JohnAffeldtSq100312

John Affeldt

California’s shift to a new weighted student funding model represents just the most recent example of how Democratic state policymakers here are charting a different course in education policy than the Obama Administration and Congress.

As I noted in a post last week, California and Washington have taken distinctly different approaches to achievement gaps that increasingly are most closely associated with economic inequality. Rather than focusing on firing “bad” teachers and closing schools, California has moved to direct more resources to low-income districts and increase local decision-making, with sanctions a last resort after support and technical assistance have failed.

Other examples of the divergence between California and Washington abound. It’s not just that Gov. Brown and Secretary Duncan failed to come to terms over a waiver from No Child Left Behind when nearly 40 other states have. While the feds have pushed for greater linkages between student and teacher data, Brown (with the unions quietly cheering) vetoed funding to implement a teacher database, CALTIDES.

In March, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, headed by Brown’s appointee Linda Darling-Hammond, pushed back against the federal predilection to ensure teacher quality by de-emphasizing preparation standards in favor of a holy grail of downstream effectiveness measures. The Commission voted to ramp up pre-service training requirements for interns teaching English learners and in-service supervision requirements for all interns, particularly those teaching ELs. And Washington’s darlings, Teach for America and the charter school lobby, suffered a rare loss when the credentialing commission determined “innovation” can’t excuse putting teachers who know little or nothing about teaching English as a second language in front of English learners.

Beyond the determination evidenced by the state’s new school funding formula to focus on poverty head-on, the biggest divergence between Washington and California is over the use of standardized test scores for accountability purposes, which has been firmly ensconced in D.C. policy since No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was enacted and has been largely adopted by the Obama Administration. Governor Brown, however, has denounced standardized testing and its narrow measurement by fill-in-the-bubble, starting with his 2009 Race to the Top comments through to his most recent State of the State speech.

While the federal Department of Education soon plans to propose new regulations bringing K-12 test scores to teacher education accountability (among other things, limiting federal student aid to students in teacher preparation programs if their prior graduates haven’t produced high enough student test scores), Brown and the Legislature have called for a new “holistic, multi-dimensional” accountability system with the Local Control Funding Formula legislation. By October 2015 the California State Board of Education must adopt a set of evaluation rubrics along these “holistic” lines to determine when districts are to receive technical assistance or later intervention or ultimately possible trusteeship.

The candidates for inclusion among the evaluation rubrics include more than a dozen academic and school climate measures, including rates of graduation, student suspension and absenteeism, English learner reclassification rates, Advanced Placement course exam scores and percentages of students qualifying for admission to the University of California and California State University.

It remains to be seen whether California’s future accountability system, focused on multi-dimensional outcome evaluation, technical assistance and support, with intervention and sanction as a last resort, will square with the future federal accountability system under the next version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA; commonly known as NCLB) or whether the state will continue to be forced to operate two accountability systems, one state and one federal. It’s a fair bet, though, that Washington, particularly its Republicans, have become weary of NCLB’s federal prescriptions and will adopt a new ESEA that gives states much broader leeway.

One thing is for certain: other than getting on board with the Common Core State Standards — which Brown sees as a way to move away from the fill-in-the-bubble tests — California’s governor and Legislature, both influenced by the teachers unions and both solidly in the Democrats’ camp, aren’t reading from the same education policy book as Washington these days.

Is it too much to hope that Washington will begin taking notice and start moving toward the anti-poverty educational policies being pursued in the state where one in eight public school students attend school? Or perhaps the best we can hope for is that continued partisan gridlock in D.C. will continue to create opportunities for California to go its own way.

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John Affeldt is Managing Attorney at Public Advocates Inc., a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination, and is a leading voice on educational equity issues. He has been recognized by California Lawyer Magazine as a California Attorney of the Year.


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  1. Chris 3 years ago3 years ago

    I think this piece is a well-written, thoughtful analysis of Governor Brown’s (and Superintendent Torlakson’s) brave theory of action. They have, through their proposed policy schema, attempted to address the real drivers of educational inequity. I cheer their actions, wish them success, and congratulate the author on a useful article.

