Credit: Video of the event by Educate Our State.

State superintendent candidates Marshall Tuck, left, and Tom Torlakson shake hands at the end of the debate co-sponsored by Educate Our State and the Santa Clara County Office of Education.

The two candidates for state superintendent of public instruction disagreed on the condition of K-12 education in California, the influence of teachers unions and which of them is best qualified for the job at a forum Saturday in Burlingame, the last scheduled joint appearance before the Nov. 4 election.

Incumbent Tom Torlakson cited “real progress” in restoring money to schools, shifting to new academic standards and increasing high school graduation rates to a record level as indications that schools are headed in the right direction. “This is not the time to put progress at risk,” he said at an hour-long head-to-head debate.

His challenger, Marshall Tuck, cited the need for “fundamental, comprehensive change” to improve academic performance that he said has been stagnant for 20 years – a reference to the state’s performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress – and has left 2.5 million students failing to read and write  at grade level. He cast blame on “the same Sacramento leadership” of  “insiders,  politicians and business as usual” that he identified with Torlakson.

As he has done throughout his campaign, Tuck condemned Torlakson’s appeal of a Superior Court judge’s ruling in Vergara v. the State of California, overturning laws creating tenure in two years, governing dismissals and requiring layoffs by seniority. Those laws, he said, “have led us to a situation where we can’t have an effective teacher in the classroom” and are “crushing the hopes” of the state’s most challenged students. He cited personal frustration in having to tell a great teacher that he would be laid off, while a less effective teacher with more seniority would stay. He said he would drop the Vergara appeal if he were elected. (The case would still proceed, since Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Teachers Association have also filed an appeal.)

Torlakson agreed that when “teachers are not up to it, move them out” and said that he wrote and helped pass a law this year making it easier to fire “ineffective and abusive teachers.” The bill, AB 215, by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, dealt primarily with teachers charged with abuse, not poor performance. But Torlakson also said, Teachers need a fair hearing when their job is on the line” and dismissed the Vergara lawsuit as blaming teachers for problems facing schools. The way to improve the workforce, he said, is “investing in teachers, giving them the resources they need.” He pointed to his Blueprint for Great Schools, the product of a task force he created, which makes recommendations for attracting teachers, then training and retaining them throughout their careers.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan parents group Educate Our State and the Santa Clara County Office of Education co-sponsored the event, moderated by this reporter. It was the second forum between the two candidates. Torlakson and Tuck are both Democrats, although state superintendent is a nonpartisan office.

Torlakson, 65, who is seeking his second term as state superintendent, was a high school teacher for seven years before going into Contra Costa County and state politics. He served two terms in the state Assembly and Senate. Tuck, 41, has been a school administrator for a dozen years. He was president of Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school organization in Los Angeles, and then served as CEO of Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a nonprofit organization created by then-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa that runs 17 schools serving 15,000 students within the Los Angeles Unified School District.

A Field Poll earlier this month showed Tuck ahead of Torlakson 31 to 28 percent, with 40 percent of voters saying they hadn’t made up their minds.

Torlakson and Tuck agreed Saturday on a number of key directions and state policies. Both said they agreed that K-12 schools need more money for operations and to build or restore facilities; both support the Common Core State Standards, and both favor the shift of authority away from Sacramento under the Local Control Funding Formula. But there were caveats and subtle and significant disagreements on details and on the degree of progress that the state has made.

On school funding: Tuck said it’s essential to persuade Californians to believe again in their schools; “it’s not simply about asking them for more money.” The first step would be to “decrease the bureaucracy” and eliminate sections of the state Education Code that “tell principals and teachers what to do and how to do it, so they can’t be most effective for kids even with additional dollars.” Principals need more power to assemble teams of effective teachers, he said, and district schools need the same flexibility that charter schools have. Step two would be to use “sharp elbows and get aggressive in Sacramento to reallocate dollars in other areas” – he singled out prisons – “to our schools.”

Step three would be to raise spending to at least the national average, he said. “I do not waver in any way, shape or form about the need for more revenue,” he said, disputing Torlakson’s claim that he has been ambivalent on that point. But he said Californians will embrace our schools only if they believe “decisions are prioritizing children and not the status quo.”

Torlakson called the move from “bubble testing and rote memorization” to “critical thinking and problem solving” under Common Core a “great change” that California is adopting “with less contention than in other states” … But Tuck disputed Torlakson’s assertion that “California is leading the nation in terms of being prepared” for the new standards.

Torlakson said that after becoming superintendent amid the state’s financial crisis, he declared a financial emergency and worked hard to restore stability through the passage of Proposition 30, temporarily raising state taxes. He said Tuck was “missing in action” in the campaign for Prop. 30 – a charge Tuck denied.

Torlakson took credit for the $1.25 billion in additional funding to districts to implement Common Core and the $500 million in new career and college readiness programs creating internships in nearly 1,000 businesses. Parents and business leaders value these programs, Torlakson said, and he has been “making the case up and down the state” that schools are producing results.

On Common Core: Torlakson called the move from “bubble testing and rote memorization” to “critical thinking and problem solving” under Common Core a “great change” that California is adopting “with less contention than in other states” because political leaders, businesses, teachers and parents – once they learn about the new standards – are embracing them.

But Tuck disputed Torlakson’s assertion that “California is leading the nation in terms of being prepared” for the new standards.

“The state has not been effective in implementing Common Core,” Tuck said, doing nothing between 2010, when the State Board adopted the new standards, and 2013, when the state budget included money for districts to implement Common Core. He said parents are “uninformed,” teachers feel “undersupported,” and there has been no professional development for principals.

Torlakson said he took on federal officials by suspending state standardized tests while insisting that school districts be able to give all students the field or practice test in the new standards last spring – an action he said Tuck opposed. But Tuck said he supported the moratorium; what he opposed was the decision by the state not to give parents and teachers the results of the practice test. Parents must be trusted with information, Tuck said.

