Credit: Claremont Graduate University

Carl Cohn, executive director, California Collaborative for Educational Excellence

Carl Cohn, a former longtime Long Beach Unified superintendent, State Board of Education member and sharp critic of federally imposed school sanctions under the No Child Left Behind law, will lead a new autonomous state agency that will direct the state’s evolving school improvement system. The five-member board of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence announced the appointment of Cohn as its first executive director on Thursday.

Calling him “a highly respected leader in our profession,” Sandy Thorstenson, the chairwoman of the agency and superintendent of the Whittier Union High School District, said Cohn is “the right voice to launch the significant work” of the agency.

The Legislature established the agency in the 2013 law creating the Local Control Funding Formula with a $10 million appropriation, although it has just gotten off the ground this year. As its name signals, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature envisioned the agency taking a more collaborative and less punitive approach in providing help to districts and schools that fail to meet either state achievement targets or districts’ own accountability goals.

Consistent with the shift in authority from Sacramento to local school boards,  the law says the agency’s purpose is to “advise and assist” districts and help improve the quality of districts’ teaching and leadership. Those are broad purposes creating two distinct roles, as a broker for promoting best educational practices and as an overseer of the accountability sections of the funding formula, with a direct takeover of a district for academic failure as a last resort.

In an interview Thursday, Cohn said the new position “fits with my philosophy, my passions and approach of trying to motivate and inspire adults who work with kids rather than shaming, embarrassing and punishing them.”

“We will not recreate a bureaucracy,” he said, saying he foresees that the agency will be “flat, agile and nimble, ­ a small operation with few employees.” The goal will be to build trust and “be seen as helpful and focused on offering what districts cannot get elsewhere.”

Cohn began a four-decade career in education as a teacher and counselor in Compton Unified. He served a decade as superintendent in Long Beach, a long tenure for an urban superintendent. In 2003, the year after he retired, the highly diverse district received the Broad Prize for excellence in urban education. He also was superintendent of San Diego Unified from 2005 to 2007.

In 2011, Brown appointed him to the state board; he resigned earlier this year. He currently is director of the Urban Leadership Program and a professor in the School of Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University. Cohn also served on the board of directors of EdSource until June 30. He is also chair of the Educators Network for Effective School Discipline.

Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, an Oakland-based advocacy organization, said that Cohn’s experience is consistent with the LCFF statute. “You want someone who gets the bigger picture, shares best practices and understands the inside of district operations.  Carl has a long history of implementing systemic change in districts and working on state-level policy through the state board.”

Cohn will work closely with the superintendents of the 58 county offices of education, which must approve school districts’ Local Control and Accountability Plans. These are the school and student achievement documents that outline goals, along with actions and expenditures, to meet eight priorities that the Legislature set out in the funding formula law. The priorities include student outcomes and achievement, school climate, student engagement and parent involvement. The plans must specifically target money for “high-needs” students – English learners, low-income children and foster youth.

The state board has until October 2016 to issue a set of rubrics or state metrics that will define minimum levels of achievement that all districts must meet. They may include graduation rates, scores on the Smarter Balanced standardized tests and measures of college and career readiness.

One of Cohn’s primary jobs may be to compile a library of exemplary LCAPs and a list of districts, county offices and experts in areas like working with English learners or school discipline. They would be recommended to districts that seek help or assigned to those that have persistently performed poorly.

Under the funding formula law, county offices and eventually the California Collaborative for Education Excellence can intercede in districts that fail to make achievement goals in one or more of the state’s eight priority areas for multiple subgroups of students over several years. Any district intervention is expected to be several years away, since rubrics will first take effect in 2016-17.

However, the agency will not have to wait to act in its other role, as promoter of quality instruction. The collaborative sees its function as prevention, not intervention, in helping districts improve, said Sue Burr, the state board’s representative on the agency’s board of directors. She said Cohn will have influence in shaping what that will look like. “He is probably the most experienced superintendent in the state and nationally recognized,” she said. “We were interested in having someone seen in high regard by colleagues he will be working with.”

Cohn said he not only fully supports but is enthusiastic about the “restoration of local control – something I never thought I would see again.”

“This is a fundamental shift, a very big change because for more than a dozen years, it’s all been about state capitals and the federal government telling schools what to do. This is an opportunity to spread the kind of local ownership that brought a degree of success to Long Beach.”


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  1. Gary Ravani 12 months ago12 months ago

    Navigio: OK, that's reasonable and not far from many of my concerns. However, you seem in rhetorical terms to have some thin-skinned areas. But, no doubt, we all do. Re "accountability," as I have stated, when you look at all of the stakeholders in education and all of the possible impacts on students and differences in their "achievement," particularly since most (@66%) of the factors are out-of-school related factors, to design an accountability system that focuses on … Read More

    Navigio:

    OK, that’s reasonable and not far from many of my concerns.

    However, you seem in rhetorical terms to have some thin-skinned areas. But, no doubt, we all do.

    Re “accountability,” as I have stated, when you look at all of the stakeholders in education and all of the possible impacts on students and differences in their “achievement,” particularly since most (@66%) of the factors are out-of-school related factors, to design an accountability system that focuses on just schools (@33%), or teachers @10% to 15%), makes no sense whatsoever. No doubt that’s what make conventional accountability so attractive to so many critics of the schools. If you had an accountability system that made sense, and included all relevant parties, why even the critics could get dragged into the accountability equation and then…Oh! The humanity.

    You did mention metrics and you did say I had “stopped trying.” Unless you are to be read like Gravity’s Rainbow, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect everyone to look for deeper meanings in your statements. It is reasonable to make the interpretation of what you write being what you mean. If your intent is to mean something specific, it likely should be written that way: specifically.

    Are you to be considered irrelevant because you don’t have grey hair.? I would not, and did not, write that. In fact probably 7 or 8 of 10 things you write I agree with.

