Education Reform

Rhee's Road Show Offers Nothing New

Last night StudentsFirst founder and self-proclaimed education reformer Michelle Rhee held the first of a series of nationwide “teacher town halls” in Los Angeles, in what Rhee describes as an effort to move beyond “the extreme rhetoric and personal attacks overshadowing what’s important: getting every child into a great school with great teachers.” Ironic given the extreme rhetoric and blaming of “bad” teachers and principals Rhee uses as the cornerstone of her "reform" ideas.

Rhee’s co-panelists last night were Dr. Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet school, who uses what Rhee apparently considers un-extreme rhetoric when he refers to teachers unions as “roaches", and George Parker, the former Washington DC teachers union president who is now a paid Rhee staffer. As expected, last night’s event was very controlled. Audience questions were pre-screened on cards and Rhee and her co-panelists chewed up 90% of the speaking time. How is that a "town hall"?

The panel spent most of the evening talking about accountability and the need to get rid of bad teachers, and how unions were an obstacle to "real" reform. There was little if any discussion of supporting teachers or providing our public schools the resources they need.

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New Report Released: A Deeper Look at QEIA Implementation

New independent research shows that the kinds of proven reforms provided by a CTA-backed state school turnaround program is helping hundreds of at-risk California schools improve and innovate, CTA President Dean E. Vogel announced today in a news conference at a successful elementary school in the program.

The Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) targets low-income schools like Harmon Johnson Elementary in the Twin Rivers Unified School District. The high-poverty school is flourishing and recently won a high-profile national award for excellence. The school has been receiving extra resources due to the QEIA law of 2006. Parental involvement and volunteering have soared at the school as well.

“With QEIA, we are finding new and effective ways to help our vulnerable students and to discover practices that all teachers can learn from," said CTA President Dean Vogel. "New research shows that these proven reforms are leading to positive impacts in achievement, school reputation, school climate and parent engagement. This is exciting to see and watch.”

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CTA and NEA Press Lawmakers to Make Reauthorized ESEA Work

Congress could take up its version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – HR 5 or the Student Success Act – as early as next week. Our members in California and National Education Association members around the country are urging federal lawmakers to turn the reauthorization bill into one that will work for our students and our schools.

NEA has opposed the bill in committee, and we share concerns about several troubling aspects of the proposed legislation.

HR 5 would undermine the federal government‘s work to ensure equity for all students. The bill would undercut efforts to get targeted resources to schools that educate students width greater needs. HR 5 would also weaken collective bargaining protections involving teacher evaluation. The bill would also continue to force schools to use high stakes testing that is harming teaching and learning.

NEA is also working to stop amendments that would add private school vouchers to the bill. Our members and educators throughout the nation are urging Congress to restore bargaining rights and end the focus on high stakes testing.

Congress could amend the measure over the next several days. In its current form, the bill is not acceptable.

Please urge Congress to refocus the ESEA on its original purpose: ensuring equity for all students.

Call your Congressional Representatives at 1-866-420-3592 and ask them to:

  • Recognize educators’ roles in student success, which means stopping the push for high stakes testing and guaranteeing teachers a voice in their profession through collective bargaining.
  • Oppose any efforts to divert public education funding to private school vouchers.

Or email your Congressional Representatives width the same message.

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Governor Brown Tapped as “America’s Greatest Education Governor"

California Teachers Accept Award on Governor’s Behalf; He Addresses 9,000 Educators via Video

(Photo above) Governor of California Jerry Brown speaks via a live video feed during the presentation of America’s Greatest Education Governor. NEA Today/Rick Runion

The National Education Association at its annual Representative Assembly in early July named California Governor Jerry Brown its “Education Governor of the Year.”

The 325,000-member California Teachers Association nominated Brown for the prestigious annual award for his ongoing commitment to public schools. He led the fight for his Proposition 30 last year to stop billions in education cuts and generate $47 billion over the next seven years for schools, colleges and other essential services. He also last week signed into law his historic overhaul of public school funding that provides more money to help at-risk English learners and low-income students succeed.

Leaders of CTA – Davis Counselor Dean Vogel, Pittsburg Elementary Educator Eric Heins, and San Bernardino Youth Services Teacher Mikki Cichocki-Semo – accepted the award on the governor’s behalf.

Later, the governor addressed the Representative Assembly via video feed, thanking California’s teachers for their courage and support that helped quality and pass Proposition 30, the revenue measure that stopped another $5 billion in cuts and began the turn-around of the state’s finances.

