Monday, December 21, 2009

California Legislature Can't Agree On "Reforming" Education

It's a valid question: are the changes required in order to qualify for federal Race To The Top funds genuine reforms, or just changes with no real teeth?

I already wrote about one change the legislature has made in order to be compliant--and no one can tell me its impact!--but now they can't agree on others:

With time running short, the Legislature on Thursday failed once again to strike agreement on legislation to compete for a share of $4.35 billion in Race to the Top federal funds.

The Senate instead passed a partial compromise, SBX5 4, that combined portions of two competing Assembly and Senate bills.

Under the bill, California would adopt new academic content standards, alter student testing, overhaul failing schools, and give parents the right to transfer their children from the lowest-performing campuses or to force major campus changes by gathering enough signatures on petitions.

I'm not sure what changes in our content standards would be required; our math standards are exceedingly rigorous, and some say too rigorous. Our state standards have repeatedly gained high praise from national organizations. And our testing requirements are more rigorous than required by NCLB.

It would be nice to know my details about what changes are required, and why.

Update, 12/22/09: Here's some interesting information about the proposed changes:

Of all the reforms that legislators are on the verge of passing to enhance its Race to the Top application, the most consequential also has been the least discussed.

California is about to commit to junk its decade-old, much ballyhooed system of K-12 academic standards by Aug. 2. Doing so will the require writing new assessments and curriculum frameworks and adopting new textbooks over the next few years– at a cost that easily run in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

What’s amazing is not the state’s consideration of the Obama administration’s push for “common core” standards. The concept of internationally benchmarked academic standards to which students in all states can be measured and compared is certainly sound.

But, in the hopes of scoring extra points in the Race to the Top contest the state is saying it will adopt common core standards as article of faith, essentially sight unseen.

California’s standards aren’t perfect; there appear to be too many of them in many grades in many subjects. But they are tough. Skeptics have raised legitimate worries that common core standards may be flabby, especially in math.


Anonymous said...

Biggest hurdle is unions and districts must agree to tie test scores/student performance into teacher evaluations. I'm sure you can guess the CTA opinion on this one.

Mr. W said...

Well, the CTA was absent during the removal of the wording, so who knows.

While talking with a union head at my school, he told me if the districts want any of the money from the Race to the Top funds they will need to tie teacher evaluations to student test scores. And like he told me, what district isn't willing to throw some teachers under the bus for money?