    I, too, find transparency important; hence, I write under my real name and the interested can find my vitae and previous statements to provide context for what I have to say. Whatever the consequences of that. There is something refreshing about those who do the same. As opposed, of course, to the legion of anonymous keyboard commandoes who fill much of the space. In fact, using your real name is on the Ed Source “comments policy,” while allowing (but not promoting) pseudonyms.

    Replies

    • navigio 12 months ago12 months ago

      Ha, you almost had me. Right up until your last paragraph where you turn a important systemic concern like transparency around to use as a personal attack on my commenting methodology. Great. In case you haven't figured it out yet, this isn't about me. None of this is. It's about kids. The reason I started commenting anonymously is because these discussions should be about the issues and the arguments. Not about glory or recognition. Thirty … Read More

      Ha, you almost had me. Right up until your last paragraph where you turn a important systemic concern like transparency around to use as a personal attack on my commenting methodology. Great.
      In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this isn’t about me. None of this is. It’s about kids. The reason I started commenting anonymously is because these discussions should be about the issues and the arguments. Not about glory or recognition. Thirty years of experience doesn’t make an invalid argument sound. Zero years experience shouldn’t exclude anyone from participating, or more importantly, learning. And when people think they know something about you they extrapolate meaning to fit the myth they’ve built about you, in spite of what you say. In case you haven’t noticed, that doesn’t make for constructive for discussion.
      You actually has some fair points in the rest of your comment and I was even going to address them; until your last paragraph. I gave you somewhat of a benefit of a doubt the first three times, but now I think it’s clear you’re just trying to troll me so I’ll just leave it at that.

      • Gary Ravani 12 months ago12 months ago

        Navigio:

        Right.

  2. Parent 12 months ago12 months ago

    You keep using the word “accountability”. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Replies

    • Dawn Urbanek 12 months ago12 months ago

      There is no "Accountability" for 3 years as the law is currently written. The latest LCAP data for Capistrano Unified School District shows a continued decline in academic performance of all students. Of great concern is the decline in math performance: The number of students that were "college ready" or "Conditional" in Algebra II dropped 11% from 33% of students in 2013 to 21% of students in 2014. That means that the percentage of students … Read More

      There is no “Accountability” for 3 years as the law is currently written.

      The latest LCAP data for Capistrano Unified School District shows a continued decline in academic performance of all students. Of great concern is the decline in math performance: The number of students that were “college ready” or “Conditional” in Algebra II dropped 11% from 33% of students in 2013 to 21% of students in 2014. That means that the percentage of students who are eligible to apply to a school other than a Community College is rapidly declining.

      According to the LCAP we have to wait two more years to “show a trend of decline” on the LCAP and then the State and County Dept of Education will step in. That is a little late for current high school students.

      California’s New Education Funding Law Is Written To Redistribute Wealth Not Educate Students
      Academic Performance is Plummeting At CUSD Because Of A Lack Of Adequate Funding

      Raise the Base funding grant to a level that actually provides every student with a FREE and basic education.

      http://disclosurecusd.blogspot.com/2015/08/californias-new-education-funding-law.html

      • Gary Ravani 12 months ago12 months ago

        Dawn: Just curious, today's Ed Source post is all about SBAC data that won't be released until the fall. What is your LCAP data based on? Is it based on data from tests dropped because thy were to limited and simplistic? And when you say there has been a drop in the number of students taking Algebra II. Do you mean they are now taking courses they are actually interested in? Or what's the implication? If you read … Read More

        Dawn:

        Just curious, today’s Ed Source post is all about SBAC data that won’t be released until the fall. What is your LCAP data based on? Is it based on data from tests dropped because thy were to limited and simplistic?

        And when you say there has been a drop in the number of students taking Algebra II. Do you mean they are now taking courses they are actually interested in? Or what’s the implication?

        If you read someone else’s comments you might note that accountability that does not take all factors and all stakeholders into account is not accountability at all. It’s just posting box scores in the newspaper for editorialists to bloviate about, point fingers at innocent people, and engage in the not so occasional witch-hunt.

        The conventional interpretation of accountability, should not be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown aside with great force. It has done significant damage to kids and schools.

        • Dawn Urbanek 12 months ago12 months ago

          Gary - The Capistrano Unified School District has some serious issues that many parents are concerned about. If you would like to read some of the issues they are all posted on my blog. I did take the time to give links to all the data- much of it from data quest and the District itself. The reality is that when parents contact OCDE we are told there is nothing they can do till we … Read More

          Gary –

          The Capistrano Unified School District has some serious issues that many parents are concerned about. If you would like to read some of the issues they are all posted on my blog. I did take the time to give links to all the data- much of it from data quest and the District itself. The reality is that when parents contact OCDE we are told there is nothing they can do till we have three years of data showing a “trend” when we call the State it is the same story. So- the reality is that the District can basically do anything it would like and there is no recourse for students. We have no honors classes- our District teaches 2/3 of Algebra I and by the time a student completes Algebra II they really have received 1 1/2 years of Algebra. We have students being pulled from our 40+ class sized classrooms (special ed and disruptive students) who are being warehoused in a classroom with a non-credentialed teacher. The District uses every dollar for compensation increases and if you take the time to read the LCAP and the data you fill see that almost no goal have been met and student achievement is declining to the point that all students are equally poor in Math 9ELL- Whites-Asians) I have pulled my child from the District because I cannot continue to watch the decline. My child is going to go to a 4 year college and CUSD is making it harder and harder for students to succeed. Only 50% of our kids even complete A-G requirements – this District is no longer preparing students for career or college. If Mr. Cohen can even begin to turn things around for students in CUSD it would be welcome relief. We are the poster child for lack of accountability under the new law.

          • navigio 12 months ago12 months ago

            NB: the state has taken down all its English and math results from the STAR reporting page. So any links intended to highlight that info have become useless (the page will still be there, just no English or math on it; other tests are still there).
            The research data files are still available but those are useless for non-techies.

