Linda Yaron

As my colleagues, students, and I look forward to a new school year, I can’t help but feel like there’s something different about this one.

This year is a game changer.

As we transition to new standards, assessments and funding systems in California, this is the year that has the potential to make all the difference in our public schools.

But it’s up to all of us to determine what those changes will look like. It’s critical that teachers work alongside administrators, families and communities to play an active role in how these initiatives are implemented, supported and monitored at all levels.

Here are six things that can make all the difference this year for California schools:

Common Core: Perhaps the single most important change about this school year is the complete rollout of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in classrooms. Training and support for teachers in working with the standards has varied between schools and districts. Yet how teachers implement the standards will have lasting impact on how they are viewed (and valued) by the public.

Assessments: The Smarter Balanced assessments are replacing the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) system and the California Standards Tests (CSTs). As schools roll out the Common Core, California has put a two-year hold on collecting Academic Performance Index (API) scores from students—meaning that schools get a two-year breather from assessing their performance to focus on implementing the Common Core and new assessments. In this transition lies a powerful opportunity for schools to implement processes that will lead to long-term improvements in teaching and learning.

As teachers and students prepare for this year’s assessments, I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues on ways to align the standards with our curriculum and tests. We will need to examine our school-wide and classroom feedback mechanisms to analyze what’s working and what isn’t—and to supply professional development training that teachers need to fill any gaps. It’s critical that teachers are given time to collaborate in order to create effective professional development that reflects our unique classrooms and students.

Student spending: The new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) will overhaul the previous funding system, with districts and charters receiving $7,643 per average daily attendance (with funding dropping slightly the more days that students are absent). Schools with high-needs students—including those who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch, English language learners and foster youth—will receive additional funding.

Though California is still one of the lowest-ranked states in per-pupil spending, this change will direct more funds to schools that have the highest need and will help make current funding levels more equitable across districts in the state. The Local Control Funding Formula also mandates that K-3 classroom sizes be no more than 24 students, making California another state to put a priority on early learning.

Schools and districts will have more local control as to how Local Control Funding Formula funds are spent. This is a crucial opportunity for teacher leadership to have a voice in how funds should be spent. California’s full 2014 education budget proposal can be seen here.

Teacher evaluation: As districts grapple with teacher evaluation, teacher leadership needs a stronger voice in determining what, how and when these measurements are used. As the Vergara ruling threatens to upend how teachers are evaluated, teachers must ensure that evaluation systems are used as a means of improving instruction, rather than classifying teachers. The California Teachers Association’s Evaluation Framework may well be adopted by local union chapters as they negotiate and implement evaluation mechanisms for teachers in their districts.

College- and career-ready initiatives: Many programs, including ConnectEd’s Linked Learning, are increasing the capacity for schools to support students with a rigorous and relevant 21st-century curriculum. Nine districts across the state have signed up to implement the program, which connects students with career pathways in fields including the arts, sciences and law. Meanwhile, Career and Technical Education programs are being updated to meet the needs of today’s students as schools face the real challenges of meeting college- and career-ready expectations. The California Career Pathways Trust will also provide $250 million in competitive grants to schools and districts that establish partnerships with businesses and community organizations and develop career pathways programs for students.

In a Teachers for Global Classrooms program a few years ago, the presenters posed a question to teachers: “What century are you preparing your students for?” Most teachers would say that they are working to prepare students for the futures they’re stepping into. With the help of these programs, teachers across the state are providing students with meaningful learning experiences that equip them for college and careers.

Families and communities: Working in partnership with families and communities can truly transform the fabric of our schools and the lives of our students. Under the new Local Control Funding Formula, districts and schools will be nudged to involve parents, students and community members to a greater extent than they have in the past.

Here’s to a powerful and fabulous year ahead.

 • • •

Linda Yaron is a National Board Certified English teacher at University High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She is a member of the Center for Teaching Quality Collaboratory and writes a blog for developing teachers called Foundations of Teaching.

EdSource welcomes commentaries representing diverse points of view. The opinions expressed in this commentary represent those of the author. If you would like to submit a commentary for EdSource Today, please contact us.

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  1. Paul Muench 3 years ago3 years ago

    That’s a bold public statement that teachers are utimately responsible for the success or failure of Common Core. Especially since the only critical pre-condition called out is time for teachers to collaborate. Lets hope they get that time so that they can follow through on this bold new statement of responsibility.