On the influence of teachers unions: The CTA has spent millions of dollars in independent advertising to support Torlakson and criticize Tuck. Torlakson said he is “proud to be backed by teachers and to be a teacher.” Tuck referred to a Los Angeles Times article in which Torlakson said he has had no major policy differences with the CTA. But Torlakson said, “Sometimes I’ll agree with the union and sometimes I won’t, but I’ll always agree with the kids and always agree with teachers on the front line.” And he added, “My classroom experience guides me every day in making decisions on improving conditions for students.”

Tuck has worked with unionized teachers: at Green Dot, the state’s first unionized charter school organization, and in Los Angeles Unified. But in Sacramento, he said, the “CTA has too much influence.” Teachers unions should have a seat at the table, he said, but “parent and voter voices should be the anchor driver” on education policies and decisions. Passage of the laws challenged in the Vergara lawsuit “shows you how disproportionate that influence is,” he said. “You have basically every politician in Sacramento lining up behind the CTA, and the state superintendent whose job it is to prioritize kids appealing the case.”

On school accountability and standardized tests: Both Torlakson and Tuck supported the move toward a school accountability system that includes multiple factors beyond test scores, including, they said, attendance and graduation rates and measures of college and career readiness. But they differed in emphasis.

Torlakson, who authored AB 484, laying out the transition to new standardized tests, said there had been an overemphasis, even an “obsession,” in the past decade on math and reading scores. As a result, schools that did great work in motivating kids at risk of dropping out, for example, didn’t get credit for keeping them in school, because they might temporarily lower test scores. So it’s important to define the targets differently, he said, and recognize programs that excite students to pursue career options. Data is important, he said, and teachers use it daily to zero in on helping students improve.

Tuck said standardized tests are important to measure students’ knowledge and to learn from schools that are excelling in certain areas. Data on student achievement should be an important part of measuring a school’s performance, as well as a teacher’s performance, though not the majority factor, he said. The primary goal is to use data to improve instruction; the secondary goal is to provide information to parents and the community so that they can determine, “Is our school truly serving our kids?”

On who’s more qualified: Frequently referring to himself as a teacher and a coach, Torlakson contrasted his “different mindset and background” in education with Tuck, whom Torlakson said entered education as a chief financial officer. Disputing Tuck’s claim that he represents the status quo, Torlakson said, “I have been at the forefront of change,” and that he has done so by being “a team builder,” bringing together teachers, parents and business leaders, as well as legislators. He said he, Gov. Brown and the State Board of Education are united in ways to move the state forward.

Tuck cited his experience in “turning around low-performing schools serving the neediest students in Los Angeles,” significantly raising graduation rates and test scores compared with surrounding district schools. He did so by hiring effective principals and great teachers, he said, and he praised the Saturday morning Parent College that the Partnership Schools created to teach parents their rights and encourage them to become involved with their children’s education. He said he took offense that Torlakson and the CTA continue to call him a Wall Street investment banker – referring to his first job out of college when he was 22 and 23.

Torlakson cited the lengthy list of endorsements of state leaders, legislators, members of Congress, public and private employee unions, superintendents and school board members. Tuck cited the endorsements of all of the state’s major newspapers.


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  1. Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

    You know, it's pretty easy to be smooth with words when you're just winging it with the facts. For example, Tuck talks about the " personal frustration in having to tell a great teacher that he would be laid off, while a less effective teacher with more seniority would stay." Really? Take this little bit of reality about charter schools as described by Howard Blume in the LA Times. By the way this article focused on a … Read More

    You know, it’s pretty easy to be smooth with words when you’re just winging it with the facts.

    For example, Tuck talks about the ” personal frustration in having to tell a great teacher that he would be laid off, while a less effective teacher with more seniority would stay.” Really?

    Take this little bit of reality about charter schools as described by Howard Blume in the LA Times. By the way this article focused on a teacher from a Green Dot Charter:

    ” High turnover reported among charter school teachers
    With so many charter school teachers moving on each year, concerns arise about retaining quality educators and how stability affects student performance.
    July 25, 2011|By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

    Around 50% of teachers in charter middle and high schools left their jobs each year over a six-year period studied by UC Berkeley researchers, who released their findings last week.

    The Berkeley study didn’t track why teachers departed — it counts them whether they left on good terms or bad, content or burned out, leaving a school temporarily or permanently quitting the profession — or how that affected academic achievement. But the researchers note that previous studies point to the importance of stability for student success. And what kind of job has a 50% annual turnover?”

    High turnover, aka, “churn,” at charters remains a problem today as it did in 2011. It appears Tuck didn’t really have much of a problem keeping a “great” teacher, he had problems keeping ANY teacher. And as Mr. Tuck has no actual classroom experience himself, just how did he define “great?”

    And, again: “Tuck cited his experience in “turning around low-performing schools serving the neediest students in Los Angeles,” significantly raising graduation rates and test scores compared with surrounding district schools.”

    The reality, as I’ve cited before from the LA Times about the program Tuck ran for the former mayor of LA:
    L.A. Unified bests reform groups in most cases, data show
    Struggling schools under district control see test scores rise more than most operated by the mayor, a charter organization and others, a Times analysis finds.
    August 18, 2011|By Howard Blume and Sandra Poindexter Los Angeles Times

    “The mayor’s high schools showed a 5.7 percentage point increase in English and a 1.5 point increase in math, a smaller rise than the district’s.”

    As that most famous of all “smooth talkers” from The Music Man said: “There’s trouble in River City!” As Sacramento likes to feature itself as CA’s “river city,” there will indeed be trouble if the smooth talking pawn of the 1%, Mr. Tuck, gets himself ensconced there.