  3. Don 12 months ago12 months ago

    Gary Ravani: "as we work on the funding and making accountability actually mean something." The efforts of the unions have been to make accountability into something that cannot be used to assess instructional quality, compare students or have any meaningful bar . The unions are at war with accountability and all you have proposed as an alternative is more teacher employment protection, more prep time and more coaching. Besides advocating to get … Read More

    Gary Ravani: “as we work on the funding and making accountability actually mean something.”

    The efforts of the unions have been to make accountability into something that cannot be used to assess instructional quality, compare students or have any meaningful bar . The unions are at war with accountability and all you have proposed as an alternative is more teacher employment protection, more prep time and more coaching. Besides advocating to get rid of CAHSEE, annual standardized testing, teacher evaluations and API what have teachers proposed? What the unions wants is no meaningful oversight, no standardized testing, no teacher evaluations and a phony baloney API. And that’s what we have on 3 or 4 counts and the testing likely to go up in smoke soon. 30 some odd years of experience and this is your answer to California and students?

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 12 months ago12 months ago

      That's an old union trick, criticize any standard as not complex enough because it doesn't take X into account, but then propose something far more simple. If they ever put their seniority idea to the same scrutiny as they do API, testing, teacher accountability, value add methods, etc., seniority/LIFO wouldn't last a New York Minute! But they will never do that. They have a clear and open double standard on this issue. … Read More

      That’s an old union trick, criticize any standard as not complex enough because it doesn’t take X into account, but then propose something far more simple. If they ever put their seniority idea to the same scrutiny as they do API, testing, teacher accountability, value add methods, etc., seniority/LIFO wouldn’t last a New York Minute! But they will never do that. They have a clear and open double standard on this issue. I’m disappointed. After more than 30 years Gary should be able to propose a system which would show which teachers are most valuable, but what’s in his heart is making all teachers look most equal, not pressuring teachers to be more effective. The achievement gap and racial inequality will surely survive with people like Gary defending any proposals to help the poor get better educations.

  4. Don 12 months ago12 months ago

    How much will Mr. Cohn earn annually for his leadership on CCEE?

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 12 months ago12 months ago

      Good question. I am inquiring.

    • John Fensterwald 12 months ago12 months ago

      Don: The board approved a salary of $260,000.

      • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

        Mr. Cohn is already retired and probably collecting multiple pensions given his work history. I don't expect him to bring his expertise to CCEE without compensation, but don't the students of California need this money more than Mr. Cohn? Public education is a gravy train for administrators who are be compensated more than they every have, yet the State has far fewer responsibilities post LCFF passage and we still have the same size bureaucracy. Mr. … Read More

        Mr. Cohn is already retired and probably collecting multiple pensions given his work history. I don’t expect him to bring his expertise to CCEE without compensation, but don’t the students of California need this money more than Mr. Cohn? Public education is a gravy train for administrators who are be compensated more than they every have, yet the State has far fewer responsibilities post LCFF passage and we still have the same size bureaucracy. Mr. Cohn, please donate a part of your salary to a worthy cause.

        • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

          Again I’m having a bad typo day.

  5. Dawn Urbanek 12 months ago12 months ago

    Oh Great ANOTHER AGENCY wow- how about funding a basic education (MATH) for EVERY student instead of creating another layer of bureaucracy to eat up education dollars!!!!

  6. Doug 12 months ago12 months ago

    Carl Cohn did nothing to improve San Diego Schools.

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 12 months ago12 months ago

      Doug: From Mr. Cohn's bio on the Claremont College site-- "Dr. Cohn played a pivotal role during his career in the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD). Focusing on urban affairs and educational policy, he served as an Administrative Coordinator, Director of Attendance, and Superintendent from 1992-2002. In 2000, Dr. Cohn was America’s longest serving urban superintendent and during this tenure he made the school district a model for high academic standards and accountability. During his tenure … Read More

      Doug:

      From Mr. Cohn’s bio on the Claremont College site–

      “Dr. Cohn played a pivotal role during his career in the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD). Focusing on urban affairs and educational policy, he served as an Administrative Coordinator, Director of Attendance, and Superintendent from 1992-2002. In 2000, Dr. Cohn was America’s longest serving urban superintendent and during this tenure he made the school district a model for high academic standards and accountability. During his tenure as Superintendent, the LBUSD achieved record attendance, the lowest rate of suspension in a decade, decreases in student failure and dropout rates, and an increase in the number of students taking college preparatory classes. Through exemplifying this commitment to leadership and improved student achievement, he won the McGraw Prize in 2002, and the district won the Broad Prize in 2003. In 2002, Dr. Cohn served as Clinical Professor for the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California and went on to become an Independent Court Monitor for the Los Angeles Federal District Court. “

      • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

        I guess I was downplaying it in my previous comment when I said he's already collecting multiple pensions. This gives new meaning the term "public servant" - no disrespect to Mr. Cohn who by most accounts has had an illustrious career and by all accounts has a dedication to California students that is noteworthy. I just think there's something wrong with the system that showers administrators with top-dollar wages while we winnow out … Read More

        I guess I was downplaying it in my previous comment when I said he’s already collecting multiple pensions. This gives new meaning the term “public servant” – no disrespect to Mr. Cohn who by most accounts has had an illustrious career and by all accounts has a dedication to California students that is noteworthy. I just think there’s something wrong with the system that showers administrators with top-dollar wages while we winnow out younger teachers who have to scrimp to make ends meet through low salaries. Nothing new there.

  7. Gary Ravani 12 months ago12 months ago

    Congratulations to Mr. Cohn. I expect, under his leadership, that “accountability” in CA will finally focus on the productive rather than the destructive.

    Replies

    • navigio 12 months ago12 months ago

      You mean by becoming something other than accountability?
      Being such a stickler for proper definitions, I’m surprised you’re willing to use that term.

      • Gary Ravani 12 months ago12 months ago

        Navigio:

        Note the quotation marks.