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 3 years ago3 years ago

      "Training and support for teachers in working with the standards has varied between schools and districts. Yet how teachers implement the standards will have lasting impact on how they are viewed (and valued) by the public." The statement is "bold" in tone, as a certain personality quality of boldness is necessary to any teacher who is in charge of a classroom; however, it is also thoughtfully qualified by pointing out the necessary "training and support" necessary … Read More

      “Training and support for teachers in working with the standards has varied between schools and districts. Yet how teachers implement the standards will have lasting impact on how they are viewed (and valued) by the public.”

      The statement is “bold” in tone, as a certain personality quality of boldness is necessary to any teacher who is in charge of a classroom; however, it is also thoughtfully qualified by pointing out the necessary “training and support” necessary for teachers to have in order to accomplish the roll-out of CCSS successfully. It also notes that to this point that “training and support” has been spotty depending on the teacher’s school and district.

      Obviously, providing those supports and training are outside the control of individual teachers, but given the current “conventional wisdom” about accountability there will be those who will try and point fingers at teachers when inevitable implementation problems arise. This is one of the great cultural fallacies of our time and one carefully constructed by the self-appointed “reformers.”

      • Paul Muench 3 years ago3 years ago

        And being hopeful in spite of variation in support and training is the real boldness of this statement.

    • FloydThursby1941 3 years ago3 years ago

      Looking for excuses already? Why seek a cop out? Why not just take responsibility to make it work? If you teach well, kids will learn, no collaboration time needed. Excuses are like you know whats, everyone has one. Bad parents and bad teachers always seek an excuse. Good ones seek results. It all comes down to effort and focus, not combing through laws looking for outs and technicalities. … Read More

      Looking for excuses already? Why seek a cop out? Why not just take responsibility to make it work? If you teach well, kids will learn, no collaboration time needed. Excuses are like you know whats, everyone has one. Bad parents and bad teachers always seek an excuse. Good ones seek results. It all comes down to effort and focus, not combing through laws looking for outs and technicalities. Your focus shows your heart is in the wrong place. I’m disappointed in you.

  2. Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 3 years ago3 years ago

    If ever I read a glass-half-full message in the face of a problematic future for California K-12 public education, this is it. 1) Substantive issues and short turnaround time exist as Common Core math and "literature" replace CA Standards. 2) The "breather" in gathering and public reporting of Academic Performance Index (API) scores means no one will know how kids or schools are doing in math or literacy for two full academic years and maybe longer. 3) … Read More

    If ever I read a glass-half-full message in the face of a problematic future for California K-12 public education, this is it.

    1) Substantive issues and short turnaround time exist as Common Core math and “literature” replace CA Standards.

    2) The “breather” in gathering and public reporting of Academic Performance Index (API) scores means no one will know how kids or schools are doing in math or literacy for two full academic years and maybe longer.

    3) The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is opaque — not transparent — and it essentially means any new money accruing to a school district will be spent by fiat of the administration and board with no accountability or real community oversight. Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase was not as targeted to kids’ education as Molly Munger’s defeated proposal.
    Look for big teacher raises after the long dry spell and Governor Brown’s re-election with CTA help.

    4) K-3 ideal class size to become 24 students? Ten years ago, it was 20 students with penalties for exceeding that number. Where’s the “continuous progress” families and children deserve?

    5) Teacher evaluations? Now that the API has been shelved, the score is California Teachers Association 1/ Taxpayers 0.

    6) Career/Technical Education — a career path for administrators — was shelved in San Diego because it was going to become a universal graduation requirement that would interfere with college-bound kids’ fulfilling UC’s A-F requirements.
    Needs work.

    Anyway, blessings to all who labor in the education vineyard as another school year begins.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 3 years ago3 years ago

      One thing I've never understood is the focus on the 20 students in K-3. Usually someone is sick or sometimes leaves and isn't replaced, so 24 would usually be 22. If it's 24, pay can be 20% higher. I would think teachers would be more concerned with working a little harder but being able to get by with exploding rents and property values, many taking part time jobs, etc. I understand … Read More

      One thing I’ve never understood is the focus on the 20 students in K-3. Usually someone is sick or sometimes leaves and isn’t replaced, so 24 would usually be 22. If it’s 24, pay can be 20% higher. I would think teachers would be more concerned with working a little harder but being able to get by with exploding rents and property values, many taking part time jobs, etc.

      I understand wanting more, just never understood the push to be able to call in sick a lot or have a small class size. 24 is more fun than 20, more of a chance to have a good friend rather than just the only kid around, etc. When I was in K-3 class size was 30-33. I think 24 is fine and will enable a better raise. There’s no source for new money so if it’s 20, salaries will certainly be lower.

