SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

Blog retired September 2010

Thank you for reading.


Written by scusdobserver

September 16, 2010 at 9:05 am

Posted in SCUSD Observer

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Teaching is the profession that teaches all other professions

Toward the end of his speech in front of organized labor this past Monday in Land Park , Jerry Brown related his story as a young teacher of catechism.

In 1958, he entered Sacred Heart Novitiate, a Jesuit seminary, intending to become a Catholic priest. Part of his education involved teaching in Oakland. (Paraphrasing) he said that he never had control of his class (it was uncontrollable) and he realized he wasn’t up to the task.

Brown ended his appearance by affirming a belief that teachers do the job that not many of us are able to do, and that right now teachers desperately need our support.

Written by scusdobserver

September 9, 2010 at 11:24 am

Posted in SCUSD Observer

I better stop now before I get in trouble*

Stories that developed while on hiatus:

  • Proposed Senate Bill 1317 (Mark Leno, D-San Francisco) will legislate the incarceration of parents of truant California children.
  • The Sacramento Bee reports that SCUSD is eligible for federal funding to help 1,801 refugee children in grades K-12 who have arrived in the county in the last three years.
  • West Campus’s test scores continue to put that local high school in the state spotlight for excellence.
  • Still more education reporting from the Bee (Phillip Reese and Melody Gutierrez) reveals that the number of students who aren’t proficient in English dropped to its lowest level in about a decade.

Also, California lost out on Race To The Top funding, the California legislature passed SB-1381 (Kindergarten Age,) and the Los Angeles Times invented the Teacher’s Box Score.

And as a bizarre side note, Sacramento was deprived of a celebrity wedding this weekend when Kevin Johnson and Michelle Rhee sent out e-mails to uninvite guests to their Labor Day nuptials, calling the big plans  “a mistake.”

*The Mayor’s words, as quoted by Kitty O’Neal.

Written by scusdobserver

September 4, 2010 at 9:11 am

And the candidates are…

SCUSD Board of Trustees Election Tuesday, November 2, 2010

If you are not registered to vote, please visit this link.


Area 1
David Ross
Ellyne Bell
Paige Powell

Area 2
Andrea “Andie” Corso
Jeff Cuneo
Matthew Easley
Mary Hernandez

Area 6
Darrel Woo
Sharon Owens Thomas
Rob Gunn
Robert Bartron
Shane Singh

Written by scusdobserver

August 20, 2010 at 11:46 am

Posted in Election

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SB 1422 gives students a much-needed voice

By Jordan Feri

What is SB1422? Is it a way for students to effectively get their teachers fired? A tool for teachers to pick out the students who harbor animosity towards them? Or is it simply a useless and unneeded piece of legislation?

In fact, SB1422 is none of these things. Rather, it is a way for students statewide to provide anonymous feedback to their teachers, without the risk of negative repercussions on the part of the teacher. With this bill in place, teachers would also have the ability to choose whether or not they participate in their school’s program, and then would be allowed to choose if their results are kept private or made public.

To be more specific, “This bill would authorize the student government of a school maintaining any of grades 9 to 12, inclusive, to establish a committee of pupils and teachers to develop a survey by which pupils may provide feedback to teachers…Survey responses would be confidential and made known only to the teacher whose class is surveyed. Administrators and school or district officials would be prohibited from viewing or having access to any completed pupil survey without the express written consent of the teacher to whom the survey relates. The surveys would be prohibited from becoming part of a teacher’s personnel record, from being included in or used to influence the existing teacher evaluation process, and from being used for collective bargaining purposes.” (SB 1422)

As a member of the California Association of Student Councils (the organization which has written and sponsored the bill for the past 47 years) who has worked to get this bill passed, I do have somewhat of a bias when it comes to this particular piece of legislation. However, to be perfectly honest, my views as both a student and a member of CASC are one and the same. In my opinion, this bill has no possible negative repercussions for the students and teachers of California; teachers can choose to participate (so the bad ones can opt out) and students get the much-needed chance to offer input on how they would like to be taught. In our current education system, students often lack the much-needed voice that they deserve, as most communication takes place between the administration and teachers of a school. I know that I have had a teacher that could use this sort of feedback on more than one occasion, and I’m sure that other students have too. With a program for the student evaluation of teachers in place, the primary stakeholders in education, students, are given the chance to open up a direct line of communication between themselves and their teachers. In effect, this bill can only offer the chance for self improvement on the part of those teachers who are brave enough to open themselves to constructive criticism.

The only existing opposition to this bill that I can think of pertains to the fact that it is permissive, not mandatory, and will thus have no real effect on the quality of teachers. However, without a system for the student evaluation of teachers currently in place, in most cases only a small number of teachers opt to create their own evaluations. With the introduction of the system created by this bill, as student governments take the initiative to create their own evaluations, it is more than likely that a greater number of teachers will choose to participate. Therefore, while this bill will not mandate that teachers participate or make changes based on their own feedback, it is inevitable that the number of instructors who use student evaluations to improve their own teaching methods will increase exponentially.