  2. navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

    I would love for commenters to put on their extra-cynical hats and comment on the 'CSR' portion of LCFF. My reading of that section is that it is somewhat inaccurate to refer to it as CSR, since the reality is you dont even have to maintain any specific class size to get that portion of the grant (only must be 'making progress' toward a goal or can forgo size targes it altogether with local union … Read More

    I would love for commenters to put on their extra-cynical hats and comment on the ‘CSR’ portion of LCFF. My reading of that section is that it is somewhat inaccurate to refer to it as CSR, since the reality is you dont even have to maintain any specific class size to get that portion of the grant (only must be ‘making progress’ toward a goal or can forgo size targes it altogether with local union signoff (but still get the funding)).

    This really confuses me. Why did they do this? To give local BoE members something to point to as a basis for arguing to continue CSR? Or is there some other more scheming and conniving reason? 😉

    Replies

    • el 3 years ago3 years ago

      In my area, there’s a lot of local pressure for class size reduction, and a board from a nearby district was dramatically turned over (3 incumbents defeated) on that issue when the community wanted smaller classes. So I can’t help you with my extra-cynical hat on that regard. 🙂

      • Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

        el, out of curiosity, have you seen support only at the K-3 level, or also for the old Grade 9 English/Algebra I class size reduction program? In each community where I've lived and taught since 2007, there was a groundswell of media attention, parent activism, and local teachers' union activity when the school board increased or eliminated local K-3 class size limits. In the same communities, resolutions to discontinue participation in the Morgan-Hart (Grade 9) … Read More

        el, out of curiosity, have you seen support only at the K-3 level, or also for the old Grade 9 English/Algebra I class size reduction program? In each community where I’ve lived and taught since 2007, there was a groundswell of media attention, parent activism, and local teachers’ union activity when the school board increased or eliminated local K-3 class size limits. In the same communities, resolutions to discontinue participation in the Morgan-Hart (Grade 9) class size reduction program sailed through without media reports, parent protests, or union testimony.

        Class size reduction is too often reduced to a warm, fluffy issue, when its impact in a Grade 9 Algebra I classroom is just as big as its impact in a Grade 1 classroom.

        I would agree that large classes were typical, at least through the early seventies. One danger in discussing class size figures with people who don’t work in the classroom is that contemporary school and district averages include veritable armies of certificated staff members whose job is other than teaching whole, conventional classes of students all day long. Ratios of certificated staff to students are lower than ever before, but there were comparitively few intervention teachers, small-group special education teachers, small-group ELD teachers, etc. years ago. Preparation time for conventional teachers was generally shorter, and non-teaching periods for academic coaching, BTSA mentorship, ELD coordination, special education case management, etc. were unheard of. For these reasons, today’s averages can’t readily be compared with yesterday’s.

        • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

          K-3 parents pay infinitely more attention than grade 9 parents. :-( Agreed that class sizes mean something completely different today than in the past. In fact, the ratio is usually calculated by enrollment divided by number of teachers, whether those teachers happen to be in a classroom or not. The inclusion of extremely small classes makes the 'average' appear much smaller than it 'really is' (ie, the way community thinks of it). Just another way of … Read More

          K-3 parents pay infinitely more attention than grade 9 parents. 🙁

          Agreed that class sizes mean something completely different today than in the past. In fact, the ratio is usually calculated by enrollment divided by number of teachers, whether those teachers happen to be in a classroom or not. The inclusion of extremely small classes makes the ‘average’ appear much smaller than it ‘really is’ (ie, the way community thinks of it). Just another way of trying to obscure the truth, IMHO.

          The state/SBE had the opportunity to fix this in the SARCs, but they failed. Even there the mandated class size info is not how big the classes actually are, but how many fall into 3 broad ranges: between 1 and 20, between 21 and 32 and 33 or over. So for the purposes of ‘transparency’ about class sizes, a class with 21 kids is equivalent to a class of 32. Thats about as useful as having no information at all.