    Replies

    • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

      You've made yourself very clear in your condemnation of Vergara as a straw man. It is also very clear that large swaths of the public agree with you and maybe even larger swaths disagree with you. That is to say, seniority and LIFO are not non- issues even if you think they are due to administrative incompetence. There are a number of reasons why charters have high turnover. That doesn't mean they don't care about … Read More

      You’ve made yourself very clear in your condemnation of Vergara as a straw man. It is also very clear that large swaths of the public agree with you and maybe even larger swaths disagree with you. That is to say, seniority and LIFO are not non- issues even if you think they are due to administrative incompetence.

      There are a number of reasons why charters have high turnover. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about losing great teachers to layoffs at unionized schools.

      So would you support a Vergara-type litigation to remove ineffective administrators?

      As you might know, I am not thrilled with some charter practices and I’m no hell-or-high-water charter supporter. I don’t want to see a gangbuster-type pro=charter SPI because such a person would likely do more harm than good to the fragile charter movement if he were to allow charter excesses to run rampant. I want more charter accountability,not less.

      • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

        Gary has never suggested an alternative to encourage more aggressive progress by administrators in getting rid of bad teachers and more pressure to minimize sick days. He always pokes holes in any effort to reduce "sick" days used falsely. I've challenged him on this and he's never suggested a reform, though he will try to poke holes in Vergara suggesting that Principals should be more aggressive under existing law. He's never commented … Read More

        Gary has never suggested an alternative to encourage more aggressive progress by administrators in getting rid of bad teachers and more pressure to minimize sick days. He always pokes holes in any effort to reduce “sick” days used falsely. I’ve challenged him on this and he’s never suggested a reform, though he will try to poke holes in Vergara suggesting that Principals should be more aggressive under existing law. He’s never commented on there being under 100 total terminations statewide in 10 year. He’s never even stated unequivocally that he is morally against using a day off when it is avoidable, for instance going to the movies and calling it a mental health day, he’s never said he’s against that. When push comes to shove, he’ll analyze very minutely any effort to change this status quo and find any error in it, but I’ve yet to see him challenge a teacher calling in sick, from what I see he feels teachers calling in sick are never wrong. I would support say having a suspension of seniority in lay offs whereby an excellent young teacher could be retained if any older teachers have used over 15 sick days in the previous 3 years with no doctor’s note, with 33 being the norm in SFUSD (over half have used all 33 days over 3 years, according to news articles, the maximum allowable). This kind of law would make teachers nervous to take a day off unless it were truly avoidable, and provide a loophole to keep great teachers on the job if there is a better possible choice for a lay off. Gary has consistently been against this kind of idea. He is very vigilant in poking holes and suggesting administrators should be aggressive in firing bad teachers, but never wants to make it easier or change any existing law to make this a reality. I believe he is 100% pro status quo on this, as is Torlakson.

        • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

          I just got back from Lowell's Back To School Night, where 4 of my 2 children's 14 teachers did not show up to the one day thousands of parents go to the school to meet them and learn about the classes. In my view, this should count more in determining lay offs than years of seniority. One excellent teacher who supports the Vergara finding has been there 3 of 3 years, and several … Read More

          I just got back from Lowell’s Back To School Night, where 4 of my 2 children’s 14 teachers did not show up to the one day thousands of parents go to the school to meet them and learn about the classes. In my view, this should count more in determining lay offs than years of seniority. One excellent teacher who supports the Vergara finding has been there 3 of 3 years, and several teachers have missed all 3 years. This is, in my view, morally wrong. It is very rude to parents who sacrifice an evening to get involved in their child’s education. This is one of the best schools in the state, yet teachers are allowed to miss 3 years in a row.

          • Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 2 years ago2 years ago

            These are the FU messages sent to parents by some teachers.
            These are signposts that should be taken seriously by the school’s supervisory administration.
            Fall open house is a rare communal experience in a big busy public high school and teachers should show up.
            How was the parent turnout?

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            Most teachers were there, about 80%. In my view, they should have it another day if some teachers can’t come. It was disrespectful. I just had bad luck. I was really upset one teacher didn’t show up for a 3d year in a row. Most were there but those who weren’t should be reprimanded, it’s really disrespectful to parents.

          • Lloyd Lofthouse 2 years ago2 years ago

            Floyd Thursby 1941, I'm Lloyd 1945, and I was a public school teacher for thirty years (1975-2005), and all I remember of parent teacher conference nights was the number of parents who never came. For instance, If I had a student load of 200 students, I might see 20 parents---and this was usually more than the average probably because of all the phone calls I made to get parents in----and most of them were the … Read More

            Floyd Thursby 1941,

            I’m Lloyd 1945, and I was a public school teacher for thirty years (1975-2005), and all I remember of parent teacher conference nights was the number of parents who never came. For instance, If I had a student load of 200 students, I might see 20 parents—and this was usually more than the average probably because of all the phone calls I made to get parents in—-and most of them were the parents of children who were doing a good job in my class and earning A’s and/or B’s, while close to 100% of the parents of students who were failing, because those students seldom if ever did any of the work, never came.

            Parents are much more important than teachers when it comes to a child’s education. That was determined from the 1966 Coleman Report and no one has been able to prove that report wrong, In fact, a string of studies have agreed that parents are the most important factor in a child’s education by a HUGE margin.

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            Lloyd, you make a good point but it doesn't negate the other point. Even at Lowell, the top high school in the northern half of the State, maybe a third of parents came. I see the same faces I've seen since elementary and middle school. Even some parents of very good students, therefore probably very good parents, don't like to get involved in PTSA or even back to school nights. An … Read More

            Lloyd, you make a good point but it doesn’t negate the other point. Even at Lowell, the top high school in the northern half of the State, maybe a third of parents came. I see the same faces I’ve seen since elementary and middle school. Even some parents of very good students, therefore probably very good parents, don’t like to get involved in PTSA or even back to school nights. An even bigger problem is only 16% of white kids start kindergarten knowing how to read and the average white kid studies 5.6 hours a week after age 11, vs. 60% and 13.8 for Asians, and that could be better, I only use that as a benchmark as what any group does could be emulated.

