Archive for August, 2010
Hope springs eternal. Here’s what we sent out last week.
As California’s leading organization that works to close opportunity and achievement gaps, we are focused on leveraging this session’s teacher quality conversations in a way that brings our state closer to the promise of a great education for all of California’s school children.
To reach this goal, we believe four (4) critical steps must be taken. The first step is a short-term solution. The state law governing the layoff process must be revised to allow districts to deviate from seniority-based mechanisms in order to foster staff and instructional stability—particularly in high need, high poverty schools. Second, school districts must have the flexibility to assess the effectiveness of each teacher at raising student achievement through rigorous uniform evaluations that are based on multiple measures, including student performance growth data. Third, the evaluations must happen regularly so that the results of the evaluation are meaningful and valuable to both the teacher and the administrator. Fourth, districts must be provided the flexibility to use the evaluation data to increase student access to great teachers and leaders. State-mandated barriers that prevent school district leaders from assigning or attracting highly-effective teachers and leaders to high need schools must be removed. We submit the following recommendations to achieve these goals.
First, the state law governing the layoff process must be revised to strengthen the protections for high need, high poverty schools. School districts must be allowed to deviate from seniority-based layoffs when a reduction in force would result in a disproportionate impact on a school, relative to the impact on other schools in the district. This flexibility must also be afforded when it would impair the ability of a school to implement an existing school improvement plan or targeted instructional program. Without these protections in place, schools serving high need students risk losing teachers who are critical to school stability and school improvement efforts.
Second, districts must have evaluation systems in place to determine teacher and principal effectiveness. School districts must be required to develop and implement a uniform teacher and principal evaluation system to assess a teacher’s effectiveness at raising student achievement. This system must use multiple approaches to measuring effectiveness with at least 30 percent, though preferably a majority, of the evaluation based on student performance data. Education Code should also be revised so that the ability to use student performance data to assess teacher effectiveness may not be negotiated out locally through the collective bargaining process, as is currently the case. Lastly, Education Code Section 44662 (The Stull Act) should be revised to require a district’s governing board to evaluate and assess certificated employee performance on an annual basis using the progress of pupils toward the standards as measured by state adopted criterion referenced assessments—removing the “if applicable” clause.
Third, the results of teacher and principal evaluations must be meaningful. State law should require school districts to administer evaluations for certificated staff annually. Evaluations should provide ratings that meaningfully differentiate among teacher effectiveness using at least four categories. It should also be clear in state law that if a district’s evaluation system found a teacher or certificated staff member to be ineffective, that individual cannot receive a satisfactory rating and cannot remain in the system after two unsatisfactory evaluations. And critically, Education Code should require school districts to provide teachers and principals with information on the academic growth of their own students compared with other students in the same grade and subject. This way, information on teacher effectiveness would not simply be used for accountability purposes but also to inform classroom instruction.
Fourth, school districts must have the flexibility to use the results of these evaluations to make staffing decisions with instructional effectiveness as the focus. School districts must have the flexibility to assign, reassign, layoff and transfer teachers and administrators based on effectiveness (as measured by their evaluations) and subject matter needs without regard to years of service. And at this critical time when reductions in force are happening across the state , it is more important than ever to allow school districts to deviate from terminating a certificated employee in order of seniority on the basis of their effectiveness (as measured by their evaluations). Districts should be allowed to retain employees with superior evaluations over those with inferior evaluations.
I’ve been on vacation for a week and a half, camping with my family up the northern California coast, so the blogs been taking a vacation too. Today was the first day of school for my daughters, both of whom are in Spanish immersion schools in Oakland. My oldest started her first day in first grade in Oakland Unified and my wife sent a lovely picture to me of her walking through the door of her classroom and my youngest watering the plants in their school garden. They’ve both been in Spanish immersion schools since they were three years old, so we are very happy to have them continue their journey to multi-lingualism.
Lots happened in my absence. Our great staff at Ed Trust West did amazing work. The state missed out on Race to the Top and we sent out a statement. We responded to the state’s release of STAR data with an equity alert. And we sent out a letter summarizing our teacher quality recommendations to the state’s leadership on both the Democratic and Republican sides. I’ll post it in my next entry.