          But who cares? Surely not school districts, and surely not the SBE. Its only been that way for how many years running now? Zzzzz…

    • John Fensterwald 3 years ago3 years ago

      Actually, navigio, my understanding is that districts DO have to make progress toward the 24 per student goal in eight years. That progress is 1/8th of the way each year, so that if a class size average is 32 this year, it must be 31 next year, or lose the money. There is an out: If the teachers union gives votes to grant an exemption, a district does not have to follow the CSR rules. … Read More

      Actually, navigio, my understanding is that districts DO have to make progress toward the 24 per student goal in eight years. That progress is 1/8th of the way each year, so that if a class size average is 32 this year, it must be 31 next year, or lose the money. There is an out: If the teachers union gives votes to grant an exemption, a district does not have to follow the CSR rules. So if a district has other priorities (a raise in pay perhaps?), the union can agree to them, and CSR will be waived.

      • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

        Right, I said they had to make progress, that they didnt have to be at that 24 size right now to get the funding. I didnt see specific mention of 1/8th, but I guess that's just extrapolating what 'making progress' means since full funding is in 8 years. That said, this also seems to imply that CSR funding is only 1/8th sufficient for each year even though the excess grant rate remains constant. So in … Read More

        Right, I said they had to make progress, that they didnt have to be at that 24 size right now to get the funding. I didnt see specific mention of 1/8th, but I guess that’s just extrapolating what ‘making progress’ means since full funding is in 8 years. That said, this also seems to imply that CSR funding is only 1/8th sufficient for each year even though the excess grant rate remains constant. So in reality, if full funding is sufficient to fund 24 class size, only making progress will mean some of that money is diverted away from CSR for the first 7 years. Interesting dynamic.

  3. Moira Nonnweiler 3 years ago3 years ago

    I have spent 8 years in the trenches. I have taught in all settings (special education mild/mod), RSP, and general education (elementary, middle school and high school) Here are my observations; 1) 40 years ago education was quite homogenous, After desegregation, classes had several diverse elements that made teaching more difficult, 2) Next came the mainstreaming of several disabilities into the mix 3) then came the huge influx of ELL population and illegal immigration that brought with it a … Read More

    I have spent 8 years in the trenches. I have taught in all settings (special education mild/mod), RSP, and general education (elementary, middle school and high school)

    Here are my observations;
    1) 40 years ago education was quite homogenous, After desegregation, classes had several diverse elements that made teaching more difficult,
    2) Next came the mainstreaming of several disabilities into the mix
    3) then came the huge influx of ELL population and illegal immigration that brought with it a set of unique problems
    4) Now add to that unbudgeted expenses. Lets face it, we were pretending that elephant wasn’t in the room until the elephant pushed out the walls.
    5) Unions continued with step increases and benefits inspire of huge special Ed costs and ELL costs,
    So now we have larger class size, enormous diversity in the classroom and we want to judge teachers on an impossible situation. They are swimming with their hands tied behind their back,

    SOLUTION; Reduce class size to 20 plus an aide in each class, reduce special Ed litigation and paperwork, put track system back in place so the gifted have a fighting chance. Raise expectations back to where they need to be. Stop making excuses for student performance. Give students options so that college isn’t the only option. There IS a Bell Shape Curve and stop denying it. We need to help poor children. They do have unique issues that prevents success. We will lose these kids if we don’t start working on preventative measures. Pay now or pay way more later….. It is what it is …..

    Replies

    • Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

      Moira, your observations are right on the mark. For the benefit of readers who aren't public school teachers, I think it's important to clarify the purpose of step increases. Teachers have one job title and cannot be promoted in-place -- they would have to exit classroom teaching instead. They receive annual step increases on a standardized salary grid, where other professionals have individually-negotiated starting salaries, performance-based raises, and in-place promotion opportunities ("Secretary II", "Senior Associate", etc.). As … Read More

      Moira, your observations are right on the mark.

      For the benefit of readers who aren’t public school teachers, I think it’s important to clarify the purpose of step increases. Teachers have one job title and cannot be promoted in-place — they would have to exit classroom teaching instead. They receive annual step increases on a standardized salary grid, where other professionals have individually-negotiated starting salaries, performance-based raises, and in-place promotion opportunities (“Secretary II”, “Senior Associate”, etc.).

      As for solutions, I agree that smaller classes are a good antidote to increased heterogeneity. Local Control Funding, when fully phased in, will provide a financial incentive to school districts that maintain an average class size of 24 students from kindergarten through third grade. For the next eight years at least, school districts will receive an increasing portion of this incentive, but with no requirement to keep primary class sizes low. Many districts gave up class size reduction in ninth grade academic courses, of their own free will. That program was still funded, but has now ended forever, with the few dollars claimed by the few remaining participating districts rolled in to the local control funding formula, i.e., diluted.