        • navigio 12 months ago12 months ago

          Hi Gary. Yes, I noticed the quotes and should have acknowledged them. Now just as soon as the state renames it 'Local Control "Accountability" Plan', we'll all be on the same page. :-) Read More

          Hi Gary. Yes, I noticed the quotes and should have acknowledged them. Now just as soon as the state renames it ‘Local Control “Accountability” Plan’, we’ll all be on the same page. 🙂

    • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

      While the schools named in the Cruz litigation more struggle to keep their programs afloat, the defendants, the State of California, claims that it is no longer accountable got those schools under local control and that the plaintiffs should wait for LCFF to play out. That's the new accountability more aptly named the Local Con and a troll should be the state's new mascot, living under a bridge and taking a cut for … Read More

      While the schools named in the Cruz litigation more struggle to keep their programs afloat, the defendants, the State of California, claims that it is no longer accountable got those schools under local control and that the plaintiffs should wait for LCFF to play out. That’s the new accountability more aptly named the Local Con and a troll should be the state’s new mascot, living under a bridge and taking a cut for nothing in return. In theory we shouldn’t need a Department of Education in Sacramento with local control.

      • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

        correction: scratch the word “more” in the first sentence.

        • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

          Typo alert!

  8. Paul Muench 12 months ago12 months ago

    This is excellent,

    “In an interview Thursday, Cohn said the new position “fits with my philosophy, my passions and approach of trying to motivate and inspire adults who work with kids rather than shaming, embarrassing and punishing them.”

    That’s what I think many parents look for in teachers’ relationships with their children.

    Replies

    • navigio 12 months ago12 months ago

      True, it’s quite an important statement.
      However, many people assume ‘accountability’ implies consequences for adults (eg punishment), but we currently do not punish even adults, rather we punish the kids.
      That is one of the problems with how we define accountability today.
      To the extent it does not really include consequences, we should not use that term. Rather we should just use ‘transparency’.

      • Doug McRae 12 months ago12 months ago

        Navigio has it right. Accountability has to have some teeth, including consequences for adults who do not meet goals, otherwise it is only an exercise in transparency (if that) that will not drive improvements. We can all agree with Cohn's approach of trying to motivate and inspire adults first before any "tough love" consequences are employed, and consequences can be handled with professional respect and courtesy rather than a "shaming, embarrassing, and punishing" theme. One of … Read More

        Navigio has it right. Accountability has to have some teeth, including consequences for adults who do not meet goals, otherwise it is only an exercise in transparency (if that) that will not drive improvements. We can all agree with Cohn’s approach of trying to motivate and inspire adults first before any “tough love” consequences are employed, and consequences can be handled with professional respect and courtesy rather than a “shaming, embarrassing, and punishing” theme.

        One of Carl’s challenges as Ex Dir CCEE will be to identify a strong set of academic achievement data upon which to identify, analyze, and recommend action for districts with weak LCAP success records. Right now, the LCAP approach appears to be at best a strategic planning exercise toward implementing change, with perhaps some transparency benefits. But, with current undocumented validity reliability fairness for most of our statewide academic achievement data from the CAASPP program, we have a huge hole for objective information for Co Ofc’s and CCEE to evaluate success or failure via LCAPs. In many respects, LCAP is an oxymoron . . . . with “local control” and “accountability” being conflicting messages. Real accountability implies oversight by an external agency, not self-governance, not self-accountability. Hopefully, Carl can build CCEE into that external agency, one that is willing to provide oversight with fair administration of consequences for adults as well as motivation and inspiration.

        • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

          Doug, I value your opinion, expertise and non-ideologically-based views, however I believe in this case it is a stretch to hope Carl Cohn or anybody at the helm of CCEE for that matter is going to make it a legitimate oversight/accountability agency with teeth. First of all, that would run counter to its expressed mission as described in the law to collaborate with districts because true accountability has to include enforcement as a real possibility … Read More

          Doug, I value your opinion, expertise and non-ideologically-based views, however I believe in this case it is a stretch to hope Carl Cohn or anybody at the helm of CCEE for that matter is going to make it a legitimate oversight/accountability agency with teeth. First of all, that would run counter to its expressed mission as described in the law to collaborate with districts because true accountability has to include enforcement as a real possibility even if as a last resort. Secondly, the Collaborative doesn’t have the resources to even begin to function in the capacity. You characterized its as “real accountability implies oversight by an external agency, not self-governance, not self-accountability.”

          Navigio didn’t elaborate, but I would say this: LCFF specifically elevates district responsibilities in various ways, the most important of which is to uphold the tenants of the CA constitution regarding equal educational opportunity. That is a consequential burden and one that requires the highest standard and level of scrutiny. Ineffective as past CDE monitoring was, dismantling rather than bolstering it gave the green light to less scrutiny and CCEE is a far cry from anything resembling accountability and that goes for LCAP as well.

          You got it right that the LCAP is little more than a “planning exercise” akin to the annual SPSA or a longer term vision statement. These kinds of documents have proven worse than useless, rather a total waste of time and expense.

          • Doug McRae 12 months ago12 months ago

            Don -- I guess I'm more optimistic than you that "real accountability" will eventually be implemented for our public schools. I recollect the CCEE portion of the LCFF/LCAP statute does have a framework for increasing consequences for districts not improving under the local and county level reviews, so I think the basic authority for real accountability is included in statute -- with of course that authority embodied in the CCEE rather than the Ex Dir … Read More

            Don — I guess I’m more optimistic than you that “real accountability” will eventually be implemented for our public schools. I recollect the CCEE portion of the LCFF/LCAP statute does have a framework for increasing consequences for districts not improving under the local and county level reviews, so I think the basic authority for real accountability is included in statute — with of course that authority embodied in the CCEE rather than the Ex Dir and staff, but the Ex Dir and staff will have a very influential role for identifying districts in need of attention, analyzing the information, and recommending actions for the CCEE. I guess my hope springs eternal than eventually CA will get systematic real accountability right as one of the influences to nudge public schools and districts in the right direction.

            • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

              Doug, I see no enforcement framework in the CCEE section, 52074. 52074.5 does give the SSPA an enforcement role. Point is - we are moving away not towards a system that holds people accountable. As a person that filed and won, for what its worth (not much), several uniform complaints over the years, I find the LCAP is now a barrier to the UCP because it is so murky it is almost … Read More

              Doug, I see no enforcement framework in the CCEE section, 52074. 52074.5 does give the SSPA an enforcement role. Point is – we are moving away not towards a system that holds people accountable. As a person that filed and won, for what its worth (not much), several uniform complaints over the years, I find the LCAP is now a barrier to the UCP because it is so murky it is almost impossible to prove a legal violation. For example, if I suspected that SC funding was used inappropriately, without SACS it is extraordinarily difficult for the average person to follow the money. The line item SC funding to all schools doesn’t come close to accounting for the SC funding that was appropriated to the district. Accountability is hidden from public view and and the burden is on the public to prove a violation. The burden should be on the district to prove an allegation is false.

        • Gary Ravani 12 months ago12 months ago

          Doug: Going on about pseudo-accontability has not accomplished much in a decade. Even just talking about potential adults to "hold accountable" the discussion seems pretty weak. And then there are those "goals." Is it a goal of the US to have near highest percentages of kids living in poverty in the industrials world? Is there a goal to deal with that? What set of adults should be held accountable? Is there some goal to contain test … Read More

          Doug:

          Going on about pseudo-accontability has not accomplished much in a decade. Even just talking about potential adults to “hold accountable” the discussion seems pretty weak.

          And then there are those “goals.”

          Is it a goal of the US to have near highest percentages of kids living in poverty in the industrials world? Is there a goal to deal with that? What set of adults should be held accountable?

          Is there some goal to contain test publishers from overselling the value of the narrow data sets they deliver and the implications for students and schools of their products? What accountability measures are in place for that? Or, at least, when test data is routinely abused and it’s meanings misinterpreted and results in abusive policies (e.g., CAHSEE) should testing companies be held accountable to speak out against the test abuse? If so, in what way or are they above the fray?

          Is it CA’s goal to consistently have school funding per child amongst the lowest in the nation? Who should be held accountable for that?

          Was it a goal of the US or the state to re-segregate the schools to a point it is now more severe that prior to Brown v.? What group of adults should be held accountable for failing to deal with that?

          And so on and so on.

          Accountability is great if it is 360 degree accountability and all adult stakeholders and policy makers are included. Otherwise it just devolves to finger pointing and political blather. Which is exactly what we have had for a decade or more.

          • navigio 12 months ago12 months ago

            Setting aside whether the discussion has accomplished much in the last decade for a moment, these issues are not the point. It's one thing to have a discussion about whether accountability is even possible (i would even mostly agree with your arguments for why that's not possible), quite another to sell a system with the word accountability in its title and to have leaders including district and school leaders go on and on about accountability … Read More

            Setting aside whether the discussion has accomplished much in the last decade for a moment, these issues are not the point. It’s one thing to have a discussion about whether accountability is even possible (i would even mostly agree with your arguments for why that’s not possible), quite another to sell a system with the word accountability in its title and to have leaders including district and school leaders go on and on about accountability and giving the impression to parents and community leaders that there’s something they buy into in this idea of improving schools through accountability. My biggest problem with accountability is we lie about having it. If we don’t want it, fine. Don’t have it. But don’t tell me we have it, pretend we have it, engage parents and community as if we have it, then in the end say, ‘ha, just kidding.’ This is almost as bad of a poison as misplaced accountability is.
            And for what it’s worth, it wasn’t testing agencies that mis-sold tests, it was politicians followed by school and district leaders (and even contrary to the warnings of testing agencies). And they are still doing it.

            • Gary Ravani 12 months ago12 months ago

              Navigio: You seem quite wound up about this. In the first reference to "accountability," I was, of course, dealing with pseudo-accountability (""!). That is, accountability that doesn't look at socio-economic conditions in the US, segregation, support systems available to some but not all kids, low school funding, etc., etc. My concerns are the neglect of the 360 degree aspects of genuine accountability and the lack of that comprehensive view of accountability that lends itself … Read More

              Navigio:

              You seem quite wound up about this.

              In the first reference to “accountability,” I was, of course, dealing with pseudo-accountability (“”!). That is, accountability that doesn’t look at socio-economic conditions in the US, segregation, support systems available to some but not all kids, low school funding, etc., etc. My concerns are the neglect of the 360 degree aspects of genuine accountability and the lack of that comprehensive view of accountability that lends itself to scapegoating schools and teachers for student achievement factors totally outside their control.

              When it comes to LCAP, I would assume the authors had an accountability in mind that relates to the specific criteria related to the LCFF/LCAP and the new state education “goals” recently put in place.

            • navigio 12 months ago12 months ago

              Wound up? Me? Naw, I love being lied to. I love watching disillusioned and burned out parents leave the public system. I love watching kids get the short end of everything in a system that's supposed to be for them. Anyway, guess my point didn't come across. I share the concern about the lack of 360 degree vision. But that does not preclude my point, which was that it is our educational leaders themselves who … Read More

              Wound up? Me? Naw, I love being lied to. I love watching disillusioned and burned out parents leave the public system. I love watching kids get the short end of everything in a system that’s supposed to be for them.
              Anyway, guess my point didn’t come across. I share the concern about the lack of 360 degree vision. But that does not preclude my point, which was that it is our educational leaders themselves who are telling us there is some hope in spite of ignoring the 360 degree view.
              And as we’ve discussed before, ceding all fault to the lack of 360 view ignores that there are things we could improve now anyway. You may want to give up because you cant envision a funding source, but that is unlikely to deliver sufficient peripheral vision.
              It doesn’t matter whether you use quotes. Either way what is implied simply does not exist. The lcap will not solve that because it lacks sufficient transparency to start with, let alone uses questionable metrics (ours planned to use interim results as the baseline for our ‘performance metrics’ but because they ended up being so absurdly ‘unreliable’ we had to partially back off on that).
              It would be be nice if we could at least be honest about what we’re doing (hint: currently it should likely never involve the term ‘accountability’). Then maybe people could have actual discussions about what is even possible and what is not.

            • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

              Carl Cohn was appointed because he's a collaborative person and the LCAP is premised on collaboration, not enforcement. He's not going to prevent LAUSD from diverting SC funds to special ed, an egregious example of local control malfeasance - playing fast and loose with a law that encourages such perfidy by its lack of accountability. The State of California has spent tens of billions of dollars yearly on education and has had no strong, clear … Read More

              Carl Cohn was appointed because he’s a collaborative person and the LCAP is premised on collaboration, not enforcement. He’s not going to prevent LAUSD from diverting SC funds to special ed, an egregious example of local control malfeasance – playing fast and loose with a law that encourages such perfidy by its lack of accountability. The State of California has spent tens of billions of dollars yearly on education and has had no strong, clear enforcement arm either before or after LCFF. District monitoring was a joke. LCFF is only worse to the extent that it clarifies the State’s abdication of fiscal oversight. Read Michael Kirst’s article. He’s living in lala land. We spend an inordinate amount of time talking about standards, which are low on the totem pole when it comes to factors affecting student achievement, but we spend little time asking why fiscal management standards of LEAs are overseen by a public that has neither the training or resources to analyze them. Do we leave the auditing of the banking industry to a group of customers? Kirst’s answer is yes and Carl Cohn wasn’t placed at the helm of CCEE with a $260,000 salary to change that.

            • navigio 12 months ago12 months ago

              To be honest, I actually give lausd credit for being up front about that. The reality is that most (all?) districts are doing this but calling it unduplicated intervention. This is why I mentioned in a comment on Kirst's thread that it's important to understand whether services are new, or whether they are simply existing services using a different funding source. And I love collaboration. I agree with that being a good goal. I just … Read More

              To be honest, I actually give lausd credit for being up front about that. The reality is that most (all?) districts are doing this but calling it unduplicated intervention. This is why I mentioned in a comment on Kirst’s thread that it’s important to understand whether services are new, or whether they are simply existing services using a different funding source.
              And I love collaboration. I agree with that being a good goal. I just hope the collaboration ends up being with local communities.

            • Gary Ravani 12 months ago12 months ago

              Navigio: Not wound up, huh? OK. If you say so. You suggest I am giving up. I'd suggest I've probably been at the task of not giving up in education likely longer than you've been able to find your way to a keyboard and understand the letters. Certainly sufficient funding is a part of not giving up I was at the table when the precursor to Prop 30, the Millionaire's Tax, was conceived. It's not just talkng about … Read More

              Navigio:

              Not wound up, huh? OK. If you say so.

              You suggest I am giving up. I’d suggest I’ve probably been at the task of not giving up in education likely longer than you’ve been able to find your way to a keyboard and understand the letters.

              Certainly sufficient funding is a part of not giving up I was at the table when the precursor to Prop 30, the Millionaire’s Tax, was conceived. It’s not just talkng about funding, and here’s where the purpose of unions count so much, it’s doing something about the funding. And doing something in the face of incredible obstacles. We, in the union business, are by necessity radicals, and as someone said about that group with which I identify: “To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.”

              So, you’ve got it pretty much wrong. Likely your concern about “metrics” has led you astray. When we focus on what can be easily measured we have truly dumbed the system down. So much of what is important for children and learning is far to nuanced and complex to put on a spread sheet. In fact, there’s a bunch of research coming down on the importance of “soft skills” and how important they are for success all through school. Not so easy to get “metrics” on soft skills, and if you did, you’d be likely to ruin the milieu for developing them in the process.

              The greatest irony in what you’ve said is that I seem to think we can’t do anything as we work on the funding and making accountability actually mean something as well as becoming a force for improvement and being constructive. In fact, I wrote a whole editorial on it published in the WAPO education blog: “Reforms that Work” under my name.

              The fixation on false accountability and metrics actually undermines constructive efforts like “reforms that work.” Stability in the teaching force is one of those and is currently under attack by Vergara. This is exactly what Jesse Rothstein (UC Berkeley) meant when he brought up the 1% to 3% figure during the trial that the judge distorted to craft his skimpy ruling. Other reforms are more collaboration time for teachers and an increased number of specialists to work with teachers, both of which are funding related. Both reforms are noted in a study of successful QEIA schools in CA. Not the impossible dream, once policy is aligned with what works rather than metrics and finger pointing. Then there is just increased collaboration between unions and management as is done in Long Beach and other places in CA and nationally. In other words, the reforms that work are right in front of us but our vision is obscured by those spread sheets.

            • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

              Are you giving them credit for being open about what you formerly called a form of deceit, in so many words?

            • FloydThursby1941 12 months ago12 months ago

              It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is permission, said KGO announcer Bernie Ward, who later was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

            • navigio 12 months ago12 months ago

              I see. So my opinions are irrelevant because I don't have enough gray hair? That seems logical. I hope that's not the attitude you use when trying to engage parents. Or do you even bother with that anymore? Do you think it's possible 'giving up' was in reference to specific statements and not a characterization of you as a whole? There are many times on this site where you have rejected proposals, not for lack of … Read More