Data Reveals Alarming Disparities in Achievement Among Asian American and Pacific Islander Students in California Schools
Yesterday, we released a landmark report on Asian American achievement in California. Below is the release.
Model minority’ myth hides stark educational gaps among the state’s most diverse and fastest growing ethnic group
OAKLAND, CA – In advance of the upcoming California Standards Tests (CST) results, The Education Trust—West is releasing Overlooked and Underserved: Debunking the Asian ‘Model Minority’ Myth in California Schools, a new policy brief detailing alarming disparities in achievement that exist among subgroups of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students. Issued jointly with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, the brief finds the state is under-serving students by not recognizing the full diversity of its AAPI communities. Most disturbing, opportunity gaps are being exacerbated by the state’s failure to collect and report comprehensive, critical student achievement data.
“California’s failure to collect and release data revealing the full diversity of Asian and Pacific Islander students is unconscionable,” said Dr. Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust—West, a statewide education advocacy organization that works to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement for students of color and students in poverty. “Only by collecting and disaggregating data on subgroups of Asian and Pacific Islanders will we have the information we need to better serve our state’s fastest-growing student populations. Sadly, the state’s next report on student achievement will likely miss the boat again and not include the range of data required to remedy persistent achievement gaps.”
The policy brief dispels the myth that Asian American and Pacific Islander students are a monolithic group of high academic achievers. Current available data shows that AAPI students come from at least 14 different subgroups; furthermore, they differ considerably by country of origin, language, and socioeconomic status. For example, roughly one-third of Asian and Filipino students and more than half of Pacific Islander students come from low-income families. Disaggregating this data by income revealed large disparities in academic performance between higher-income API students and their lower-income peers. As a result, educational outcomes and needs among API students vary widely.
“The findings from the brief show that there is a disconnect between what is perceived by the public to be reality versus what is indeed reality for Asian American and Pacific Islander students,” said U.S. Representative Mike Honda (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. “When less than 10 percent of Filipinos, Cambodians, Laotians and Samoans are ready for college math, it shows that our education system needs a paradigm shift. As a former educator and representative of the Silicon Valley, I know the value of STEM education and its relation to our global competitiveness. Data and facts will help us recognize the needs of our high-need students.”
Asian and Pacific Islander students who struggle in school often fail to get the attention and resources they need to be ready for college and career. The brief finds roughly 7 out of 10 Asian students and 9 out of 10 Pacific Islander students are not prepared for college-level coursework. In 2008, 37 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander high school graduates enrolled in a UC or CSU as first-time freshmen. However, UC and CSU systems do not report detailed data on the enrollment of subgroups of these students. In fact, the University of California aggregates them into a single category. Without disaggregation, the data masks subgroup disparities that K-12 achievement data suggest are likely to exist in UC and CSU enrollment rates.
“Californians deserve the support systems necessary for our children to succeed in school,” said Assemblymember Warren Furutani (D-South Los Angeles County), Chair of California’s Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. “The more we know, the more we can provide what AAPI students need – and that’s what the policy brief demonstrates. This is why API Caucus members have authored legislation requiring the state to collect data that reflects the full spectrum of California’s Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities.”
I’ve been very bad about posting recently but we’ve been busy! After the State Board meeting last week, we spent a lot of time reviewing the CDE’s selection of schools to receive SIG grants. We were very distressed by both the selection process and the “reform” strategies outlined in the applications of the low performing schools recommended by CDE for funding. Based on these concerns, we sent the following letter to Ted Mitchell, President of the State Board of Education.
On behalf of the Education Trust—West, I am writing to express our concerns about the California Department of Education’s (CDE) funding recommendations for the 2009-10 School Improvement Grant (SIG). Our concerns are focused on two primary areas: the grant award process and the school improvement strategies selected for funding. We strongly encourage the CDE and the State Board of Education (SBE) to revisit the grant award process to reconsider the applications of those districts and schools that did not receive funding, and to only fund the portions of SIG applications that are directly related to reform.
First, we believe that the grant award process used by the CDE was flawed. Current recommendations would provide SIG funding to only 66 schools serving some 60,000 students, leaving dozens of schools serving tens of thousands of students without funding. The intent of the SIG program is to fund high-impact reforms in as many eligible schools as possible. By prioritizing the applications of only those Local Education Agencies (LEAs) that applied on behalf of all eligible Tier I and II schools, the CDE artificially restricted the pool of districts and schools eligible to receive funding. This selection process unfairly penalized large, mostly urban school districts with many eligible Tier I and II schools, resulting in a disproportionate benefit for districts with a small number of eligible Tier I or II schools.
