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Posted on November 4 at 2:18 p.m.
Bill, good post. You raise many good points. I will say that we don't have to look far to find inner city schools around the country with very low socioeconomic populations that are getting much better results than the SBUSD.
Typically, they are charter schools that share some common characteristics. They have a culture of no-excuses, high expectations and high standards of accountability. These schools have little or no bureaucracy, are not hindered by counterproductive labor rules and have great principals who have the expertise to identify great teaching and know how to develop and nurture it.
The teachers work collaboratively to identify academically weak students and develop strategies to attack their weaknesses. They use technology to individualize instruction for students who need it. Although many of these students do not have strong families, teachers work very hard to reach out to these parents. These schools are not burdened with mandates and useless rules that interfere with classroom instruction and impede the adaptation of innovative pedagogical techniques to facilitate learning.
I would like to see our schools adopt many of these reforms. Why reinvent the wheel, when the model already exists.
On Schools' Success Not About Funding
Posted on November 4 at 10:09 a.m.
I am not suggesting we eliminate the centralized purchasing and payroll operation. It could easily be run by a committee of officials appointed by the districts.
Many of the other functions, like teacher development, should definitely be folded into the districts. It makes no sense to have duplicative teacher development programs run by an agency that is not involved in teacher hiring, training and evaluations. Teacher training/evaluation needs to be integrated, if it is to be truly effective.
Since the districts already have their own special needs programs, I don't know why we need the county to run this one school. It's not like the county is doing a bang-up job. The SBUSD special needs budget far exceeds outside revenue sources, so I am sure they would welcome the additional funding.
The bottom line is that we have a $60 million operation, an enormous amount of money, which is not justified considering the number of students and the range of redundant activities already performed at the districts. BTW, have you seen their facilities; they are much nicer than the SBUSD buildings.
Posted on November 4 at 3:52 a.m.
In my response to gsjoh, I should have said few graduates go directly to 4-year colleges and a low percentage are transferring from our community colleges to 4-year colleges. These numbers have to be inferred from data I collected from the Ca Dept of Education and the National Center of Education Statistics. The vast majority of our high school graduates, who pursue postgraduate education, go to SBCC and other community colleges. A study was done a few years ago which showed the percentage of graduates from our 3 high schools, who are full-time students at Ca colleges (mainly community colleges) and completed one full year of credit within 2 years of post-secondary education, is around 38%. I then took a look at the graduation and transfer rates at SBCC and found that 36% and 23% of the full-time students graduate and transfer to 4-year colleges, respectively, within 150% of "normal time" to completion of the program. Obviously, the number will probably go up some if you extend the time period to graduation. Now it is impossible to know the exact numbers of students graduating 4-year colleges, but I believe it can be reasonably inferred from this data that it is not high. As I mentioned in my letter to the editor, The California Colleges Student Success Task Force recently concluded that up to 90% of students attending community colleges in California need remedial instruction in English and/or math.
The County Education Office is a waste of money. They perform payroll and centralized purchasing services for the schools. You don't need a Superintendent of County Schools and a vast bureaucracy to perform what is essentially a clerical service. The teacher training programs should be administered by the districts, where they hire, train and evaluate teachers. What the County Education office is doing in this area is duplicative and redundant. I have talked to a number of people in the district and no one is willing to say anything nice about these County programs.
Their main function is to provide schooling for around 650 to 700 special needs and juvenile court students. BTW, according to the Ca. Ed-Data website, these schools compare unfavorably to comparable schools in Ca. The have been given a "F" grade by this entity. So you have a $60 million bureaucracy and well over a 100 administrators and many more employees overseeing 3 very small schools and other administrative functions which are either redundant or could easily be done by the districts.
California is the only state in the country that has this added layer of bureaucracy between the districts and the State Department of Education. It may have been needed in 1870 but I think it can be dramatically downsized today. Remember, every school in the county already has a local superintendent and school board. You really think we need a county superintendent without line authority for any district.
Posted on November 3 at 10:54 p.m.
Ken, I am not sure it is possible to have a rational discussion with you.
No, I am not trying to privatize our public schools, although I would like parents to have more choices than their neighborhood school, which is why I favor charter or magnet schools.
An example of ineffective curriculum are the poor writing skills of many of our students. Ask some of the English teachers at SBCC how many of our high school graduates write well. We need to change the curriculum for writing, particularly in our elementary schools.
Posted on November 3 at 10:10 p.m.
Gsjoh, this has nothing to do with my son; he did very well, went to a fine college and has a great job. I am running because there are too many children not being well served by our schools. I will rely upon the publicly available information regarding our 13,000 students, as opposed to your anecdotal observations of your children's friends from many years ago.
Posted on November 3 at 7:27 p.m.
Than you, gsjoh, for your comment.
Like you, I have had a child go through the public schools and was very fortunate that he had many capable teachers. Unlike you, we witnessed many mediocre teachers, too.
