Oscar E. Cruz

Oscar E. Cruz

Blogs have been written, editorials published, and dozens of action alerts sent to hundreds of individuals related to AB 5, the bill introduced by Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes that aims to revamp teacher evaluations. Lost in all this commotion is the voice of families. Although they are the ultimate users of the public school system, their voices are typically lost in a political process that values compromise more than outcomes.

Families In Schools works annually with thousands of parents from low-income communities and communities of color, and their unified voice screams: “We want a quality education that will prepare our children for college and set them on a road to lifelong success.” Parents want an education system that is focused more on raising student outcomes than on political issues that have no relevance to student improvement. These voices should be our guiding light within a murky and confusing policy-making process.

My role as a community advocate is simple: to elevate parents’ voices to ensure that the best and most effective policy is implemented, not the most politically convenient or the least controversial. If not community advocates, who will advocate on behalf of parents and students?

That is why I believe that the current version of AB 5 is not good enough for the parents we serve. Requiring a board meeting to hear from parents/community is positive, but how will it improve day-to-day teaching and learning? Allowing the evaluation system to be negotiated at the local level retains local autonomy, but how will it eliminate the political gridlock preventing change? The current version of the bill will merely solidify current conditions into law that have already proven to fail our families. The role of policy is to provide solutions to problems, not to codify problems into law that will create even greater barriers to student achievement.

I believe that what we need is a policy that includes parent/student feedback in school staff evaluation, eliminates political gridlock at the local level, and sets clear expectations for school personnel by including student academic growth as a key component of evaluation and personnel decisions.

To be effective, the state bill should aim to ensure that every school in California will be a place of effective and high-quality teaching and learning – local autonomy should never be an excuse to protect inequitable conditions. Without this, the current bill lacks courage. It lacks simple bravery to demand more than just process. Worse, it lacks the courage to demand outcomes and truly address what all families want: a high-quality education for all.

Oscar E. Cruz serves as president & CEO of Families In Schools, a nonprofit in Los Angeles whose primary focus is involving parents and communities in their children’s education to achieve lifelong success. He has more than 12 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. He holds a Master of Arts Degree in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles.

 

 


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  1. oscar says:

    Thank you for your comments. I agree with you that families and students deserve both: time to provide input in the design of the evaluation tools/procedures as well as input as part of the evaluation itself. That was the problem of AB 5, it tried to convince people that the hearings were the only legitimate way to have parent engagement while avoiding the deeper issue of parent input in the evaluation.

    I don’t understand why you say “COULD have organized ourselves”? What is preventing CBOs now from organizing and testifying at their local school district to demand a better evaluation system? AB 5 did not guarantee that parent voices would have been heard, exactly the same situation as now. On the other hand, including parent input in the evaluation would have empowered every single parent in the district to have “a seat at the table” at their child’s school. “Como dice el dicho: querian vender gato por liebre” (To be sold a pig in a poke).

    In regards to the issue of standardize testing, I agree that tests are not designed to measure all learning, but a MINIMUM level of knowledge. A good school will teach students a lot more than just the knowledge in the test; teaching to the test is a sign of a bad school not an argument against testing. Having said that, there are many issues CBOs should advocate for to improve the way standardized test are used and implemented, especially as they relate to low-income and communities of color. Not linking student performance to staff evaluation will only support an education system in which the blame for school underperformance is attributed to the families. In LA more than 90% of the teachers get favorable evaluations, while graduation rates, reading levels, math proficiency continue to be low — I often hear something like this: “we did the best we could under the conditions, we are teaching students that are unruly, parents that are ignorant, families that don’t care; the schools won’t improve unless these parents/student change.”

    I appreciate your time to provide feedback.

  2. Sergio Cuellar says:

    El-i have to agree with you. On one i hear that the public hearing requirements that would have been part of AB 5, that would have required the District to hear public comment prior to bargaining and after a system had been agreed upon, were not enough. But what is the solution to involving families, students and parents, in the process? We would love to see the bravery Mr. Cruz speaks of to require student and parent input as part of the evaluation, but if they are not part of the process to develop the tools then we are reducing their voices to only becoming data points.

    As an advocate for students its not just my job to elevate the voices, but to empower them to push back on the process and get a seat at the table. This was the missed opportunity that AB 5 set up in the requirements. It would have taken Local Organizing and a lot of prep and hard work to get folks at the tables, but with a year and a half before implementation and at least 8 months before the public hearings are to take place, Advocates, organizers, parents and students COULD have organized ourselves to assure that the voices and the numbers that equate to power were there in mass to fight and demand a seat at the table.

    I am also unsure what the author means by “clear expectations for school personnel by including student academic growth as a key component of evaluation and personnel decisions.” Is he speaking to standardized testing to be used as THE measurement for evaluation that should also be used to hire and fire? I hope not. Standardized Testing only further glorifies 3 assumptions: 1) That Standardized Test Measure ALL Students’ Learning, 2) That learning means doing good on standardized tests, and 3) that Teaching means Raising Test Scores. All of which speak nothing to what the parent voices he claims to hear in his work “We want a quality education that will prepare our children for college and set them on a road to lifelong success.”

  3. el says:

    I don’t understand from this article what changes or what better evaluation system the author is advocating for. It is hard to evaluate his argument without those specifics.

    I am also curious as to how he defines “outcomes” for the purpose of his argument – a word that could mean anything from UC admissions to career salaries to 4th grade test scores.