      I also agree with proscribing special education lawsuits. IEP and Section 504 accommodations and modifications should be selected from a standardized menu of reasonable options, in the same way that health insurers consult formularies before approving prescriptions.

      It makes good sense to restore academic standards and revive pathways that lead to direct employment or to skilled trades apprenticeships, instead of forcing college preparatory classes on all middle and high school students. I’m not sure that this solution is a question of tracking, so much as a question of bringing back vocational and trade course options (and facilities), beginning in middle school.

      Returning to the original article, Public Advocates makes a mountain out of a molehill by mentioning what was really a small change in the authorization language for intern teachers who do not possess prior credentials. The number of general education intern teachers has been declining for years. Already in 2011-2012, there were fewer than 1,000 new general education internship credential-holders in a total teacher workforce of over 280,000 people (CTC, Teacher Supply in California 2011-2012,Table 4)! Public Advocates is on record as saying that interns — teachers who have met all testing, program admission, and initial employment requirements but are teaching for one, two or three years WHILE completing certification coursework and summative assessment instead of AFTER — harm students.

      The internship pathway has existed in California since 1967, long before Teach for America. Public Advocates’ repeated attempts to restrict (effectively close) the internship pathway can hardly be called good for K-12 students. State law says that interns can never be hired when preliminary or clear credential-holders are available. If the internship pathway were not available (viable) for such situations, the only remaining alternative would be to hire teachers on one-year permits or waivers, or 30-day emergency substitute permits. Those candidates have not met subject matter testing or program admission requirements.

      • John Affeldt 3 years ago3 years ago

        Paul, Public Advocates has never advocated for restricting or closing the internship pathway. Instead, we have advocated for better preparing and supporting teacher interns for the types of students they will most likely be teaching: English Learners (ELs). See, for instance, my report on the CCTC’s decision in April, posted here: http://www.publicadvocates.org/2013-05-21/we-won-cctc-agrees-to-reform-el-training-for-intern-teachers. As you noted, state law provides that interns and other underprepared teachers should not be hired where there is a suitable fully-prepared … Read More

        Paul,

        Public Advocates has never advocated for restricting or closing the internship pathway. Instead, we have advocated for better preparing and supporting teacher interns for the types of students they will most likely be teaching: English Learners (ELs). See, for instance, my report on the CCTC’s decision in April, posted here: http://www.publicadvocates.org/2013-05-21/we-won-cctc-agrees-to-reform-el-training-for-intern-teachers. As you noted, state law provides that interns and other underprepared teachers should not be hired where there is a suitable fully-prepared teacher available. We can all agree that, if there is vacancy and no suitable fully-prepared teacher is available, the next best person for a district to hire is an intern (who, unlike a substitute or emergency permit holder, has demonstrated subject matter competency and is admitted to a teacher preparation program). The action taken by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing in April ensures that interns receive appropriate support, supervision, and preservice training, particularly in how to meet the needs of English learner students. This will mean a lot in terms of the educational opportunities for the students in their classrooms, especially ELs.

    • el 3 years ago3 years ago

      For the record, we don't have larger class sizes than 40 years ago. 30-40 years ago, classes were very large. I had classes of 45 in high school and near 40 in elementary where I grew up. (They were only capped there because you couldn't get any more desks in the room.) We just didn't worry about ELL kids or IEPs or special ed kids - either they fit right in or they didn't get … Read More

      For the record, we don’t have larger class sizes than 40 years ago. 30-40 years ago, classes were very large. I had classes of 45 in high school and near 40 in elementary where I grew up. (They were only capped there because you couldn’t get any more desks in the room.) We just didn’t worry about ELL kids or IEPs or special ed kids – either they fit right in or they didn’t get educated and the larger society didn’t worry all that much about which it was.

      My teachers largely grew up in the era of women choosing between nursing or teaching as careers, and the salaries paid to them reflected that. Fortunately, they bought their housing in the 60’s and 70’s, so they could afford to live on those salaries.