            So we have a situation where many parents put their children second. The divorce rate shows that many fathers, and a few mothers, will gladly divorce knowing that nearly reduces their children’s odds of a college degree by half and more than doubles their odds of prison or homelessness, and over two thirds of the time the relationship they leave for leads to divorce, so they basically consider their sex life more important than their children’s academic life. This doesn’t even mention the parents who watch TV with their kids instead of encouraging study and reading, or ignore them and let them play video games all evening, not to mention nutrition.

            But teachers should be role models and come to these nights. It is important. More importantly, teachers should be experts in what it takes to be a good student and be lecturing these students and convincing them and their parents from a young age to read over the summer to avoid summer learning loss and study 20+ hours and really associate that with income, poverty and having a future. Most kids don’t get the message. Our kids study less than kids in Asia and Europe, not to mention Australia and New Zealand. Lawyers are experts in the law, doctors in medicine, teachers should be experts in childhood time management and behavior and convince children to choose a lifestyle geared towards success. When teachers don’t show up and value a night of RNR over connecting to parents who do come, it sets a bad example. Your job is to encourage children to choose success and work hard and value education, to teach them but how much they learn is tied to how much they study. It’s like Spitzer getting caught with the call girl or an anti-drug czar’s kid doing heroin, I’m libertarian on these issues generally but Spitzer and the drug czar put others in prison for doing what they or their kid did, and a teacher is giving grades to a child which hurts their future for not working hard enough, but they aren’t working hard enough.

            Bad parenting may be a much bigger problem than bad teaching and it is, because the number of truly bad teachers is estimated even by the most harsh estimates at under 5%. However, it doesn’t make not showing up not also a problem. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  2. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    After watching the debate I have to commend John for doing a great job of moderating. I started watching with the assumption that Torlakson was the unions's man and that Tuck was the corporate reform candidate. After the debate I concluded that to be the case. Overall, I was very clear to me that Tuck won the debate though winning a debate is not a reason to vote for a candidate, IME. Tuck spoke more extemporaneously … Read More

    After watching the debate I have to commend John for doing a great job of moderating.

    I started watching with the assumption that Torlakson was the unions’s man and that Tuck was the corporate reform candidate. After the debate I concluded that to be the case.

    Overall, I was very clear to me that Tuck won the debate though winning a debate is not a reason to vote for a candidate, IME. Tuck spoke more extemporaneously while Torlakson referred to notes, seemed more practiced, engaged in cheerleading and attacked his opponent more often, though I wouldn’t characterize the debate as acrimonious. Tuck was far more energetic and passionate, for what that’s worth, and he was largely able to nullify Torlakson’s attacks. Torlakson was unable to shake off the image of Sacramento insider.

    I would have liked to hear more specifics, but I suppose some of the lack for substantive remarks had in part to do with the format and time constraints.

    I was surprised that Tuck faulted the item tryout last spring for failing to give parents results. The SB “testing” was not intended as an assessment of test taker content knowledge and providing results to parents would not only have been impossible but pointless and misleading ( Doug?).

    Tuck made a great response to Torlakson about the fact that reforming education has more to do then just with money while making it very clear that money is a big issue. He was able to expand on this theme throughout the debate.

    Torlakson certainly came across as the more experienced candidate, but Tuck was able to use that against him as the “status quo” candidate. Torlakson made efforts to shake that mantle, but I felt that Tuck was able to score more points on that issue. Tuck also made Torlakson look bad for accusing him of being a Wall Street guy when Tuck corrected the record to explain that he worked in finance for a couple years directly out of college. The charge was part of CTA $1.6M donation to the independent committee to support Torlakson’s primary campaign (only $6,800 can go directly to the candidate) and technically speaking that accusation didn’t come from Torlakson. But then he made the mistake of saying it at the debate which was kind of stupid since it really is a ridiculous criticism against Tuck who has spent the vast majority of his working life in education, though he’s much younger than Torlakson.

    Torlakson incorrectly characterized LCFF as decision-making at the school level. Big mistake, especially when Brown just vetoed an amendment to involve SSC’s in the LCAP. He said he sometimes disagreed with the union but was unable to explain when or how. Torlakson scored points when he characterized Vergara as procedural issues. Tuck scored his biggest victory of the night by painting his opponent as a bureaucrat when he explained that there’s nothing procedural in having to explain to a parent why at unionized Green Dot he had to keep the lesser teacher over the better one during layoffs.

    Replies

    • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

      I made one error in my previous comment when I said "Torlakson scored pointed when he characterized Vergara as procedural issues.." He lost points. i might as well add that Torlakson didn't come across as very child/family friendly. Tuck spoke directly to the concerns of parents and kids while Torlakson seemed to speak about his own accomplishments and working with the legislature and powers that be. This dynamic characterized much of the debate, especially … Read More

      I made one error in my previous comment when I said “Torlakson scored pointed when he characterized Vergara as procedural issues..” He lost points.

      i might as well add that Torlakson didn’t come across as very child/family friendly. Tuck spoke directly to the concerns of parents and kids while Torlakson seemed to speak about his own accomplishments and working with the legislature and powers that be. This dynamic characterized much of the debate, especially in the latter exchange when Tuck spoke about laying off the better teacher and how that isn’t about procedure when it has to do with the “anchor and foundation of a kid’s future”. This really was a home run for Tuck and it contrasted with Torlakson lackluster dispassionate demeanor.

      I also felt Torlakson mischaracterized the bill that made it easier to get rid of abusive teachers. He tried to imply that it makes it easier to lay off ineffective teachers and while it has some minor application in that regard, it is not an alternative answer to the Vergara decision.