              I see. So my opinions are irrelevant because I don’t have enough gray hair? That seems logical. I hope that’s not the attitude you use when trying to engage parents. Or do you even bother with that anymore?
              Do you think it’s possible ‘giving up’ was in reference to specific statements and not a characterization of you as a whole? There are many times on this site where you have rejected proposals, not for lack of validity, but for lack of funding. That’s what I was referring to. You have done it more often recently in the context of lcff. The fact that you have also worked at increasing funding isn’t necessarily relevant for this discussion (though it’s laudable in itself) because the arguments for that increase have been mostly system-wide but the actual uses of it (and the subsequent arguments for them) have been specific, and more importantly, to the exclusion of things that people were led to expect. That’s a problem.
              And although I don’t want to get into whether prop 30 is really all puppies and butterflies, I do wonder whether your seat at the table for so long carries with it any responsibility for, how you say? The sorry state of our current funding. Or are all the bad things somehow only other people’s responsibility? That’s not intended as a jab, I’ve always been curious about that dynamic in politics.
              My comment about metrics was only there in response to yours about the lcap. Otherwise I don’t inherently care much about metrics, to be honest. Partly because there are many ways to try to measure ‘success’ (many of them even bad imho), partly because that is one area that non-insiders are summarily ignored anyway, but more because I care primarily about the justification behind their use. In other words, you have a lot of freedom to do what you want, I only ask you explain why your approach is appropriate. I have yet to see any of that btw.
              Being constructive is great, but accountability will never mean something under the current set of proposals. And pretending like it will is counter-productive (my whole point here).
              And I have to reject the premise of your last paragraph. It sounds to me like the following: someone lying to me, then me calling them on the lie, and their response being, “oh, it’s counter productive to focus on my lie. You need to just ignore it and let’s work together in spite of my lie.”
              While in a theoretical parallel universe that might actually work if working together then created something useful (actually an important point that is lost in the heat of many conflicts). But in this case the lies also have all sorts of horrible side-effects. Like our high poverty district getting its meager parcel tax rejected by its wealthy community and having to lay off 15% of its teachers. And poisonous conflicts between district leaders and parents, the latter who were naive enough to believe the former actually meant what they said. And voters who need to be blackmailed into not cutting public education funding when it’s already at the bottom. Oh, and reduced union support (bet you can understand why that one might matter). Etc Etc etc…
              Lastly I’m glad you mentioned collaboration. It’s my impression that is why mr Cohn is good for this position. However that is another term that begs definition lest naive parents and community members accidentally think it means they are actually supposed to be involved..

            • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

              If you are going to fault Treu explain how he distorted the numbers. What he did was turn the defense's percentage estimate of ineffective teachers into real numbers. The rest of my response to Gary's comment is at the top of the thread. What he's interested in is increasing the funding for education, but without strings attached so that an inordinate amount of it will go to employee compensation. He portrays himself as a … Read More

              If you are going to fault Treu explain how he distorted the numbers. What he did was turn the defense’s percentage estimate of ineffective teachers into real numbers.

              The rest of my response to Gary’s comment is at the top of the thread.

              What he’s interested in is increasing the funding for education, but without strings attached so that an inordinate amount of it will go to employee compensation.

              He portrays himself as a radical and that’s correct. Much of his commentary is ideological and divisive . He pays homage to the value of collaboration yet his words say otherwise.

            • navigio 12 months ago12 months ago

              Fair question about credit. Any credit given is solely for transparency, ie the willingness to be explicit (and arguably honest) about the funding usage. This is not to imply that the usage is appropriate, nor is it to imply any validity to the state's goal, which likely was to 'deceitfully' enable this kind of usage in the first place (see some of my earliest comments about lcff). That said, I do think this is a … Read More

              Fair question about credit. Any credit given is solely for transparency, ie the willingness to be explicit (and arguably honest) about the funding usage. This is not to imply that the usage is appropriate, nor is it to imply any validity to the state’s goal, which likely was to ‘deceitfully’ enable this kind of usage in the first place (see some of my earliest comments about lcff).
              That said, I do think this is a pretty complex issue that’s made even more difficult by the obfuscation of vagueness in LCAP expenditure explanations/descriptions. I think understanding the real impact is still a work in progress (see the lawsuit about this issue as one example of that).

            • navigio 12 months ago12 months ago

              And since don highlighted the point about your vergara numbers, I dont think the idea of questioning the consistency and honesty of policy is even remotely comparable to questioning which enemy is greater: the good or the perfect. I totally agree with you on focusing on things that matter. But maybe we will disagree when I say honesty and consistency matter. So much about public education (and its policy) involves a question of trust. I … Read More

              And since don highlighted the point about your vergara numbers, I dont think the idea of questioning the consistency and honesty of policy is even remotely comparable to questioning which enemy is greater: the good or the perfect.
              I totally agree with you on focusing on things that matter. But maybe we will disagree when I say honesty and consistency matter. So much about public education (and its policy) involves a question of trust. I think we underestimate the importance of those ideas at our peril.
              One of the biggest problems I’ve had on this forum is getting other commenters to understand that very point. I expect because they are more used to people being more dogmatic in the thoughts underlying their comments. I’ll have to work harder at making that distinction.

            • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

              Could you put this comment into some context, Navigio? Is your comment in the same vein as the Reagan adage, trust but verify? Could you be a little more specific?

            • Gary Ravani 12 months ago12 months ago

              Navigio:

              So, what is the “lie” you keep going on about?

            • navigio 12 months ago12 months ago

              In this discussion the lie is that accountability is real. It's that test scores are meaningful. It's that parent involvement is welcome. It's that our 'accountability' laws actually help kids. I could go on, but virtually everything related to accountability. Similar for transparency. I bet there isn't a district out there that doesn't state transparency as one of its core principles. But few districts come even close to living up to that. Read More

              In this discussion the lie is that accountability is real. It’s that test scores are meaningful. It’s that parent involvement is welcome. It’s that our ‘accountability’ laws actually help kids. I could go on, but virtually everything related to accountability.
              Similar for transparency. I bet there isn’t a district out there that doesn’t state transparency as one of its core principles. But few districts come even close to living up to that.

            • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

              To expand on Navigio's point if he will permit me, I'll give an example of the lack of transparency and accountability in the LCAP in SFUSD, understanding this is just one among many. In spring of 2014, during the first LCAP process, the Board of Education voted to change math instruction in SFUSD and put all kids on one track through 10th grade. Some background information is necessary at this point.The change meant that honors … Read More

              To expand on Navigio’s point if he will permit me, I’ll give an example of the lack of transparency and accountability in the LCAP in SFUSD, understanding this is just one among many. In spring of 2014, during the first LCAP process, the Board of Education voted to change math instruction in SFUSD and put all kids on one track through 10th grade.