For more information on the subject of student evaluation of teachers, read the following:

What Would Happen If We Treated Students as Those With Opinions That Matter? The Benefits to Principals and Teachers of Supporting Youth Engagement at School by Allison Cook-Sather

Student Evaluation of Teachers by June E. Thompson

Seven Premises for Improving Teacher Evaluation by William R. Norris

Written by triplejf

August 14, 2010 at 10:47 am

Test scores do not identify the strong from the weak

Commentary by Robert Bartron
Candidate for District 6 representative to the SCUSD School Board

The key to improving students’ performance is to empower and improve teacher performance. But what is the best way to measure teacher effectiveness?

Student standardized test scores are totally insufficient in measuring teacher performance. Despite what some individuals profess, not every student has the same intelligence, organized study habits, parental support, conceptualization abilities, maturity, and academic orientation as every other student. Teachers do not select their own students, so the best teacher in the world could have a class with lower standardized test scores than a poor teacher who happened to be assigned a class with students who have great test taking abilities.

The value of standardized tests is in establishing expectations of student performance. There is a certain set of facts and abilities that every student must master to be successful in society. Opportunities for success are not going to be different for the poor student than they are for the successful student. We cannot graduate students merely because “they tried hard.” They must meet standards by mastering the reading, writing, math and social skills necessary to be successful in society. No graduate can keep a job because he/she “tries hard” at work. Standards of performance must be met to be successful in our global economy. Standardized test results are a good tool in advising students on their progress in attaining the skill set necessary for success. There are other indicators as well, but testing is a prime resource in advising an individual student on his/her progress.

However, standardized tests, in and of themselves, are not good measures of the quality of instruction provided by teachers. A proper evaluation of a teacher’s performance examines the following areas:

1. Preparation. Has a teacher an annual plan for what the students will master? Is this plan evidenced by daily, detailed lesson plans that comply with basic state standards? Or does the teacher, no matter how many times they have taught the subject, just “wing it” on many days? Does the teacher weekly evaluate the progress on this plan and alter it accordingly after reviewing results to date? Has the students’ previous homework been carefully and promptly graded and is it ready to be given back?

2. Subject expertise. Has the teacher mastered the subject matter to such a degree that he/she can identify the important from the trivial? Does the teacher have a passion for the subject that is reflected in the creativity and completeness in the manner in which it is shared with the students?

3. Presentation. Is the teacher organized and logical in the presentation of material? Does the teacher involve students in the learning process? Does the teacher use different techniques in teaching that recognizes that not every student learns the same way?

4. Classroom environment. Are students energized when they enter the classroom? Do they anticipate another opportunity to excel and receive positive feedback for their efforts? Is the classroom orderly, or does the teacher fail to command the respect of the students?

5. Professional development. Is the teacher excited about sharing knowledge and helping students grow individually? Or is the teacher going through the motions, having lost the passion for teaching? Does the teacher seek to continually improve his/her professionalism in teaching? Does he/she seek better ways to improve the learning by the students? Or is the teacher happy to accept the status quo? Is the teacher inspired or burnt out?

Test scores do not identify the strong teachers from the weak. The only way to answer the teacher quality questions posed above is to observe the teacher in action. Principals are not there to be administrators. Principals need to be leaders. Leaders know their people so well they can help find ways for them to continually improve. Leaders inspire their team to do more in order to achieve more. Leaders are closely involved in the development of individuals under their direction. Regular classroom evaluations—scheduled and unannounced—is the only true way to help teachers improve. The purpose of the visits is to encourage those doing it right and offer training options for those that need improvement. Bad administrators use evaluations as the first step of due process to fire a teacher. Leaders use evaluations as the first step in giving one-on-one assistance to teachers who need it. Any principal who cannot motivate, inspire and positively direct a teacher to success has failed in his/her leadership assignment. Any time a principal moves to terminate a teacher, it is clear reflection of the principal’s failure as a leader to help his/her teachers achieve excellence.

Tests don’t take the measure of good teachers. Leaders do this through supportive accountability of classroom performance by teachers. This is only possible if the principal knows what is going on in the classroom and has a plan to improve outcomes.

Written by scusdobserver

August 14, 2010 at 7:46 am

BUDGET SNAPSHOT :: Improving Teacher Quality

Title II, Part A, Improving Teacher Quality

If you are familiar with reading the SCUSD budget reports, please take note.

Accompanying Documentation HERE (zip file)

Resource Code 4035

FY 0910  budget =  $6,276,725.00

Start with the SUMMARY, page 1.
Pay attention to 3 lines (accounts) in object code 1101 (TchrReg). The “issues” are obvious.

Also page 1, note object 1903.   Remember, “temps” aren’t tracked on the Position Control, therefore skewing the FTEs.

Think about what this money is supposed to do.  Know this resource is included in the ConApp. It should be included in the SPSAs.

Who do you think is making decisions about how to use this resource?

Look at DETAIL report, object code 4390. (pages 80-82). Note- this is not an “expenditure” account. It is only used as “budget revision” or “budget transfer”.  This is not “planning”.

Unused amount as of July 31 =  $2,927,219.11.  Why?

Written by Karen Swett

August 11, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Snapshots