According to CDE, “the priorities for funding established by the U.S. Department of Education (ED)” were based on the proportion of eligible schools that LEAs committed to serve. This interpretation does not appear to conform to either the letter or the intention of the SIG guidance from the ED. Additionally, the CDE’s Request for Applications (RFA) does not indicate that LEAs would be penalized for failing to apply on behalf of all of their eligible Tier I and II schools. In fact, the CDE’s scoring rubric encourages LEAs to make decisions based on their capacity to implement reforms at each of their schools applying for funding. It also asks LEAs to identify the barriers that would preclude them from serving all of their Tier I and II schools. We were encouraged that the federal SIG regulations repeatedly mentioned the need for districts to consider their overall capacity and the capacity of individual schools to implement reforms when submitting applications. It is unfortunate that this positive aspect of the application process led to such a negative outcome for so many schools and their students.
Indeed, rather than creating artificial restrictions, we believe that the SIG guidance provides states with the flexibility to fund as many Tier I and II schools as possible. For example, the guidance notes that if a state does not have sufficient funding to serve all Tier I and II schools, it can consider the distribution of eligible schools among LEA’s to ensure that the full range of Tier I and II schools in the state can be served. This should similarly allow California to consider other factors in the distribution of funding such as the proportion of elementary, middle and high schools, their geographic distribution and the poverty level of their students.
Lastly, the federal requirement that states carry over 25% of grant funds if all Tier I schools do not apply may not be relevant to California, where there are insufficient dollars to fully-fund all Tier I schools that did apply. We are pleased that the SBE has appealed for a waiver of this requirement from the ED because we believe that these dollars should be distributed to schools as soon as possible.
In regards to our second concern, we are outraged that the CDE did not pursue a more selective process in reviewing the “reform strategies” in the applications submitted by LEAs. In our May 2010 report, “Keeping the Promise of Change: Why California’s chronically underperforming schools need bold reforms,” we called on the CDE to adhere to the pledge included in the RFA, that it would “only consider awarding funds to those LEAs that develop and submit a comprehensive and viable application likely to improve student achievement.” We see little evidence of these bold reform strategies, particularly in areas such as recruiting, evaluating and retaining the best teachers and leaders. With SIG, California had an unprecedented opportunity to establish a rigorous and selective application review process that prioritized high-impact reforms that are different from the turnaround strategies previously utilized in so many of these persistently underperforming schools. It was disappointing to see so many of the same recycled reforms and interventions in the applications selected for SIG funding.
We do not believe that SIG money is intended to fulfill wish lists or plug budget holes for a few lucky schools. The CDE should have only recommended funding for those elements of schools’ intervention plans that are likely to result in improved student achievement. SIG dollars should not be funding certain “interventions” that appeared in the SIG Application Profiles, such as leasing bus drivers, sound systems, or funding longevity stipends. Our recommendation does not imply that reforms do not cost a lot of money or that they should instead be done on the cheap—just the opposite. SIG dollars should be used to fund transformative reforms, and not to backfill budget cuts. The CDE had both the discretion and obligation “reduce award amounts if it determines that an LEA can implement its planned interventions with less than the amount of funding requested in its budget.” When only 66 Tier I and II schools out of 113 applicants are funded due to limited funds, it is incumbent upon the CDE to use that discretion versus funding every “intervention” placed in an application.
As we noted in “Keeping the Promise of Change,” Einstein states that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The hundreds of thousands of students in poverty and students of color in California’s persistently underperforming schools deserve great neighborhood schools that will prepare them for college and enriching careers. We hope that the State Board of Education will ensure that the School Improvement Grants are used to end the cycle of underperformance that has widened the achievement and opportunity gaps for so many of our state’s neediest students.
When I was a boy, my father tried very hard to teach me about the value of the dollar. He never spent much money on much of anything than the education of his kids, an occasional driving vacation that always ended up seeing friend and relatives, and hosting a parade of nieces and nephews from India in our house and paying for their education. His perspective on the value of money came from the experience of immigrating to two different countries and working his way through various schools. His basic lessons were to never borrow money from a friend or relative, to pay any and all debts as quickly as possible, to spend money wisely with an eye to the future, and to save for unforseen events.