              Some background information is necessary at this point.The change meant that honors math (Algebra 1) was no longer taught in 8th grade beginning last school year. That sent shock waves through the system when parents belatedly realized their advanced math students could no longer take advanced math classes in 8th, 9th or 10th grades and that their students would be forced to take a compression course (2 years in 1) of Algebra 2 and Precalculus if they wanted to continue to Calculus in 12th, an key course for those who want to apply to college in STEM fields. And understand that the 2-in-1 course is NOT adequate preparation for Calculus and is generally frowned upon by math experts. All this came about because SFUSD wanted to detrack math. There’s a lot more on that subject but back to the discussion at hand.

              Now, SFUSD could have put such an important change related to Common Core instruction, one of the state LCAP priorities, in its LCAP document, but chose not to. That decision could be construed as an oversight, but that is highly unlikely given the significant efforts taken to effect such at the district level. The more plausible explanation is that the omission was purposeful, a realization on the part of the leadership that such an unpopular change doesn’t need to be put front and center in the LCAP discussions.
              It’s pretty hard to believe that LCAP-related accountability and transparency has any meaning when the District is omitting from the LCAP key information affecting the program of daily math instruction for so many SFUSD students. That is SFUSD leadership plotting to avoid public scrutiny.

            • Gary Ravani 12 months ago12 months ago

              Navigio: Re "Vergara numbers." My point here, and I think I have said this multiple times, is that Prof Rothstein (of UC Berkeley) a Vergara witness, stated that the number of teachers who might (note might) be expected--when looking at the total number of teachers from an (economics) statistical perspective--to be ineffective could range from 1% to 3%. He went on to write a lengthy NY Times editorial explaining this "number" (recall it's an economics based … Read More

              Navigio:

              Re “Vergara numbers.”

              My point here, and I think I have said this multiple times, is that Prof Rothstein (of UC Berkeley) a Vergara witness, stated that the number of teachers who might (note might) be expected–when looking at the total number of teachers from an (economics) statistical perspective–to be ineffective could range from 1% to 3%. He went on to write a lengthy NY Times editorial explaining this “number” (recall it’s an economics based statistical estimate) was so small, that to disrupt the entire teaching force because of it, by dismantling important professional protections for teachers, would not be wise in a cost-benefit analysis. The judge could have asked Rothstein for a clarification, but instead he picked up the estimated ball and ran of the end of the logical world with it, saying this percentage amounted to X number of teachers that needed to be dismissed in CA. Not what Rothstein said or meant.

              CA AG Harris, noted in her response to the judge’s ruling, that at no time did the judge note (and how could he in 16 pages?) where these teachers were (districts?), who they were, how they could be identified, whether or not further training could remediate them , or to what extent if any the current laws prevented districts from dismissing the estimated number of teachers. There was no evidence provided at the trial that disadvantaged districts had more teachers to be dismissed than affluent districts or that they had more problems with the current laws. Instead the judge embraced the testimony of the former superintendent of LAUSD that the current dismissal laws were impediments to good management, that LAUSD was plagued by the laws, and that he personally was such a highly effective administrator that he was dismissing large numbers of teachers regardless of the laws. The judge appears to believe in the maxim, “consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” Needless to say LAUSD’s “highly effective” superintendent was gone from LAUSD because of issues related to effectiveness within weeks. BTW, during “discovery” in the trial process it was revealed that LAUDS’s numbers about dismissing teachers, e.g., years and hundreds of thousands of dollars, were total exaggerations. Most teachers under threat of dismissal resign or retire, and when the process is carried out it takes tens of thousands and months. Too much and too long, some will say. But how much and how long is appropriate when you are threatening a career? This is not about allegations of teacher misconduct, when the teacher can immediately be taken out of the classroom with no recourse by management. Remember, this is not a union issue: dismissal is a statutory issue.

              BTW, one of the experts I noted in my WAPO article, ” Reforms that Work,” was David Kirp. A frequent contributor to the NY Times and has also appeared on this site. He wrote an entire book about disadvantaged districts that did very well with their students. If not “closing the achievement gap, ” then narrowing it considerably. Some of the factors he notes about those districts are the consistency of staffing, no mass firings of teachers (just lots of support and professional development), lots of collaboration, and about a decade to get all the pedagogic and community supports aligned to support the kids. What KIrp writes about is very similar to what happened in successful CA QEIA districts.

              But, who cares about what works? How is the “schools suck industry” supposed to flourish if you do things that work? How do you wag your finger and threaten to fire teachers if you give them and their students appropriate levels of support and do things that work? How do tech savants, with absolutely no educational experience but lots of cash, get the traction to bully districts to follow their prescriptions or file lawsuits to be tried mostly in the media if you do what works? Just asking.

            • FloydThursby1941 12 months ago12 months ago

              Gary, it's not just the grossly ineffective, for studies have shown a tremendous difference between a 25th and 75th percentile teacher. No one seriously wants to fire 25 or more percent of teachers, but giving principals the power to not renew contracts would make all teachers work hard and increase the performance of nearly all teachers, certainly those at the 25th percentile. A teacher at the 25th percentile may feel pressure to not … Read More

              Gary, it’s not just the grossly ineffective, for studies have shown a tremendous difference between a 25th and 75th percentile teacher. No one seriously wants to fire 25 or more percent of teachers, but giving principals the power to not renew contracts would make all teachers work hard and increase the performance of nearly all teachers, certainly those at the 25th percentile. A teacher at the 25th percentile may feel pressure to not call in sick, to study the material in the Summer, to look up web sites and research how to teach better, to really push parents to hold their kids accountable, and to stay late with poor performers and help them. Think of salespeople, how many buy books or sign up for training to make more money? If we had merit pay and less job security, teachers wold be nervous and push more. It’s not just grossly incompetent teachers that are the problem. It is what a guaranteed job for life and lock step pay increases based solely on years in does to an individual’s work ethic. Try doing that to real estate sales, CPAs, tech. salespeople, refinance or insurance salespeople, engineers, waiters (imagine if teachers could claim spots at better restaurants by seniority), or any other competitive profession. You’d see people working less hard, which always is a bad thing for productivity/effectiveness.

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