    • Gary Ravani 3 years ago3 years ago

      2) The “breather” in gathering and public reporting of Academic Performance Index (API) scores means no one will know how kids or schools are doing in math or literacy for two full academic years and maybe longer. 5) Teacher evaluations? Now that the API has been shelved, the score is California Teachers Association 1/ Taxpayers 0. 6) Look for big teacher raises after the long dry spell and Governor Brown’s re-election with CTA help. Francis: I beg to differ … Read More

      2) The “breather” in gathering and public reporting of Academic Performance Index (API) scores means no one will know how kids or schools are doing in math or literacy for two full academic years and maybe longer.

      5) Teacher evaluations? Now that the API has been shelved, the score is California Teachers Association 1/ Taxpayers 0.

      6) Look for big teacher raises after the long dry spell and Governor Brown’s re-election with CTA help.

      Francis:

      I beg to differ on your points above.

      The most casual search of what best predicts college success for students is not test scores (of any stripe) nor API scores. The best predictors are grades given by teachers and class standing, the latter being based on grades–given by teachers. Nationally teachers from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, are fundamentally on the same page (interestingly since there is no institutionalized collaboration) about how well students are “doing” academically. Teachers don’t need state tests or national tests to accurately assess students, they do it daily in a variety of different ways: some formal and some informal. if you are a parent concerned about how your student is doing, ask the teacher. Almost weekly some major university is dropping SAT and SAT scores as required parts of entrance procedures.

      As to the scores, prescriptive standards, and API type instruments: the nation’s highest scientific body, the National Research Council (NRC), has done a major study of the test based reforms instituted over the past decade or so and found that not only have they not increased learning, they have actually retarded learning. The reconstitution of the API, with multiple measures, has the potential to be a “win” for schools, kids, and learning.

      Great public lip service is given to international test scores and the school systems that produce the highest scores; e.g., Finland and Singapore. Both systems have sharply reduce testing or never instituted testing. The US could do what these countries do, but we have adopted a business oriented method of top down accountability that has been an utter failure. And we continue to butt our collective heads against that brick wall.

      The US has a fairly good “national test,” the NAEP that uses a matrix system. Each child takes a test based on a part of the standards and, collectively, all of the standards can be covered. This is similar to what Finland uses and could be adopted to CCSS and give a semi-objective check-up to schools to inform instruction. It would save a great deal of instructional time as well as money, and would have less of a tendency to narrow the curriculum. The latter is a chief complaint of the NRC study.

      And I assume you mean–about “dry spells” and teacher salaries–that after seven years it is about time for teachers in CA to receive “big raises?” No?

      And thanks to Linda Yaron for giving us a view from the classroom.

    • Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 3 years ago3 years ago

      Typo alert: make those UC requirements A-G.

    • Linda Yaron 3 years ago3 years ago

      Frances, You raise such important points. All the more reason why it’s essential for teachers, students, parents, community members/organizations and other stakeholders to have a voice in the development and implementation of these new initiatives.

  3. Ronarae Adams 3 years ago3 years ago

    I agree with many of the "game changer" items Linda refers to along with sources to explore. We might want to also consider teacher preparation. The edTPAs were just adopted in CA and could empower newly licensed teachers to get jobs in other edTPA states. National Board Certification is targeted to be the "norm" for professional educators across the country and in alignment with developing and producing teacher leader competencies before they land their first … Read More

    I agree with many of the “game changer” items Linda refers to along with sources to explore. We might want to also consider teacher preparation. The edTPAs were just adopted in CA and could empower newly licensed teachers to get jobs in other edTPA states. National Board Certification is targeted to be the “norm” for professional educators across the country and in alignment with developing and producing teacher leader competencies before they land their first job. CA needs to pick up the pace and demand to increase numbers of National Board Certified Teachers in every district/ These evidence based teacher leaders are resources, like Linda, who are successfully designing and engaging in solutions and innovations to “game changing” issues and opportunities that directly and indirectly impact student learning and well-being. Yep, ditto! It’s going to be an amazing year in education!

  4. Don 3 years ago3 years ago

    "As the Vergara ruling threatens to upend how teachers are evaluated, teachers must ensure that evaluation systems are used as a means of improving instruction, rather than classifying teachers." Once again the Vergara decision is misconstrued as a policy initiative rather than what it is - a legal ruling on the constitutionality of the challenged statutes. The LIFO statute, not Vergara, classifies teachers and that would be by seniority. If its upheld it is … Read More

    “As the Vergara ruling threatens to upend how teachers are evaluated, teachers must ensure that evaluation systems are used as a means of improving instruction, rather than classifying teachers.”