Most of all – my father talked about the relationship between money, responsibility and accountability. You earned; You had a responsibility for spending your money wisely. And you were accountable for how you spent it.
Today, our federal government sent our states a big fat pot of money to bail them out and to bail out school districts. But what the federal government did not attach to those dollars was the responsibility to spend the money wisely and any accountability for how they spent it. The feds will not be sending out an IMF style requirement to states such as ours, who are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, to fix our broken system once and for all. Nor will they provide any accountability to ensure that our wonderful state with its politicians caught between feeding the interests and needs of public employee unions on one side and tax payer associations on the other side - does the right thing with those dollars. And by that I mean dong the right thing for the mass of its citizens and children whose needs and interests are typically ignored while our politicians are bowing to the special interests. Just the fact that the federal government took ten billion from the food stamps program in order to fund this one time grant to states and school districts is a sign of the lunacy of our current situation.
I haven’t been very good about posting lately. It’s been a crazy two weeks in California and we’ve been very busy here at the Ed Trust West. I went up to Sacramento to testify on behalf of the Common Core and had a chance to witness history. The Board passed the Core on a 9-0 vote. I’d written a brief supporting statement but was only able to give 1/3 of it because they only allowed 1 minute for public comment and calculated in the time I walked up to the podium in that minute. It’s always interesting when you have someone shout 30 seconds in the middle of your remarks. The shouting itself took a few seconds. Anyway, I led of the remarks and with the exception of two gentlemen with a very particular perspective on algebra, the comments were all positive. Everyone was in favor. Even those who can occasionally be foes. What is really important are the next steps and I note that in our statement which is posted below:
The Education Trust—West applauds the unanimous vote of the California State Board of Education and the decision to adopt the Common Core Standards.
California has long been a national leader in both standards and assessments. We, at the Education Trust-West, have long been advocates for increasing the rigor of our standards and graduation requirements with the goal of ensuring that all of our high school graduates have a true choice between college and career. We have consistently highlighted the opportunity and achievement gaps that prevent so many students of color and students in poverty in our state from achieving the goal of college and career readiness. Over the past eight years, we have relentlessly pressed on our state’s leaders to close those opportunity and achievement gaps and live up to the promise of our rigorous standards.
While we understand that the adoption of the Common Core will not by itself close those opportunity and achievement gaps, we do believe that adoption of the Common Core is an important step in the right direction.
First and foremost, the Common Core Standards were built upon a clear determination of what students need to know by the end of high school in order to be both college and career-ready. With this goal in mind, the Core sets out a path through the grade levels for post-secondary success that is clearly understandable to educators, students and parents. For the students of color and English learners who have historically been underserved by our education system, the Common Core presents a coherent pathway to college and career readiness.
Second, by benchmarking the Common Core to what other leading industrial nations expect of their students and their schools, the Core maintains the rigor of California standards while also raising the bar to better prepare our students for what is now truly a global economy.
Third, by focusing on depth versus breadth at each grade level, the standards allow students to develop a deeper understanding of core concepts in English Language Art and Mathematics. We believe that this approach will strengthen our teachers’ ability to truly differentiate instruction for the diverse array of students in their classrooms. And it will allow students to deepen their learning of the core concepts they will need for the more complex coursework necessary for college eligibility.
Fourth, by linking California to the standards other states, the Core will allow us to finally benchmark ourselves against student performance in those states. This will allow us to determine how our education system stacks up against that of other states; the relative effectiveness of our education programs; and the strength of our interventions and the allocation of our resources. It will allow us to learn from others success and failures and allow them to learn from us.
We live in an increasingly global world. California’s students reflect this global diversity. This diversity is our great strength. Our challenge is building on that strength and ensuring that we are able fulfill the potential of each of our state’s students. The Common Core is not the sole answer to addressing this gap between the potential of our students and the opportunities that we currently afford them. It is the first step and essential step of what we hope will be a thoughtful and coherent plan to build a well aligned and designed education system that provides the trained teachers, assessments, resources and curriculum that students must have to succeed.