The governor recalled his signing the state’s collective bargaining law more than 38 years ago and the continued need to provide local participation and leadership from teachers who are closest to the students. He advocates giving those in the classrooms and local school districts “maximum authority.”

“Teaching is lighting a fire, and the job of politicians is to enable teachers to light that fire….not to regiment students like they’re on parole,” Brown said. He also downplayed the role of testing in education, noting that “you don’t [get students to] learn by hammering people. You [get them to] learn by inspiring them.”


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Capitol News: Alternative Suspension Bill Moves out of Senate Education Committee

CTA continues to monitor the progress of a bill that would change some suspension policies in an effort to keep students in school, but also ensure the safety of students and educators in the classroom. AB 420 (Dickinson) focuses on the disproportionate suspension and expulsion of African American and Latino students as a result of the overuse of “willful defiance” that can be interpreted differently from educator to educator. CTA has a WATCH position on the bill that was approved by the Senate Education Committee and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

What the bill does:

  • Prohibits student suspension from school for substantially disrupting school activities or substantially preventing instruction from occurring in grades K-5. Students in grades 6-12 can only be suspended from school on or after the third offense in a school year, and only if the pupil’s parent or guardian have been informed that other means of correction were attempted before the recommended suspension.
  • Prohibits student expulsion from school at all grade levels for substantially disrupting school activities or substantially preventing instruction from occurring.

One issue of great concern to educators is to ensure that a teacher continues to have the ability to control their classroom. CTA drafted the following amendment now in the bill: “A teacher may suspend a pupil in any grade level from class, including for a first offense and from a one-room schoolhouse, for disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, school officials, or other school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties.”

AB 420 continues to allow (makes no changes to) student suspension and expulsion of students for a variety of other reasons, which include threats, violence, robbery, extortion, damaging school or private property, committing an obscene act, habitual profanity or vulgarity, harassment, threats, bullying, etc. Some alternatives to suspension and expulsion identified in the bill include a conference width parents and student, study teams, restorative justice programs, referrals to the school counselor, psychologist, social worker, etc.

CTA’s lobbyist testified that while educators believe in equity, and that suspension and expulsion should be a last resort, CTA remains concerned width tying the hands of school staff at any grade level. This bill and policy related to this bill was the subject of a lengthy debate on the floor of the June 2013 State Council of Education. Some educators were concerned that administrators have previously disregarded the current law that allows teachers to suspend from the classroom by immediately sending the student back to class, because there were no established alternative programs at the school site. Additionally, there are no funds in the bill for resources to implement training and/or alternative suspension programs, but school districts and local bargaining teams could use the flexibility in the local control funding formula to establish district programs. CTA is working width the sponsors of the bill and the author on these and other areas of concern.

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New Study Shows Mixed Results in Charter Comparison

A new Stanford study comparing the performance of traditional public schools and charters comes to largely the same conclusion reached in a 2009 survey by the same group. While acknowledging some growth in charter achievement over the last four years, the study answers the question “Are charter schools better than traditional schools?” width “Yes,” “No” and “It depends.”

Improving on results from four years ago, about a quarter to a third of charters outperformed local district schools in reading and math, while at the same time 19% performed “significantly worse” in reading and 31% performed “significantly worse” in math.

It’s often difficult to meaningfully compare charter school results to traditional schools because of the vast array of both types of schools, and factors like parental involvement that may give some charter students an edge. On the other hand, a well-run traditional school may have an advantage over a fly-by-night or exploitative charter operation that isn’t bound by the same rules and accountability as its public counterpart.

The latest study confirms that a well-run charter width a committed staff and a sound program is a viable educational opportunity for many students, but also that short-sighted “shut down the school and replace it width a charter” solutions promoted by so-called reform groups are more concerned width labels rather than the actual substance of what makes a successful school.

CTA represents many charter school workers and over the years we have found that the best charters are those that treat their teachers as professionals, and provide pay and benefit packages that keep their schools from becoming revolving doors for teaching staffs. Other charter operators who see public education as a money-making venture and who “stack ‘em deep and teach ‘em cheap,” or who see teachers as cogs in a one-size-fits-all machine, undermine the potential of charter schools as a creative and viable alternative to the traditional public school model.

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Capitol News: CTA Co-Sponsored Bill to Protect Students from Misconduct Approved by Senate Education Committee

Assembly Bill 449 by Assembly member Al Muratsuchi passed out of the Senate Education Committee Tuesday on a bipartisan consent vote. The bill strengthens current law requiring superintendents to fulfill their duty to report to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing any allegations of misconduct by certificated staff when warranted.

