By Doug Porter
There’s a lull between big electoral periods right now (except for Los Angeles) and, fortunately this means there’s space available for bytes or ink with articles discussing education without the overlay of various campaigns.
The Big Issue in education since the “A Nation at Risk” study released during the Reagan administration has been reform. The changing needs of the nation’s workplaces, spurred by the revolution in technology, ran smack dab into the rising credo that argued for a smaller role for the public sector.
The word ‘reform’ has become tainted, laden with expectations or fears that private enterprise would alter the educational landscape. Three decades of interventions (and, yes, the ‘reformers’ have had many opportunities to try out their ideas) have left us only incrementally better off than we were when this entire hubbub started.
Along the way, programs not central to the theology of ‘teach to the test’ have been downgraded or discarded. Playing clarinet will not enhance your abilities to fill in bubbles on test sheets. And earlier attempts at ‘scientifically’ updating instructional methods were conveniently forgotten. (Anybody remember the ‘New Math’?)
So it’s interesting that so many angles on the quest for a better education are in the news this week. There are two stories in today’s UT-San Diego that make no attempt to denigrate the ‘liberals’ on the San Diego Unified Board of Trustees.
Let’s enjoy the moment while we can, and before we arrive at the editorial pages. I should also note that, despite being on the front page of the printed edition of UT-SD, both stories will require readers to venture past the front page of the online news site.
High School Graduation Standards
Maureen Magee reports on upcoming stricter high school graduation standards for California students viewed through the lens of a report from the Public Policy Institute of California. Using evidence gathered from SDUSD’s statistics, we’re told that disadvantaged and English challenged students across the state will have difficulty meeting these new graduation requirements. Money quotes:
Focusing on San Diego Unified’s class of 2011, the report identifies challenges districts will face as they transition to the new graduation standards. Only 61.1 percent of high school seniors in 2011 would have earned a diploma under the standards that call for a D grade in the college-prep courses. San Diego Unified’s graduation rates would have dropped to 41.8 percent had a C grade been required.
“San Diego has a long way to go, but there is definitely hope here,” said Julian Betts, the study’s lead researcher and a professor at UCSan Diego. “The district is phasing this in gradually. We think that this is really feasible for the district to boost A-G completion rates to 80 percent in two or three years.”
San Diego Unified was recently recognized for having the best 2012 graduation rate of 86.9 among California’s large urban districts. Schools have until 2020 to meet the state graduation target of 90 percent.
And then the story proceeds to tell us about pro-active steps being taken to meet this challenge. Amazing.
ACLU Suit Targets Schools Misusing State Money
Karen Kucher tells us about a lawsuit, filed on behalf of English language learners in various school districts around the state, claiming that State funds for language instruction are not being properly used to help pupils.
David Loy, legal director of the ACLU in San Diego and Imperial counties is quoted:
“This isn’t about good or bad services. This is about no services and they are getting money to do this,” Loy said. “They are getting money to provide these services and they are reporting they are not providing these services.”
Some of the 15 districts around California are claiming that bad data is to blame for statistics used as the basis of the complaint. We’ll see.
Too Good to Be True? Of Course!
Just so their readers don’t get too confused by decent reporting, UT-San Diego provides some ideological counter-weight to their daily mix via an Op-Ed from Margaret Spellings, one of the principal proponents of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.
Things in our schools are really, really bad, she says. And only making schools ‘performance driven’ will solve the problem.
We get schooled on how parents and teachers opposing her style of ‘reforms’ are part of a ‘monopoly of mediocrity’ that ‘resists innovation, entrepreneurship, choice, transparency and experimentation.’
So many buzzwords, so little time… Thank goodness all this bunk has passed its high-water mark. Except at the UT-San Diego editorial board…
Students Refuse Standardized Testing
The protest was the latest in a series stemming from the city’s plans to close 54 schools as part of deficit reduction measures. From Common Dreams:
Brian Sturgis, senior at Paul Robesan High School and boycott organizer with the group Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools (CSOSOS), declared in an op-ed “We are Chicago students and we are here to save our schools!”
Mayor Emanuel and his Board of Education want to close 54 grammar schools around the city, all of which are in black and Latino communities: this is racist. These schools are also being judged based on assessments and tests given throughout the year: this is foolish. These school closings will leave neighborhoods dismantled, parents lost, students unaccounted for, and more importantly, will put children in harmful situations: this is dangerous.
Sturgis explains that Mayor Emanuel and the Board of Education:
are putting too much pressure on standardized testing and threatening to close schools that don’t have high test scores. When schools are under so much pressure to raise test scores it leads to low-scoring students being neglected, not supported. This is what happened when 68 low-scoring juniors were demoted to sophomore status at a southwest side high school in Chicago last month, right before the state test.
