Education Reform

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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Capitol News: Assembly Overwhelmingly Approves CTA-cosponsored Misconduct Reporting Bill

On a 78-0 vote, the Assembly approved CTA cosponsored-bill AB 449.

AB 449 by Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) would make it clear that a district superintendent has the responsibility to report to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing  (CCTC) any adverse employment action taken against a certificated employee due to allegations of serious misconduct.

A superintendent's failure to make these reports has serious consequences for the safety of students in that district and other districts.

The bill clarifies that the CCTC may subject the superintendent of the school district or county office of education or   the administrator of a charter school to adverse action for unprofessional conduct.

Under AB 449, a refusal or willful neglect to make the report to the CCTC is a misdemeanor, width a fine that may not be paid or reimbursed width public funds. The bill now goes to the Senate.


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ESEA Must Put Students at Center of Education Reform

Signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), the original purpose of ESEA was to help raise achievement and close gaps in student learning. Unfortunately, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) -- as it’s now called -- is not working as intended. Reauthorization of the law presents an opportunity to really help ALL of America’s students this time.

Congress must be willing to make the appropriate investments in order to ensure that NCLB lives up to its original goals, that’s why we are urging lawmakers to craft fair, flexible, and innovative K-12 legislation that really can bring about sustainable positive change for our students.

The future of our students will depend on investing in classroom priorities widely recognized as essential to sustained effectiveness, such as quality early childhood learning, smaller class sizes particularly in the early grades, additional learning time, and increased and sustainable funding for public schools.

We need to put students at the center of education reform, and we need federal legislation that seeks to partner width and support state efforts in meaningful reform, not undermine it.

The federal government must balance its support of states and local school districts’ efforts width its critical role in ensuring equitable access to a quality education so that students in need have what they deserve to thrive in today’s society. Therefore, ESEA must effectively address existing inequities in public education that harm students and communities, particularly students and communities of color.

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Legislature Approves State Budget: California Educators Are Encouraged by the New Compromise on the Local Control School Funding Formula

The state Senate and Assembly today passed AB 110, the legislature’s budget bill that will make a historic change in how schools are funded. The new budget, which is on its way to the governor for his signature, also provides more than $2 billion to begin repaying school districts funding they are owed after years of drastic cuts. It provides additional funding to ensure that virtually all districts get back to their 2007-08 state funding levels. It also targets more funding to help the state’s neediest students.

“While it will take years for our schools to fully recover, this budget is a big step in the right direction. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a state budget proposal width a significant increase in education funding,” said CTA President Dean E. Vogel. “The governor’s Local Control Funding Formula that is part of the final budget adds up to renewed opportunities for our schools. We are also encouraged by the $1.25 billion for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. These new standards will dramatically impact teaching and learning. Educators must have the resources they need to help students succeed.”

New language regarding school district accountability provisions in the final budget protects collective bargaining and limits the oversight of County Offices of Education. This agreement holds the promise of a better future for our students. Take a closer look at details of the agreed-upon budget.

The legislature approved the spending bill a day before the June 15 deadline for sending the measure to the governor.  The governor has until June 30 to sign the budget into law to take effect on July 1, the start of the state’s new fiscal year.

Lawmakers are also debating and approving several “budget trailer measures” that help implement the new spending plan.

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Romero and DFER Target Teachers... Again

Ignoring the myriad challenges confronting California public schools, including budget cuts of more than $20 billion over the last few years, massive layoffs, and skyrocketing class sizes, Orange County Register columnist and self-professed school reformer Gloria Romero is once again taking aim at what she claims are the biggest problems facing our schools: teachers who should be fired and the California Teachers Association.

Last month Romero wrote a column erroneously accusing CTA of coming late to the party in supporting a teacher dismissal bill, AB 375. This week she resurrected her concerns about that bill. Apparently, she doesn’t like it simply because we do, or because in her view it doesn’t go far enough.

While current law removes anyone who is a potential threat to children from the classroom immediately, AB 375 streamlines the dismissal process for teachers accused of immoral conduct and gives school districts more flexibility in both timeline issues and the type of evidence allowed. It’s a strong bill that fixes some problems width the current system.

What Romero objects to is that AB 375 includes an adequate appeal process for a teacher unfairly or wrongly accused. She would prefer a system where the employee has little recourse when an employer moves to dismiss them for the wrong reasons.

The simplistic types of reforms Romero supports, including her own sloppily written “parent trigger” law, were roundly denounced by the California Democratic Party earlier this year, which objected to her using the name “Democrats” in her Democrats for Education Reform, a front group for corporations and others that would like to privatize public education.

The focus on teacher dismissal is a reaction to the LAUSD’s botched administrative handling of Miramonte Elementary and other abuse cases. It’s a focus on the wrong issue. California teachers do an excellent job in the face of sometimes daunting obstacles, despite California’s being near or at the bottom in education investment by nearly every measure. If Romero really wants to be a reformer, she’ll work width us on removing or mitigating those obstacles, instead of thinking she’ll fix our schools by taking away basic rights from all teachers.

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Senator Harkin Unveils 'Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013'

US Senator Tom Harkin took a step toward reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) today. Commonly known as No Child Left Behind and last reauthorized in 2001, ESEA defines the federal role in K-12 education. For more than a decade, educators have been sounding the alarm about the law’s unintended consequences and its over-reliance on test scores to label and punish students and schools.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel issued the following statement:

“Schools around America are winding down for the summer but Congressional efforts to rewrite the federal education law are just getting underway in Washington. We welcome this renewed effort. Students, parents, and educators know the law isn’t working. That’s why there’s been such strong push back—from Seattle to Rhode Island to Florida —against high-stakes standardized testing schemes ushered in by the law. The time has come for Congress to craft a fair, flexible, and innovative K-12 law that leads to real sustainable change for our children, while keeping the ESEA goals of equity and shared responsibility front and center.

“We believe all children deserve great schools, and Congress must make the investments so that we are ensuring opportunity for all children, not exacerbating current inequities. ESEA must address existing inequities in public education that harm students and communities, particularly students and communities of color.

“We are accountable for student success, and we must ensure that ESEA changes its current focus from punishing students, schools and educators to helping those most in need. Every student deserves committed, caring and qualified educators in her or his classroom. In order for the law to work, we must empower educators so they can focus on what’s important—student learning and achievement. Educators spend their lives and careers teaching—and protecting—their students. ESEA must respect educators by empowering us and allowing us to focus on the kind of instruction that students need.

“As education advocates, our top priority is to make sure that what happens in Washington actually works for students and educators in classrooms and schools across the country. We thank Chairman Harkin for his leadership and look forward to working width him and Senators from both sides of the aisle to find common sense, bipartisan solutions to fix the flawed law.”

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Every child deserves a chance to learn and no child succeeds alone.

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