visit, her first in decades, memories of her birthplace came flooding back. She and her cousins swapped stories about shelling peas on her aunt’s screened-in porch, how dark it got at night before the city installed street lights, and what forced her family to flee—her sharecropper father’s refusal to back down during a dispute with a white farmer, and the lynch mob that threatened to take his life.


Commentary: Teacher quality is determined in the classroom, not by a credential

August 30 | LA School Report

By Haena Shin

Teachers can tell when they are effective. In my first year as a special education teacher in a pre-kindergarten setting, the signs were small but profound — a nonverbal student who started to greet me in the mornings, a student who didn’t know how to hold a pencil properly who learned to write full sentences about books he read, a student who memorized over 100 sight words, and a student who didn’t know his numbers who began to start adding and subtracting.

My principal also noted this growth, and his vote of confidence helped me earn a Rookie of the Year award at Los Angeles Unified School District while I was teaching on an intern credential.

It’s this experience that makes me seriously doubt the California State Board of Education’s new plan to label thousands of teachers as “ineffective” based solely on the credential they bring to the classroom, not their or their students’ performance. In fact, many of the fellow intern credentialed teachers that I have taught with have not only shown mastery of classroom management and instruction but also exceeded the expectations of their administrators and were recognized at their school sites.

California school accountability plan is anti-accountability

August 24 | San Diego Union-Tribune

By The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board

The State Board of Education must submit its plan by next month and appears satisfied with a version released Aug. 8. On Thursday, Bellwether Education Partners — a national nonprofit think tank — released its evaluation of California’s proposal. While praising the plan’s vision of a first-rate education of all, the analysis is sharply critical of the plan’s most crucial components. The biggest complaints:

  • The plan wouldn’t even manage to “capture individual students’ improvement over time.”

  • The plan is vague about how the state would identify the worst-performing schools, how it would intervene to improve their results and how it would measure progress in targeted schools. Under the current language, these schools could be found to have complied with state guidelines “without making any improvements.”

  • It is unclear how the plan’s “dashboard” concept of using several factors to evaluate school quality would actually work, in particular how much value it would place on the performance of ethnic groups.

In other words, the State Board of Education has come up with an anti-accountability accountability plan — one that would make it difficult for Californians to figure out which students and what schools are improving; to know whether schools deemed as improving have actually improved; and to assess how well districts are doing with the state’s neediest students, its 1.4 million English-language learners.

Commentary: Credential not only way to measure good teachers

August 25 | San Diego Union-Tribune

By Elise Morgan

I didn’t expect to be a teacher. My first career choice was counselor, and I specialized in helping low-income adults return to college. After two years of hearing my advisees explain how they got off track during high school, I decided if I really wanted to make a difference, I needed to work with students earlier in their educational experiences.

But like many career changers, I faced a financial hurdle. My undergraduate degree was in English, and I could not afford to take time off to pursue a master’s degree in education.

An Independent Review of California’s Draft ESSA Plan

August 24 | Bellwether Education Partners

By Bellwether Education Partners

...[T]he plan lacks important specificity about its continued engagement with key stakeholders after the state begins implementing its plan. The state would improve its proposal by clearly describing in more detail its process for gathering data and input along the way, for continuing to engage with stakeholders, and for modifying its system as necessary.

AB 1164: Don't protect the worst teachers

August 12 | San Diego Tribune

By Rae Belisle

Competition for success in the 21st-century economy is increasingly tied to an educated workforce with strong science, technology, engineering and math skills. Parents, community and business leaders, and policy makers trying to keep and grow jobs in California should be shocked that in just a few short years California has won the race to the bottom.

A Free Education System Bought and Sold on the Housing Market, as It Was Intended to Be

August 7 | The 74 Million

By Derrell Bradford

When you think about education, it’s worth asking two questions over and over again: Why is this thing the way it is? And does it have to stay this way?

One thing you hear often in education is that your ZIP code shouldn’t determine your educational destiny. This is something even folks who say they oppose “education reform” ostensibly believe.

So if that’s true, why is your house the overwhelming predictor of the sort of education you will receive?