CTA's main concern is to keep students safe while safeguarding the professional rights of educators. On Monday, Alicia Williamson, Vice Chair of CTA's Credentials and Professional Development Committee, and fellow lobby team member Tim Sergent successfully lobbied nine members of the Senate Education Committee to vote in support of the CTA co-sponsored bill.

AB 449 now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee where CTA will continue to seek support for passage of this important bill to remedy deficiencies in current law to ensure the welfare and safety of our school children.


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Capitol News: Legislature Sends Budget, Trailer Bills to Governor

AB 86, Education Trailer Bill, Details Actions Affecting Schools

If Governor Jerry Brown signs the state budget bill by June 30th widthout making any changes, public education will see $55.3 billion in Proposition 98 funding for 2013-2014. That figure includes $2.1 billion for the governor's Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), $1.25 billion to implement the Common Core State Standards, and $4.3 billion to begin to pay down money the state has owed to schools from past years.

The trailer bills width the greatest direct impact on public education are AB 86, which contains the "education trailer language," SB 91, which deals width the Local Control Funding Formula, and AB 78, which governs how schools may use Proposition 39 funds to reduce their energy costs by adding "green technology."

Overall, the new state budget would:
  • Provide LCFF target base grants of $6845 for K-3, $6947 for 4-6, $7154 for 7-8, and $8289 for 9-12.
  • Increase the K-3 base grant by 10.4% for Class Size Reduction and the 9-12 base grant by 2.6% to encourage the provision of Career and Technical Education programs.
  • Establish LCFF supplemental grant of 20% of the base for students identified as English learners, foster care youth, or in financial need (as defined by eligibility in the Free or Reduce Price Meal Program).
  • Phase in the LCFF over eight years.
  • Allocate $250 million in one-time funds for Career and Technical Education.
  • Underwrite a 1.63% enrollment growth funding for the community colleges, pay down community college deferrals by $178 million in 2012-2013 and another $30 million in 2013-14, and provide $25 million in planning grants for adult education programs to promote regional collaboration between community colleges and K-12 school districts.
  • Maintain total revenue limit and categorical program funding for each district and charter school at its 2013 level.
  • Create new charter school accountability.
  • Empower districts to create local accountability plans widthout giving overriding authority to county offices of education.
Under state law, the governor has the power of the "line-item" veto to blue-pencil or reduce appropriations in the spending bills sent to him by the legislature. The constitution gives him until June 30th to sign the budget.

For more detailed information, see CTA's 2013-14 State Budget Highlights.


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Experts Debunk New “Study” Slamming Teacher Preparation Programs

Educators are criticizing a newly released, corporate-funded study  that labels virtually all teacher preparation programs in the United States – and especially those in California – as failing.

The harsh reactions are coming to the Teacher Prep Review released by the National Council on Teacher Quality, which claims the study is “an unprecedented evaluation of more than 1,100 colleges and universities that prepare elementary and secondary teachers.”

Critics of the report, including Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond,  a nationally recognized education expert, have noted that the “comprehensive” report is “nonsense,” nothing but a paper review of course descriptions and has nothing to do width the quality of the programs.

Theresa Montaño, a California State University Professor, makes the case that the report hits California’s teacher preparation programs for the very thing that helps build a strong teaching force: educating a diverse workforce and sensitizing them to the challenges of today’s multi-ethnic classroom.

Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson told L.A Times Reporter Howard Blume, "It's disappointing that this report applied a one-size-fits-all checklist. Those who are serious about examining the quality of teacher preparation efforts will have to look elsewhere for more reliable and useful information."

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Capitol News: CTA and Measure Agree - Being Homeless is Not a Criminal Offense

A CTA-backed bill, AB 652 by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), echoes a key element of the Association's policy: "CTA believes that the mere fact of homelessness does not equate to abuse or neglect."

Ammiano's bill would modify current law, the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, to acknowledge that the fact a child is homeless or is classified as an unaccompanied minor is not, in and of itself, a sufficient basis for reporting child abuse or neglect.

Without the bill's passage, persons mandated to report suspected child abuse or neglect could be at risk professionally and criminally for not reporting children whose parents or guardians are homeless.

According to the author, "It is hard to imagine a youth desiring to be taken into police custody or returned by police to a home the youth has fled. Many of the unaccompanied minors on the  street are foster youth that have fled the child welfare system and feel the system has failed them. Allowing the mandated reporters to report not solely based on the youth's homeless status would serve to remove barriers to services so as alleviate the homelessness and its risks."

Current law considers teachers and other educational support professionals among the "mandated reporters."

The bill cleared the Assembly floor on a 51-23 vote. The bill now goes to the Senate.


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