In 2015 California grappled with implementation of multiple reforms, including the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, replacing the end of the No Child Left Behind Act, and developing a new accountability system for the state. Here are 10 quotes from 2015 that speak to major challenges on the California education reform landscape.


“It’s important that we’re all honest with ourselves. At the federal, state and local level, we have all supported policies that have contributed to the problem in implementation [of the nation’s testing and accountability system]. We can and will work with states, districts and educators to help solve it.”

–  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in announcing the Obama administration’s intent to reduce emphasis on testing in accountability systems.  From California leads drive to reverse focus on standardized tests

“The accountability approach didn’t work at all, particularly since 2005, during the period when No Child Left Behind was being fully implemented. This is Newton’s third law: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. By pushing the notion of accountability so hard, we have created all sorts of problems.”

Marshall ‘Mike’ Smith, former undersecretary of education in the Clinton administration and senior counselor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in the Obama Administration. From California now ‘in the hard work stage’ of making ed reforms work

“It’s important to remember that the math has not changed. What has changed is that we now have this new process for students to think and explain how they’re learning. These new tests are part of this transition. It’s going to take some time.”

Vicki Vierra, president of the California Mathematics Council, a professional network of more than 6,000 math teachers from districts across the state, on the first Smarter Balanced test results, released in October. From Educators try to come to terms with low math scores on Smarter Balanced tests

“I am a leader.” “I am not ghetto.” “I am not incapable of being interested in mathematics and the sciences.” “I am destined for great things.”

Students speaking up as part of the California Justice Project’s Student Voice initiative designed to close what they call a “belief gap” between themselves and educators who have low expectations of their abilities and life prospects.   From Destined for great things: Low-income students ask educators to believe they can succeed

“Everyone is worried about kids having access to technology. They’re too little. They need to learn how to look slowly, really observe. Everything in technology is click, click, click. This method [of looking closely at great works of art] hones the craft of looking deeply and really listening to each other.”

Elizabeth Levett, kindergarten teacher at George Peabody Elementary in San Francisco, referring to an art program in her district that encourages students to use visual arts as the basis for building vocabulary.   From Art appreciation helps young children learn to think and express ideas

“Are we feeling it? Definitely.”

– Tamara Ravalin, assistant superintendent for human resources development for Visalia Unified, on the teacher shortage in her district. From California’s dwindling teacher supply rattling districts’ nerves

“I don’t believe there is any reason the reforms championed by Gov. Brown will move the needle or narrow the gap. It will only work if there is accountability for how it is spent, and if there is capacity at the local level for spending it well.”

Christopher Edley, Jr., of the governing board of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law. From Edley: ‘Several missing pieces to the current batch of reforms’

“Setting the table for parents to get involved is one thing. Genuinely inviting them to join the dinner party is another.”

Ryan J. Smith, executive director of Education Trust–West, on the task districts face in getting parents involved in the Local Control and Accountability Plan. From Schools must embrace the power of parents

“This law makes long overdue fixes to the education law, replacing the one-size-fits-all approach to reform. It creates a real partnership between the states, which will have new flexibility to tailor their improvement plans, and the federal government, which will have the oversight to make sure that the plans are sound.”

President Barack Obama, in signing the Every Student Succeeds Act, which will replace the No Child Left Behind law. From President Obama signs Every Student Succeeds Act

“The idea is, you take a school or a district that’s willing to bleed on the cutting edge, and then share those lessons so the next district doesn’t have to bleed as much.”

Kathy DiRanna, statewide director for the K-12 Alliance, on the challenges of implementing the Next Generation Science Standards in California.  From New approach to teaching science gets test run

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  1. Janelle Neumann 12 months ago12 months ago

    How you teach and learn is important. That you have the opportunity to do the work that leaves you breathlessly inspired and earn a very good living is mission critical. As a parent I accept every learning experience as offered by schools, community groups, museums, etc but map my child's work by increasingly rigorous standards. Then I wait for her to ask about something and dive deeply into that subject. Later … Read More

    How you teach and learn is important. That you have the opportunity to do the work that leaves you breathlessly inspired and earn a very good living is mission critical. As a parent I accept every learning experience as offered by schools, community groups, museums, etc but map my child’s work by increasingly rigorous standards. Then I wait for her to ask about something and dive deeply into that subject. Later I ask how she can excel at the task, and if it’s something she could improve. In short you need school standards, project based learning, resources and a focused/coordinated team.