Because there are some very good teachers, does not justify many of the archaic and counterproductive union rules. I think it would be very difficult to rationally justify lifetime tenure, seniority, lack of merit pay, ineffectual teacher evaluations, and last in first out rules, which led to the dismissal of the County Teacher of the Year in 2010.
I base my poor assessment of the schools on the voluminous publicly available less-than-stellar data on student educational outcomes in our schools. I won't bore you with all the details, but the results are not encouraging. For example, very few of our students (all ethnic groups and races) go to college, and the ones that do, are generally not "college ready". Although some would like to blame it on the achievement gap, only around 45% of our white high school students are proficient in math. Up to 90% of the students who go to our community colleges need remediation in English and/or math.
Surely you are not suggesting that our public schools are perfectly fine and don't need many of the reforms I have suggested. Anyway, thank you for perspective. I trust we both want all students who attend our schools to receive the best possible education, and, at the very least, to be proficient in the core academic subjects.
Posted on September 30 at 2:54 a.m.
Binky, you are incorrect regarding your facts relating to SB 1350, except for me calling it AB 1350. See the following media report:
"A bill designed to make it easier for school boards to fire teachers embroiled in misconduct cases, was defeated late Wednesday by the Assembly Education Committee, effectively killing the legislation for the session.
SB 1530, proposed by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, was introduced in response to the sex-abuse scandals at Miramonte Elementary and other campuses in Los Angeles Unified. It would have streamlined the process for terminating teachers in cases involving sex, drugs and violence against children.
The measure was supported by Los Angeles Unified officials, including several board members who testified during the hearing. However, the powerful California Teachers Association, as well as United Teachers Los Angeles, lobbied against it, saying it would have violated due process for teachers.
The vote of the 11-member committee was 5-2, with four abstentions. The measure needed six votes to advance."
Here are the facts:
Das Williams was one of the legislators who abstained. If he had voted yes, the bill would have gotten out of Committee.
The school district had to pay the pedophile teacher at the Miramonte School $40,000 to induce him to voluntarily resign. Otherwise, it would have taken years to exhaust his appeals.
Das Williams abstained because his biggest campaign contributors are the teacher unions.
All the other nonsense and rationalizations we hear from him are totally bogus and insult the intelligence of anyone who has a lick of intelligence.
On Colleges and Universities Unify Us
Posted on September 27 at 8:56 p.m.
Mr. Williams is obviously trying to make amends for his despicable vote on AB 1350, the bill which would have made it easier to dismiss pedophile teachers. He is no friend to public education. Das Williams has opposed every sensible public education reform during his time in Sacramento.
Posted on September 9 at 4:06 p.m.
Ed, we agree on many things, but we obviously disagree on the necessity on Measures A&B and Prop 30.
"today's reality should not be held "hostage" to demands for long term change."
Ed, I would disagree as to who is holding who hostage. I think it is far more accurate to say that Gov Brown is holding taxpayers and the educational establishment hostage to the passage of Prop 30.
As for relying upon advisors, in my long business career, I have always found it useful to independently fact-check any advise I received from well-intentioned advisors. In the ballot arguments for Measures A&B, it was asserted that without these funds, English, math and foreign language courses would have to be eliminated (not true). I also found it amusing to read that the funds would be subject to independent review subject to independent audit. However, the overseers are appointed by the Board (hardly independent), and I have, as of yet, not been able to identify any reputable outside independent certified accounting firm conducting any such audit of these funds.
As you know, my number one reason for opposing these Measures is that it has never been proven to me that more money without major reforms will improve student outcomes. Every study I have looked at suggests there is no correlation. Everyone connected to the educational monolith is always asking for more money, as if that would solve all the problems with education today.
Instead, we need a comprehensive teacher/administrator evaluation system and an effective and integrated system for hiring, training, evaluating and retaining the very best teachers. As you know, until very recently, the evaluation system we had was a joke. We also need to comprehensively review curriculum, particularly at the elementary schools to ensure our kids are learning the fundamentals of English and math. The bottom line is that we need to change the culture of the schools from always looking for scapegoats (lack of money) to justify the poor results.
Dr. Cash is certainly doing some good things, but the reality is that he will have to deal with the archaic tenure and seniority rules. The real tragedy is that until this past year, our schools had no real evaluation system, and no one including the principals or the superintendent were held accountable. This is not a record to be proud of.
On Reform Candidate Joins School Board Race
Posted on September 9 at 11:13 a.m.
Binky, the so-called minimum guarantee you refer to is actually the minimum guarantee under Prop 98, which effectively allocates no less than 40% of the general fund to public education.
Chester, I am an admirer of Bob Noel, who had raised the funds for a vocational charter high school which would have primarily served socially and economically disadvantaged students. BTW, he is a registered Democrat.