Historical Re-Write in Progress
As investigators are putting together actual evidence from the saga surrounding the killing and capture of the Boston Marathon bombers, we’re learning that some official type reports may have suffered from the same kind hysteria that afflicted much of the nation’s media.
The Washington Post reports today that suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was unarmed when captured. This means the hail of bullets fired at his backyard hiding place was prompted by panic rather than any actual incident. It also means that his ‘self-inflicted’ wound to the throat wasn’t really self inflicted. And that firefight with the police in the streets of Watertown apparently involved only one gun on the suspects’ side.
The New York Times reports that the door-to-door search did include the boat where the suspect was finally found. Somehow the cops missed the trail of blood.
None of that makes any of what the brothers did less horrible.
‘Bushland’ to Open in Houston Today
The rehabilitation of George W. Bush is in full swing, with tons of glowing press coverage expected today about the opening of the GWB Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University. Ceremonies will include appearances by all the living ex-Presidents and two oft-mentioned candidates for the 2016 contest: Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.
Bush 43, by the way, told ABC news that he was encouraging Jeb Bush to run, leading HuffPo to run with the headline “Bush III” this morning.
And there have been lots of cynical jokes making the rounds about what won’t be included in the historical exhibits:
** Evidence of the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (because none were found)
** A recording of the push-poll question his campaign used to destroy John McCain in 2000: “Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?”
Soda Tax Passes First Hurdle
A bill that would impose a tax on sugary drinks in California passed its first legislative hurdle yesterday. The proposed law would tax sugary drinks such as sodas, energy drinks and sweet teas at the rate of one cent per fluid ounce. A recent Field Poll found that 68 percent of California voters said they would be in favor of a soda tax, if the money paid for school nutrition and physical education programs.
The UT-San Diego has already jumped the gun on the subject; running with an industry inspired op-ed back on April 5th warning us that this tax was just another way to line the pockets of Sacramento politicians and repeating popular mythology about diet and exercise.
If the industry propaganda campaign aimed at Richmond, Ca voters last year is any indication, get ready for a whole series of “truthisms” designed by the same people who tried to tell us tobacco was safe for so many years. It’s important to remember that these campaigns are considered successful if they can plant seeds of doubt in voters’ minds. Here’s my response: Just say NO to Big Sugar.
Balboa Park Traffic Proposal
Mayor Bob Filner formally announced his plan for reconfiguring park traffic last night at a special meeting of the Balboa Park Committee. An earlier proposal, backed by former Mayor Jerry Sanders and Qualcomm’s Irwin Jacobs, died after a court found that it violated the city’s historic preservation ordinance.
Instead of spending $45 million and building a pay to park garage, the Filner plan will cost $500,000 and can be modified should unforeseen problems or special events require changes.
Visiting the ‘New’ Jerry Sanders
Claire Trageser from KPBS got the chance to sit down with former Mayor Jerry Sanders, who’s been away from the local scene (vacationing inItaly) for the past few months. It’s an interesting interview, well worth watching, listening or reading (all three options are available) to.
The subject at hand was the ‘legacy’ of his years in the top spot. There’s the good, the bad and the ugly, all there for everyone to see. What struck me was a quote from Carl Luna, now a visiting political professor at University of San Diego, somebody who (I feel) the media have over-relied upon in the past for political insights. Despite my misgivings, Luna pretty much nails it when it comes to San Diego’s neighborhoods:
“City Hall is Downtown. The lobbyists for the business interests are Downtown. The convention industry is Downtown,” he said. “And so if you’re out in Normal Heights, if you’re up in Mira Mesa, you don’t get a whole lot of love from 202 C Street.”
Dining Out for Life- Do It Tonight
More than 100 restaurants around San Diego have signed on to donate a minimum of 25% of tonight’s sales for The Center’s HIV/AIDS services and prevention programs. Here’s a list of where you want to eat tonight.
Come See the OB Rag’s New Digs
I’d be in serious trouble (double-secret probation, maybe?) if I failed to send a shout out for the grand opening of the OBRag’s new offices. They’re doubling up with another Ocean Beach institution, The Green Store (at it for 24 years!) at 4843-B Voltaire Street on Sunday April 28thfrom 1-6pm for an open house. For more info call: 619-225-1083 or 619-962-4804. UPDATE: Apparently I missed the memo- OB Rag no longer has the “Freaks, Uppity Women & Politicos tagline. So now I am on double secret probation for not noticing it.
On This Day: 1945 – Delegates from about 50 countries met in San Francisco to organize the United Nations. 1979 – The film “Rock & RollHigh School” starring the Ramones premiered. 1987 – In Washington, DC, 100,000 people protested the U.S. policy in Central America.
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