      All in all I came away liking Tuck more andTorlakson less

      • Doug McRae 2 years ago2 years ago

        Don: To reply to your point that 2014 Smarter "tests" were actually item-tryout exercises and did not generate meaningful results for kids or teachers or parents, you are correct. But Tuck's general response on this point, that when a state gives a testing exercise to 100 percent of the kids, people in the trenches deserve feedback data is relevant and very much applies to results for the 2015 Smarter tests. The 2014 Smarter data will … Read More

        Don: To reply to your point that 2014 Smarter “tests” were actually item-tryout exercises and did not generate meaningful results for kids or teachers or parents, you are correct. But Tuck’s general response on this point, that when a state gives a testing exercise to 100 percent of the kids, people in the trenches deserve feedback data is relevant and very much applies to results for the 2015 Smarter tests. The 2014 Smarter data will not generate valid cut scores from the Smarter standards-setting exercise commencing next week [even Smarter says that exercise will generate only “preliminary” cut scores to be validated by 2015 data], and as a result the SSPI/CDE promise of early availability of results (they promised 2 to 4 weeks after individual kids complete their SB tests next spring at a meeting for LEAs early this week) is a false promise . . . . valid scores from spring testing won’t be available until fall 2015 at best. And to release invalid scores early while planning to replace them with valid scores 4-6 months later is a notion with major limited appeal. So, Tuck’s general response on the need for feedback from statewide assessment program efforts was very much on-point and should be an issue when discussing availability of 2015 Smarter test results. Doug

        • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

          Doug, I raised this point about Tuck's complaint regarding the absence of results for parents, students and teachers because it appeared to me as if he was not as well-informed as he should have been on this issue as a candidate for SSPI. If you look at the video around the 29 minute mark, he was referring specifically to last year's incipient trials which he referred to as "tests' and the fact that … Read More

          Doug, I raised this point about Tuck’s complaint regarding the absence of results for parents, students and teachers because it appeared to me as if he was not as well-informed as he should have been on this issue as a candidate for SSPI. If you look at the video around the 29 minute mark, he was referring specifically to last year’s incipient trials which he referred to as “tests’ and the fact that parents and students didn’t get any results. Of course, there were novalid results to provide parents. I don’t believe there has ever been any question as to whether parents should receive test results in general once the test is ready for prime time (another issue). He seemed to fall pry to a popular misconception that the state withheld the test results though many of the state’s students took a “test”. Either he was misinformed or he was trying to fault Torlakson and Co inappropriately.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Doug, in the same exchange Tuck also criticized Torlakson for a lack of effort on the State's part to support the Common Core implementation between its adoption in 2010 and 2013. This seemed like a fair criticism which Torlakson failed to address. Of course,Torlakson cannot be entirely blamed for that failure, but it seemed to be a good point and one that I haven't heard expressed in the media. Is this an inside baseball … Read More

            Doug, in the same exchange Tuck also criticized Torlakson for a lack of effort on the State’s part to support the Common Core implementation between its adoption in 2010 and 2013. This seemed like a fair criticism which Torlakson failed to address. Of course,Torlakson cannot be entirely blamed for that failure, but it seemed to be a good point and one that I haven’t heard expressed in the media. Is this an inside baseball issue that could be easily explained awayby those more in the know or did Tuck hit a nerve?

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            Make no mistake Don, we can nitpick about every little obscure side issue, but if Torlakson wins the unions will see it as an affirmation of Phooey's dream of LIFO forever/blame poverty and the status quo. Vergara may still be upheld, but a lot of money is going to go on the airwaves in the final few weeks and this will be a vote on Vergara. Tuck and Torlakson and some obscure clause … Read More

            Make no mistake Don, we can nitpick about every little obscure side issue, but if Torlakson wins the unions will see it as an affirmation of Phooey’s dream of LIFO forever/blame poverty and the status quo. Vergara may still be upheld, but a lot of money is going to go on the airwaves in the final few weeks and this will be a vote on Vergara. Tuck and Torlakson and some obscure clause and how aware one of them is of it, that’s just all smoke filled coffee house bs. These are the facts, and they are undisputed.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            For a person as gung-ho on national standards as you vocally claim to be, it is just bizarre that you would consider the poor institution-wide implementation of CCSS by the appropriate state and local agencies as a "little obscure side issue", but be up in arms over a no-show at back-to-school night. Parents really need wise up to what is happening in education. Your contention that the SSPI race is a referendum on Vergara makes no … Read More

            For a person as gung-ho on national standards as you vocally claim to be, it is just bizarre that you would consider the poor institution-wide implementation of CCSS by the appropriate state and local agencies as a “little obscure side issue”, but be up in arms over a no-show at back-to-school night. Parents really need wise up to what is happening in education.

            Your contention that the SSPI race is a referendum on Vergara makes no sense. Most people don’t even know what Vergara is. In any case, the SSPI is not a player in the courts where the issue will be decided.

            Vloyd, the reason why your “facts” are undisputed is because few people take the time to bother disputing them. And if they have any thoughts about bothering doing so, by the time they finish reading your tag line – “these are the facts, and they are undisputed”, they would be sure not to.

  3. el 2 years ago2 years ago

    The implication that student achievement is flat in California over the last generation is quite at odds with my experience. I see a school system where the average child is now expected to complete a more rigorous course of study than I did as an elite student. There are standards tested on the 5th grade science exam that I was never taught in the K-12 system... and my degree is in Engineering. On top of that, … Read More

    The implication that student achievement is flat in California over the last generation is quite at odds with my experience. I see a school system where the average child is now expected to complete a more rigorous course of study than I did as an elite student. There are standards tested on the 5th grade science exam that I was never taught in the K-12 system… and my degree is in Engineering.

    On top of that, there is far more opportunity for advanced and gifted kids today. My high school (population > 2,000) offered 4 AP classes total.

