Each high school in our district has at least one special program designed to make it unique or attractive to students, as our district allows open enrollment. A couple schools have JROTC programs, one school offers International Baccalaureate--ours has AVID and Academia Civitas.
In its simplest form, our Civitas program teaches students about politics and the political process. Students often intern for lawmakers or other governmental officials; a former student of mine will be interning at the UN in Geneva this summer. (For me, pride and revulsion at the same time!)
This morning was one of the annual fundraisers for Civitas, the Pancakes and Politics breakfast. The best part--teachers ate free! You can bet I was there.
The food was great--and I mean great. The event lasted 3 hours, and since I'm not one to get up early, I missed the first few speakers. When I got there a former state Senator--a Republican woman, no less!--was speaking about her time as a legislator. After her was Gary Hart (no, not that Gary Hart), a Democrat former California legislator and former state Education Secretary. Both talks were informative and pleasant, but no controversial subjects were touched. Another former student (and a flaming liberal at that--but he laid a mean Pergo floor in my house last summer!) told me that an Amnesty International speaker at a previous breakfast sure got people's panties in a bunch.
Good thing I wasn't there. I hate wedgies.
Come the question and answer session, no one wanted to be the first to ask a question. I waited, paused, made sure I wasn't going to crowd someone else out, and then raised my hand. I asked Mr. Hart what he, as a parent (his daughters went to our school a few years ago) and former Ed Secretary, thought of California's standardized testing program and it's federal complement, the No Child Left Behind Act. See? It was not a loaded question at all. I can ask those sometimes!
Actually, he gave an answer very much like I would have. We need outside eyes looking at our schools. We need some objective analysis. My school does very well, but other schools don't--and it's kids in those schools who benefit most from someone's looking at those test scores. He doesn't think NCLB is applicable much to California because our testing regimen requires tests in more grades and more subjects than does NCLB.
Not a bad answer. I've said the same thing about our testing for quite some time--usually when California teachers complain about the burdens of NCLB, and thereby show their ignorance of the whole process.