    Once again the Vergara decision is misconstrued as a policy initiative rather than what it is – a legal ruling on the constitutionality of the challenged statutes. The LIFO statute, not Vergara, classifies teachers and that would be by seniority. If its upheld it is up to the legislature, the SEA and the LEAs to set new policy that could improve education by classifying teachers by quality rather than longevity. It may even be up to the people of California, God forbid, to vote on the matter.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 3 years ago3 years ago

      I find it quite telling that the proponents of the failed status quo would not welcome a vote on the matter. I can't see how quality will suffer by telling a large group of professionals they are being judged on the quality of their work rather than on their longevity. Scenario A. You work the year, you will be considered better. If you call in sick or take 11 personal days … Read More

      I find it quite telling that the proponents of the failed status quo would not welcome a vote on the matter. I can’t see how quality will suffer by telling a large group of professionals they are being judged on the quality of their work rather than on their longevity.

      Scenario A. You work the year, you will be considered better. If you call in sick or take 11 personal days for doctor’s appointments so you can relax on Spring Break or Indigenous Peoples Day, or come in every day, you are equal. If you leave as soon as allowed or stay late to tutor kids and meet with parents, you are equal. If you focus and get kids to drastically improve and learn very well or if you are grouchy and play movies and sit in the corner and have TAs do most of your work, you are equal. If you enter all into School Loop or nothing, you are equal. If you meet with parents and give them good advice and help and proactively call parents or if you neglect requests and act rude when parents talk to you, you are equal. If you embrace reforms and work with the principal or shrug and subtly ignore their management, you are equal. If you spend 300 hours a year helping kids one-on-one after school or zero, you are equal. You taught a year.

      I have never understood how anyone could argue with a straight face that this would lead to the best work ethic.

      Human beings like to be praised, promoted, recognized, given bonuses. It’s quite simply human nature. People work harder when it is possible to be recognized for it.

      Most of us work under such conditions.

      Please put it up for a vote. Are Vergara opponents opposed to Democracy? You had every nitpicky whiny thing to say about the judge, the fact 2 of 9 kids were white, one teacher was supposedly good even though we all know bad ones exist. Would you accept it if 60% of Californians believed LIFO/Seniority was bad, or would you complain about how they had no experience or how you, the elite knowledgeable minority, should be able to supersede the majority because blah blah blah? That’s what communism is, the minority can win by being party members. Would you accept it if you lost, or would you individualize it and argue that you should get your way because you have special knowledge the majority lacks?

      • Don 3 years ago3 years ago

        Put what up for a vote? The decision has been finalized as of yesterday. If it’s upheld on appeal the game is over. Then it’s a matter of crafting a new policy that passes constitutional muster. If the CFT or CTA want to put new statutes into the CA Constitution they will have an uphill battle to get anything resembling the former protections. Read Judge Treu’s final decision.

        • FloydThursby1941 3 years ago3 years ago

          Agreed, it was a courageous decision. My point is that Gary and others never suggest letting the people decide, and I wonder why. Ideally we would have a vote on it eventually. That's better than judges, but in this case we had no choice due to the institutionalized control of legislators by CTA. You can tell it's a puppet on a string thing with the Democrats, as those who oppose LIFO … Read More

          Agreed, it was a courageous decision. My point is that Gary and others never suggest letting the people decide, and I wonder why. Ideally we would have a vote on it eventually. That’s better than judges, but in this case we had no choice due to the institutionalized control of legislators by CTA. You can tell it’s a puppet on a string thing with the Democrats, as those who oppose LIFO are often extremely liberal like Obama and Geoffrey Canada and Kevin Johnson and Michelle Rhee, people about as liberal as you can get on most issues. The fact that they are vague or silent is a give away.

          It’s easier to control legislators corruptly than let the people decide.

          You’re right though, no one will vote to restore these protections in the State Constitution. Our long nightmare is almost over.

        • Linda Yaron 3 years ago3 years ago

          Don and Floyd, Will be very interesting to see how this plays out and what implications it has on the system. Thanks for your insightful comments.

  5. Andrew 3 years ago3 years ago

    Major challenges added to the already overstacked plates of hardworking teachers in understaffed California schools. A concise and well presented analysis. Thank you.

    Replies

    • Linda Yaron 3 years ago3 years ago

      Thank you Andrew. Definitely full plates, and full steam ahead this year.

  6. Replies

    • Linda Yaron 3 years ago3 years ago

      Bill, Thank you for the resource links! They seem like they can be powerful tools for understanding and implementing the standards.