The Blog at CTA

By the Numbers: More than 236000 New Student Assessments Done or In Process, Supt. Torlakson Reports

California educators and students have been pretty busy over the past week. 

Thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of their students have been helping field test the new Smarter Balanced Assessments that are synched to the new Common Core State Standards.

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Superintendent of Public Instruction Torlakson to Discuss Efforts for Healthy Kids

As a former teacher and coach, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson understands that students’ ability to learn effectively is related to their health.  

Like CTA, Supt. Torlakson is actively supporting statewide efforts to improve children’s health by encouraging them to eat healthy foods and to take part in physical activities.

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Today, Smarter Balanced Field Testing Starts

Today, students in Grades 3-8 and Grade 11 are slated to begin taking “field test” versions of the new on-line student assessments that are synchronized with the Common Core State Standards.

More than three million students will be “piloting” the exams in math and English, according to the State Department of Education.

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Significant Drop in Number of Districts in Financial Trouble, Supt. Torlakson Reports

Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is reporting that the number of districts in financial trouble has dropped by more than 50%, year over year.

Last year at this time, 124 local education agencies (LEAs) were in either “negative or qualified” financial status, according to the First Interim Status Report for 2012-13.  By May 2013, 92 LEAs were still in a troubled financial place.

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Checks are in the Mail: Schools Receiving Second Installment of $1.25B Total

Good news for California students today as Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced our schools are receiving $622 million, the second installment of a $1.25 billion state grant to help them implement the new Common Core State Standards.

That grant amounts to $200 per student to help schools transition to the new comprehensive standards that aim to equip students with the higher order thinking skills they will need in higher education and the world of work.

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Capitol News: Experts Debunk New "Study" Slamming Teacher Preparation Programs

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

The Teacher Prep Review released by the National Council on Teacher Quality 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 that “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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Supt. Torlakson: CA Schools Will Lose $262M if Congress Doesn’t Act

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is warning that California schools will lose $262 million in federal aid if Congress doesn’t act to head off the looming automatic cuts set to take effect on Friday.

The superintendent is calling on Congress to avoid the automatic cuts – called “sequestration” – by taking action to protect public education.

“After years of extensive state and federal budget cuts to education, these cuts will devastate communities across California…. These automatic cuts will cause long-lasting and irreparable harm,” the superintendent cautioned in a written statement released by his office.

Supt. Torlakson cited these specific cuts in funding for California schools that will be triggered by “sequestration”:
  • $91 million for Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, intended to improve education for disadvantaged students;
  • $72 million in special education funding for programs that serve the needs of students width disabilities;
  • $2.8 million for public charter schools;
  • $6.9 million for Career and Technical Education;
  • $9.6 million in funding for English learners; and
  • $3.7 million in Impact Aid affecting students in federally impacted school districts in California, including children of active duty service members.

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Supt. Torlakson, Assembly Member Bonilla Outline Ambitious Plan to Improve Student Assessment

Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson (pictured above) and Assembly Member Susan Bonilla (D- Concord) unveiled a plan to bring the state’s student assessment system in line width the new common core state standards.  The package has more than 12 short-and long-term recommendations that would apply technology to the testing process and speed assessment results to teachers in  time to use the data to help their students excel.

The plan is extremely ambitious. It reflects an incredible amount of resources and work that must be done to implement the common core state standards and develop the new  comprehensive assessment program.

Teachers are pleased the efforts aim to eliminate unnecessary testing as a way of providing more instructional time.  In fact, as part of the implementation process, the proposal includes suspending all non-federally mandated student testing in 2013-2014, including the second-grade STAR exam.

The newest efforts build on the common core standards and aim to measure student progress toward achieving them.  CTA supports comprehensive assessments of students based on the recently adopted common core standards, as well as the elimination of duplicative, non-federally mandated testing that robs students of instructional time.

The new assessments will seek to measure students’  understanding of and ability to use these important educational concepts  detailed in the common core.

Read more about the plan at State Superintendent Tom  Torlakson Proposes New Statewide Testing System .

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Supt. Torlakson Commends Task Force on Excellence Report - More Resources Needed

At a Monday morning news  conference near the state Capitol, Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson  congratulated members of his Educator Excellence Task Force Report for the completion and release of “Greatness by Design.”
CTA President Dean Vogel notes that the report makes it clear to teachers that “your experience counts and your assessment of what's necessary counts. Citing the report’s self-description as a “living document” subject to revision, the CTA leader said that “to the degree we can make the necessary adjustments to this, we win and if we win our students win.”
The superintendent praised  the task force members, including CTA President Dean Vogel, for their collaboration and hard work on a plan to improve the recruitment, training, and retention of teachers. The state schools chief, who is backing the governor’s revenue measure on the November ballot, commended  educators for moving ahead on the path toward excellence and conceded that the progress would be faster if schools had more resources.

He noted that no one cares more about improving teaching and learning than teachers themselves. The committee was chaired by Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond and Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent Chris Steinhauser.

Learn more about the report at Greatness by Design.








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