"California used to lead the nation in education," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, speaking to dozens of mayors, superintendents and school board trustees at San Francisco City Hall.
"Honestly, California has lost its way."
When, exactly, did California lead the nation in education? That it did at some point in the rose-colored past is one of those facts that has entered the public consciousness, but I don't know that it's ever been demonstrated to any level of specificity.
My dad and grandparents moved to California from New Mexico right before my dad's senior year in high school. He was an above average student in New Mexico, but his grades shot up here in California. Two schools, two states, one anecdote--but there's more proof in that anecdote than I've ever heard regarding the Secretary's comment.
But let's avoid that tangent and get back on track.
Duncan said that although stopping teacher layoffs and reducing class sizes are important, the money must also be used to drive reform, such as using student achievement data to evaluate teacher effectiveness and turning around the most troubled schools.
"Investing in the status quo is not going to move the ball down the field," Duncan told hundreds of people at a San Francisco School Alliance benefit luncheon.
That could be interesting. Since using student testing data to measure student achievement is currently against the law, the legislature would have to fight the CTA on that one. It would be an interesting cat fight.
"We have lacked the political courage and we have lacked the will to do the right thing by children," he said. "Our dysfunctional adult relationships have hurt children in far too many places"...
He also said the state's reluctance to use student achievement data to evaluate teachers -- rewarding the best and getting rid of the worst -- was "mind-boggling."
"The data doesn't tell the whole truth, but the data doesn't lie," he said. "This firewall between students and teachers is bad for children and bad for education."
And which organization is the source of so many of those "dysfunctional adult relationships"? Three letters, starts with C....
Duncan assessed several facets of the state's education policy, praising California standards as more rigorous than those of other states.
In this statement he is correct, California's academic content standards are rigorous. They are also specific, measurable, and achievable. The state as a whole needs to do a better job of helping children to achieve them--and yes, that includes modifying a culture that doesn't value education as much as it says it does.