    There is much to be done, much that could be better, and especially much that needs to be done in impoverished areas. But the idea that there was some great golden age in the past where US K-12 education, or even California K-12 education, was better is just not so. Kids in every demographic are getting more and better learning. But, our standards for what we want them to be able to do are also increasing.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      Just look at the average person who moves to California from Asia or other parts of the U.S. compared to the average high school grad. San Francisco is one of the richest Cities in the nation, but does that money find it's way into taxes to educate the kids in the City to earn enough to stay here? No, they are driven out by the huge rent increases caused by an influx of … Read More

      Just look at the average person who moves to California from Asia or other parts of the U.S. compared to the average high school grad. San Francisco is one of the richest Cities in the nation, but does that money find it’s way into taxes to educate the kids in the City to earn enough to stay here? No, they are driven out by the huge rent increases caused by an influx of high earning people from other states and Asia and to a degree, Europe. The average income is going way up, but it never pays for schools good enough for the majority of SFUSD graduates to be able to afford to stay. They City can only keep some people by affordable housing schemes. It would be nice if they tried to tax the money enough to get tutors and educated the kids to a level where they’ll be able to afford to stay. Most of the kids I grew up with are long gone, some by choice, but most by being driven out due to income.

  4. Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

    "L.A. Unified bests reform groups in most cases, data show Struggling schools under district control see test scores rise more than most operated by the mayor, a charter organization and others, a Times analysis finds. August 18, 2011|By Howard Blume and Sandra Poindexter Los Angeles Times "The mayor's high schools showed a 5.7 percentage point increase in English and a 1.5 point increase in math, a smaller rise than the district's. The head of the mayor's education team, … Read More

    “L.A. Unified bests reform groups in most cases, data show
    Struggling schools under district control see test scores rise more than most operated by the mayor, a charter organization and others, a Times analysis finds.
    August 18, 2011|By Howard Blume and Sandra Poindexter Los Angeles Times

    “The mayor’s high schools showed a 5.7 percentage point increase in English and a 1.5 point increase in math, a smaller rise than the district’s.
    The head of the mayor’s education team, Marshall Tuck, said the proficiency gains did not take into account other evidence of improvement, including the “large number” of students who made progress but still weren’t proficient. ”

    Above a quote from LA Times re Marshal Tuck’s tenure at LA’s Partnership Schools. Shall we say not quite the rousing success as presented by Mr. Tuck?

    And from the above article:

    “His challenger, Marshall Tuck, cited the need for “fundamental, comprehensive change” to improve academic performance that he said has been stagnant for 20 years – a reference to the state’s performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress – and has left 2.5 million students failing to read and write at grade level. He cast blame on “the same Sacramento leadership” of “insiders, politicians and business as usual” that he identified with Torlakson.”

    CA’s schools have actually been improving on NAEP scores at a faster rate then the national average. So, why doesn’t the excuse about “take[ing] into account other evidence of improvement” work for CA schools in general the way it worked for the schools Tuck was in charge of?

    Tucks assertion about the flatlining of NAEP scores is true for the US as a whole. That has been the case ever since the imposition of standards and test based “accountability” around 2002 with NCLB. NCLB is fundamentally about test score data and its uses for “school reform.”

    From the above article:

    “Tuck said standardized tests are important to measure students’ knowledge and to learn from schools that are excelling in certain areas. Data on student achievement should be an important part of measuring a school’s performance, as well as a teacher’s performance…”

    What Tuck is advocating has been the mandated practice for schools in CA since 1994 and the US since 2002. What he is advocating is the STATUS QUO. What Torlakson is advocating and what he has practiced is moving away from that model. Torlakson is the REFORMER!

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      Torlakson wants to continue LIFO, Tenure and Seniority with no changes. Tuck wants to go with the recommendations of Geoffrey Canada and change it. You may pretend the union and administrators will find another way to pressure teachers not to call sick when they aren't and fire bad teachers by doing the paperwork, but I predict if Torlakson wins and Vergara is overturned, in 2025 teachers will still be employed who now have … Read More

      Torlakson wants to continue LIFO, Tenure and Seniority with no changes. Tuck wants to go with the recommendations of Geoffrey Canada and change it. You may pretend the union and administrators will find another way to pressure teachers not to call sick when they aren’t and fire bad teachers by doing the paperwork, but I predict if Torlakson wins and Vergara is overturned, in 2025 teachers will still be employed who now have nearly all bad reviews on ratemyteacher.com and have many complaints, and we’ll still have over 12% call in sick the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and over 8% overall. If Tuck is elected this will change.

      • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

        Floyd, The California superintendent of public education cannot make laws nor can he amend them. Think of him more as an interpreter of the law or as an enforcer of the law. He can recommend changes to the law, he can advise the governor on education issues, and he can even help shape curriculum and testing items, but he cannot do anything about LIFO, tenure, nor seniority issues. It is extremely likely Brown will win re-election. … Read More

        Floyd,

        The California superintendent of public education cannot make laws nor can he amend them. Think of him more as an interpreter of the law or as an enforcer of the law. He can recommend changes to the law, he can advise the governor on education issues, and he can even help shape curriculum and testing items, but he cannot do anything about LIFO, tenure, nor seniority issues.

        It is extremely likely Brown will win re-election. And it is extremely likely that Brown will not change direction on LIFO, tenure, nor seniority with whomever fills the position as superintendent. If Vergara is upheld, then Tuck might help shape what the new law would be, but if it is not upheld, Tuck will not be able to do anything at all.

        • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

          You're right, but it is a test. If Tuck wins, it means a ballot initiative on this issue can pass. Matt Davis can have a future victory which is more meaningful and comprehensive than the current one. Nearly all realistic observers believe the current employment system will be over within 10-15 years. If it is 2-3, we can move on and put in place a new system which balances student and … Read More

          You’re right, but it is a test. If Tuck wins, it means a ballot initiative on this issue can pass. Matt Davis can have a future victory which is more meaningful and comprehensive than the current one. Nearly all realistic observers believe the current employment system will be over within 10-15 years. If it is 2-3, we can move on and put in place a new system which balances student and teacher interests and focus on reforms which can now be enforced. If it takes 15, it will be delayed another generation and we will have to wait just to get started on a new plan. It’s kind of like slavery, segregation, universal healthcare, social security, equal rights for women, gay rights. Everyone could tell 20 years before it was definitely coming, but as long as it dragged on, more people would suffer and we wouldn’t be able to get started on a better way. Very few people believe LIFO/Tenure will be there in 20 years, but the sooner we put an end to it, the sooner we can all focus on improving education for all children.

    • Miguelisimo 2 years ago2 years ago

      Tuck totally killed it. The comparison between the two couldn’t be clearer. Tuck looks smart, competent, articulate, and enthusiastic. Torkalson looks old, tired, bewildered, and disengaged. Big win for this guy.

  5. Jim Mordecai 2 years ago2 years ago

    The status quo is a mix of two management systems of public education funding. There is the traditional management by district school boards and the newer management by charter schools. Charter schools privatize the management of public schools and charter schools want Tuck to win as they believe he will support their privatization of public education. Reason teacher unions want Torlakson to win does not have so much to do with concern over privatization … Read More

    The status quo is a mix of two management systems of public education funding. There is the traditional management by district school boards and the newer management by charter schools. Charter schools privatize the management of public schools and charter schools want Tuck to win as they believe he will support their privatization of public education.

    Reason teacher unions want Torlakson to win does not have so much to do with concern over privatization of the management of public schools; although that is a concern. The primary reason is that Tuck by taking a position of supporting the Vergara Case; and by saying his if elected I’ll go to Korea statement, that if elected I will withdraw from the Vergara Case appeal, meant he was using his statement to in effect declare himself take a side on the war against unions and teacher unions.

    And, while teacher unions are politically powerful, the corporations are politically and economically powerful and his Vergara Case statement enlists their support for his campaign.

    However, the outcome of this political struggle is not going to changing the status quo of two management systems: one private and the other public. Charter schools have continue to grow under State Superintendent Torlakson. There may not be much increase in the rate of charter school growth under a State Superintendent Tuk. And, the status quo with regard to how the public’s education dollars is managed will likely look the same.

    Replies

    • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

      Jim, I like how you gave us a reveal for what the status quo in education finances is. Thank you for actually addressing what Tuck doesn't. Is that what Tuck means by the status quo, though? Gary, I am not sure I agree with your status quo argument, but I like how you offer a perfectly valid interpretation for what the status quo is. That's something Tuck and others here have never done. With all that … Read More

      Jim,

      I like how you gave us a reveal for what the status quo in education finances is. Thank you for actually addressing what Tuck doesn’t. Is that what Tuck means by the status quo, though?

      Gary,

      I am not sure I agree with your status quo argument, but I like how you offer a perfectly valid interpretation for what the status quo is. That’s something Tuck and others here have never done.

      With all that said, I have found that it is difficult to pin down what the status quo in education actually is. There seems to be different ones depending on the educational subject that is being discussed. And when we do dissect those status quo arguments and break them down into their parts, we find the arguments empty, lacking cohesion and substance (as Jim did). The arguments end up being hyer-something. In addition, none ever explain what they mean by the status quo. The argument, when used in education, tends to highlight someone’s partisan affiliations, newness, and biases more than it reveals about the present or the future of any point. For instance, look at Gary Lovett’s point on this page: ” [Tuck], thank you for exposing the status quo which is unacceptable.” When you look through what is written here and when you watch the video, Tuck never exposes anything about the status quo. He seeks to destroy the status quo very much like the knights of old sought to kill the questing beast. While the quixotic behavior of attacking windmills may work with the masses, to me, that sort of thing only showcases the fact that they have nothing to add or change.

      • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

        If you have ever had a child stuck for an entire school year with a bad teacher who is not trying and pretending to be sick and missing many days, you would see, it's really a monster, not a windmill (Don Quixote tilted at windmills he mistook for monsters when Spain controlled the Netherlands). A teacher calling in sick when they are not is a real issue and happens, some even refer it to … Read More

        If you have ever had a child stuck for an entire school year with a bad teacher who is not trying and pretending to be sick and missing many days, you would see, it’s really a monster, not a windmill (Don Quixote tilted at windmills he mistook for monsters when Spain controlled the Netherlands). A teacher calling in sick when they are not is a real issue and happens, some even refer it to each other as a mental health day and admit to it to friends. Teachers with many bad reviews stay on the job for decades. This is a real problem. Comparing them to windmills being mistook for monsters is not accurate. This is something real which is hurting children. If you are trying to make sure no teacher is ever fired and all promotions are only based on seniority, along with all layoffs, you are swimming against the tides of history.

        • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

          Floyd, The bad teacher is not really the status quo. Getting rid of the bad teacher is not status quo either--many principals have no problem getting rid of bad teachers. Part of the problem is that I don't really think you know what you mean by the status quo either. I am not joking about that, Floyd. I seriously have no idea what you mean. I recognize that you think there are bad teachers out … Read More

          Floyd,

          The bad teacher is not really the status quo. Getting rid of the bad teacher is not status quo either–many principals have no problem getting rid of bad teachers.

          Part of the problem is that I don’t really think you know what you mean by the status quo either. I am not joking about that, Floyd. I seriously have no idea what you mean.

          I recognize that you think there are bad teachers out there. I know you have a thing with teachers calling in sick. I also know that you base some of this information on the ratemyteacher site. But those are not status quo items because most teachers are not bad teachers. Most teachers do not abuse their sick days. And the ratemyteacher site is just ridiculous to use in an adult argument. In addition, what happens when your child must suffer through a bad teacher is definitely not an example of the status quo.

