SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

Archive for the ‘Arne Duncan’ Category

Closing schools = turnaround?

In September, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Obama administration are set to announce the “winner” states that will receive Race to the Top funding, an ongoing competitive grants program that hands out money to states that can prove they’re sufficiently committed to education reform.

To recap, Race to the Top funding is incumbent on four “turnaround” models — all of which we’re seeing in the political machinations taking place in our own school district. They are:

  • Turnaround model: Replace the principal and rehire no more than 50% of the staff, and grant the principal sufficient operational flexibility (including in staffing, calendars/time and budgeting) to fully implement a comprehensive approach to substantially improve student outcomes.
  • Restart model: Convert a school or close and reopen it under a charter school operator, a charter management organization, or an education management organization that has been selected through a rigorous review process.
  • School closure: Close a school and enroll the students who attended that school in other schools in the district that are higher achieving.
  • Transformation model: Implement each of the following strategies: (1) replace the principal and take steps to increase teacher and school leader effectiveness; (2) institute comprehensive instructional reforms; (3) increase learning time and create community-oriented schools; and (4) provide operational flexibility and sustained support.

In the Washington Post today, writer Valerie Strauss shares a letter from parent activist, Rita Solnet:

Secretary Duncan, you have an opportunity to be the hero this country needs. You have the ability to stop these initiatives and regroup. Gain input from all levels of ’stakeholders’ in the process, gain endorsement of a new plan–a plan in which all levels of stakeholders take pride in developing and launching. Congresswoman Judy Chu’s plan is a great first start. The DOE’s proposed four (4) turnaround models [for the worst schools in each state] will not work. Scrap them, start over. Closing public schools should not be an option.

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Written by scusdobserver

July 19, 2010 at 7:38 am

Corporate restructuring

The news that Superintendent Jonathan Raymond is seeking permission from trustees to hire a chief accountability officer for SCUSD does not allay very real fears that Raymond is accelerating a push to develop a corporate education culture in Sacramento.

Consider these job titles: Chief Talent Officer, Chief Knowledge Officer, Chief Portfolio Officer…all with annual salary ranges between $125,000-175,000. New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, a strong proponent of privatization, devised this idea of “administrative restructuring.”

These executives (most who have never taught in a classroom or been a principal) make the rounds throughout the countries’ school systems while changing job titles and descriptions. It’s a smorgasboard of CEO’s. Raymond was a chief accountability officer before he was hired in Sacramento.

The ultimate goal is to run the school system like a corporation –SCUSD teachers will have continued pressure to “teach the test” and improve API scores — data will be relentlessly tracked and tied to performance by the chief accountability officer.

This reform leads to what education historian Diane Ravitch calls a huge mistake:

Teachers — not just union leaders — are unhappy, frustrated, and demoralized. So are parents, because they don’t like the high-stakes testing regime either. They don’t like that their children are losing time for the arts, science, history, geography, physical education, foreign languages, and everything that is not tested. They may not be well-informed, yet they know that their children are missing out on a good education.

No child left behind races to the top?

Last week’s release of the AYP Progress report for SCUSD shows that many of the schools in our district are failing to adequately educate Sacramento children according to No Child Left Behind standards.

SCUSD schools in year 1 of program improvement status jumped from 3 in 2008-09 to 15 to 2009-10.

The statistics are troubling
. Many of our local high schools are at risk of entering PI status next year.

In last week’s Sacramento Bee, Superintendent Raymond describes the vicious cycle of program improvement:

“It’s like the Hotel California, you check in but you never check out.”

What constitutes failure? STAR test results? Isn’t it clearly obvious that NCLB has most educators focused on “teaching the test”?

The one-size-fits-all approach to the law doesn’t reflect or support the incredibly varied needs and strengths of the schools …

Enter President Obama’s Race to the Top, part of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

In order to receive federal money, California must tie teacher performance to test results and legislators will soon meet in a special session to consider Governor Schwarzenegger’s “Race To the Top” plan which would allow merit pay and more charter schools.

Consequently, the teachers’ unions feel squeezed by former allies, including the president, seeing more of the same, tired rhetoric around test scores as opposed to real, educational reform.

And, by the way, is anyone asking the local teachers about reform? Is there any other profession in this country where salary is used as a punitive measure? Do we pay legislators on how many laws they pass?

It’s long overdue to start listening to educators, teachers and parents.

It’s hard to fathom that Education Secretary Arne Duncan (who has never taught in a classroom) has a better idea of reform for our district than say, Susan Miller.

Will you take Arnold Schwarzenneger’s advice on how to enrich your kid’s high school experience? Wouldn’t your principal be just a bit more knowledgeable?

Let’s ask Kevin Johnson to come into your child’s elementary school class and give the teacher some pointers on how to race to the top…

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KJ’s Education Summit

Yesterday, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson hosted an education summit downtown at the Central Library. Below are links to media articles accompanied by story excerpts or reader commentary.

Sacramento Press
Reader comment: Kevin Johnson began by referring to other town hall meetings and how this one would be different, we would have “respect and dignity.”

Capital Public Radio

San Jose Mercury News

Sacramento Bee
Reader comment: I’m sorry, Mayor Johnson — but you cannot just close failing schools. It sounds like a nice, neat, simple solution: if a school is performing poorly, get rid of it — but it does not take into account the complex realities of actually putting children first — of building an education system that educates every child.

The Governor Monitor
Article excerpt: * Reward teachers who are consistently doing the toughest jobs. Alternative pay schedules highlight effective teaching practices and create incentives to improve our education system.
* Measure student progress to help identify what works in the classroom. Every child is different and looking at both growth measures and overall achievement scores provides a better picture of a student progress over time.

News Blaze
Article excerpt: In addition to encouraging young people to take an active role in their education, Governor Schwarzenegger also called on the legislature to act quickly to enact the statutory changes necessary to ensure California will be eligible and highly competitive for Race to the Top, a $4.35 billion federal competitive grant program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act designed to support education reform and innovation.

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Written by scusdobserver

September 4, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Corporate "School Reform" comes to Sacramento Thursday

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visits Sacramento this Thursday, September 3 to headline Kevin Johnson’s Education Summit.

Following last week’s release of Johnson’s white paper, which supposedly “aligns with Secretary of Education Duncan’s plan for national reform“, Duncan will be sharing his plan this Thursday at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria at 5:00 p.m.

Before attending this Thursday’s corporate love-fest, The Observer urges you to listen to Bruce Dixon’s commentary at The Black Agenda Report.

Excerpt:
Despite a decade of hard sell by right wing think tanks, foundations, and big media, the American people have not bought the corporate version of school reform. Most people just don’t believe public schools should be privatized or militarized, or operated by business people like businesses instead of by educators, parents and communities in the interests of children, parents and communities, like the best schools always have been run. And most educators doubt that high stakes testing improves educational outcomes in any meaningful way.

Written by scusdobserver

August 31, 2009 at 9:59 pm