  4. Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

    Chris, I'm not sure whether school district spending per capita has risen faster than inflation since 1990, but I'd love to delve into your source. Do your figures distinguish capital spending from operating spending? Do they distinguish unrestricted state funds, categorical state funds, federal funds, local parcel tax revenue, etc.? What about certain years after 2007-2008, when there were absolute reductions in funding? On a side note, you seem to subscribe to the "common sense" belief, … Read More

    Chris, I’m not sure whether school district spending per capita has risen faster than inflation since 1990, but I’d love to delve into your source. Do your figures distinguish capital spending from operating spending? Do they distinguish unrestricted state funds, categorical state funds, federal funds, local parcel tax revenue, etc.? What about certain years after 2007-2008, when there were absolute reductions in funding?

    On a side note, you seem to subscribe to the “common sense” belief, embedded in the Jarvis – Gann spending limits, Proposition 13, and so on, that per capita government spending would naturally grow at the rate of inflation. This makes no sense when the scope of the public services being provided is increasing. Although the processes of identifying and meeting our obligations to English Learners and students with disabilities began with lawsuits in the 1970s, much of the work occurred after 1990. Larger percentages of students are English Learners and/or special education students, and the mandates for serving these populations have grown dramatically in number, complexity and cost. The demands placed on government change over time. The “average” student of today is more likely to have special needs, and the real unit cost of serving those needs is higher than in 1990.

    People who argue in favor of limiting per capita spending to inflation usually disagree with special services for English Learners or for students with disabilities in the first place. Whatever anyone’s beliefs, the students are present and federal courts have found that they are entitled to an appropriate education.

  5. charlie23 3 years ago3 years ago

    Chris, You need to educate yourself about A.L.E.C.! That's why this is referred to as the "corporate reform movement", which is indeed driven by the 1% ers. The presumption this piece operates from is correct. Furthermore, the very idea that teachers' unions have anywhere near enough power to "rig the school system" is preposterous. Do research A.L.E.C. This issue is way deeper than states, schools, teachers, and students. The main … Read More

    Chris,
    You need to educate yourself about A.L.E.C.! That’s why this is referred to as the “corporate reform movement”, which is indeed driven by the 1% ers. The presumption this piece operates from is correct.
    Furthermore, the very idea that teachers’ unions have anywhere near enough power to “rig the school system” is preposterous. Do research A.L.E.C. This issue is way deeper than states, schools, teachers, and students. The main problem in education is, and has been, poverty. The U.S. poverty level compared to other developed countries is a national disgrace. CA is on the right track. The federal policy is only trying to make schoolteachers responsible and accountable for poverty in America. Teachers have cried “foul”, and rightfully so.

  6. Arnold F. Fege 3 years ago3 years ago

    And so Chris, anyone who involves our teachers in the education change they will have to ultimately implement, instead of cutting them off at the knees, is “anti-reform?” That is so 19th century. Groan

  7. Chris Reed 3 years ago3 years ago

    What is astounding about this piece is that it operates from the presumption that the California education establishment actually cares "about the kids" and is actively trying to improve schools. The reality is reflected in the recent Center for Public Integrity investigation about districts treating expelled students as ADA cash cows by having them "study at home" instead of actually helping. The reality is reflected in the L.A. Times story about the UTLA official/teacher who taunted a … Read More

    What is astounding about this piece is that it operates from the presumption that the California education establishment actually cares “about the kids” and is actively trying to improve schools.

    The reality is reflected in the recent Center for Public Integrity investigation about districts treating expelled students as ADA cash cows by having them “study at home” instead of actually helping.

    The reality is reflected in the L.A. Times story about the UTLA official/teacher who taunted a ninth-grader over his failed suicide attempt but didn’t lose his job.

    The reality is reflected in school budgets. In 1990, when I came to California, it was typical for employee compensation to consume about 75 percent of operating budgets. Now the norm is closer to 90 percent. Why? The power of adult employees. And, yes, since 1990, school spending per student has gone up faster than inflation.

    If Affeldt really cares about the “systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination,” he would join Gloria Romero in taking on the teachers unions who rig the school system in California to bring comfort to veteran teachers above all other priorities.

    Instead, Affeldt plays the George Lakoff game of trying to diminish reformers with labels. They’re “corporate.” Groan.

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