          In fact, if you think about it, LIFO, seniority, and tenure issues may not even address any of the problems that you always address here. You would still have all of those problems if tenure, LIFO and seniority were fixed the way you like them. Teachers would still get a one-year contract to potentially make your kid suffer throughout the year. None of those items will address the calling-in-sick problem. Yet you conflate all of this together into one large salad bowel status quo argument. That is just confusing.

          Floyd writes, “Comparing them to windmills being mistook for monsters is not accurate.”

          Technically, Floyd, I didn’t compare them “to windmills being mistook for monsters.” I compared the use of the status quo argument to tilting at windmills.

          Floyd writes, “If you are trying to make sure no teacher is ever fired and all promotions are only based on seniority, along with all layoffs, you are swimming against the tides of history.”

          My post is about the status quo argument and the emptiness of using it unless it is clear what the status quo is. Try to at least maintain stasis in the post and avoid the junky clairvoyance of trying to predict my own personal views concerning what you are passionate about.

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            The status quo is that there are teachers who have been bad for decades and survive. It is too hard to let them go. Every principal knows they exist. Tuck will send a message that this needs to be changed. Torlakson will hope the issue goes away, pretend to do something but not. A bad 30-year old teacher will be teaching at 60 if Torlakson wins. If Tuck wins, … Read More

            The status quo is that there are teachers who have been bad for decades and survive. It is too hard to let them go. Every principal knows they exist. Tuck will send a message that this needs to be changed. Torlakson will hope the issue goes away, pretend to do something but not. A bad 30-year old teacher will be teaching at 60 if Torlakson wins. If Tuck wins, I doubt it. There are teachers everyone complained about when I was in school who ended up teaching my kids. Not cool. That’s the status quo. It will be a sea change.

  6. Krono 2 years ago2 years ago

    I guess, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you go to an election with the candidates that you have, not that candidates that you want ... but I can't help wishing for a candidate in the middle between Torlakson, who appears to be nothing more than a lackey for the CTA, and Tuck, who appears to be nothing more than a lackey for the charter schools movement. We've been doing charters for long enough in California to … Read More

    I guess, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you go to an election with the candidates that you have, not that candidates that you want … but I can’t help wishing for a candidate in the middle between Torlakson, who appears to be nothing more than a lackey for the CTA, and Tuck, who appears to be nothing more than a lackey for the charter schools movement.

    We’ve been doing charters for long enough in California to see that some of them are enormously successful, and that the fiction that they will create competitive pressures that motivate school districts to dramatically improve public schools is false. Sure wish their were a candidate that’s honest about the shortcomings of CTA and charters, and that is willing and able to take what works in the best charters, and find a way to bring it to public schools, without trying to blow-up EVERYTHING about public schools.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      I remember hearing in the '80s from people who chose private that they weren't doing it because they believed in a caste system of unequal opportunity, but because they felt their sacrifice would lead "them" to "fix the public schools". Now their kids are saying the same thing. We said the same of the charter movement, it would force districts to fix them. I believe it is a mix. We do … Read More

      I remember hearing in the ’80s from people who chose private that they weren’t doing it because they believed in a caste system of unequal opportunity, but because they felt their sacrifice would lead “them” to “fix the public schools”. Now their kids are saying the same thing. We said the same of the charter movement, it would force districts to fix them.

      I believe it is a mix. We do have a permanent class/caste system much more ingrained than Europe, but to a degree, these do bring pressure. The union supporters try to ignore it, not feel pressure. Why do you think Ammiano tried to limit new charter schools? Because the union is feeling pressure. Being able to fire teachers makes a school way better than if you can’t, for not only do you rid yourselves of the bottom 1 in 20 teachers you actually fire, but the other 19 think twice before calling in sick to go to the movies, take meetings with administrators more seriously, and work harder. However, charters tend to have lower demographics, so that has to be taken into account.

      The Vergara lawsuit came from the Charter School movement. Without the film ‘Waiting for Superman’, as well as ‘The Lottery’, which wouldn’t have come about without the Charter School movement, we wouldn’t have had Vergara. If Vergara fails, we’ll have ballot initiatives as well. Marshall Tuck doesn’t have the power to make all schools private or charter, even if he wanted to, but Torlakson has the power to maintain the status quo and appeal the landmark lawsuit.

      Torlakson’s election would be a victory for the status quo. Tuck’s election would bring further pressure for change for the benefit of students.

      We are close to fixing what was once seen as an unfixable problem. I remember speaking with people 7-8 years ago about bad teachers and was told, it’s State Law, it will never change, no point even discussing it. Now most people believe in a decade, it will be changed. Maybe sooner.

      If Tuck wins, that will be a great statement. I hope Californians will have the courage to vote for Tuck and I hope he can raise enough money to counter the huge purses the unions will spend on Torlakson and get the message out. Over 70% of Californians oppose LIFO, so if that message gets to voters, Tuck should win. Voters need to know Torlakson supports LIFO, over 100k and 6 steps to fire any bad teacher, 10 fired a year statewide and only 2 for performance, no bonuses for attendance, no response legal if we have huge absence the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and that schools not be allowed to check references when transferring teachers but only to use seniority. Over 70% of Californians oppose this. Tuck opposes this. Torlakson supports this. If the voters know this, Tuck will win, but some will see the money the union spends, which dwarfs what Tuck has, and vote because a teacher smiles in a commercial and says Torlakson understands us.

      Tuck understands what is ailing education and wants to fix it.

  7. greg lovett 2 years ago2 years ago

    Congrats Marshall Tuck – thank you for exposing the status quo which is unacceptable. Please make a difference for the kids and VOTE in November. This was a great debate.

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