Monday, January 25, 2021, 12:13pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.E. Toby Boyd re-elected president of California Teachers Association

California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd, a kindergarten teacher in the Elk Grove Unified School District, was re-elected during the quarterly meeting of the State Council of Education — a policymaking body made up of 700 delegates.

Boyd, 62, will serve a second two-year term as president of the 310,000-member teachers’ union.

David Goldberg, vice president, and Leslie Littman, secretary, were also re-elected to two-year terms. Goldberg, 49, has spent most of his career as a bilingual teacher at Murchison Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Littman, 52, has taught Advanced Placement U.S. history, economics and government at Hart High School in the William S. Hart Union High School District in Santa Clarita for 25 years.

“We hear the concerns of parents, students and fellow educators every day and are deeply committed to advocating for a strong public health infrastructure and layered prevention measures within schools that are effectively maintained and enforced,” Boyd said in a statement. “Combined with a deliberate vaccine roll out for all school employees, we look forward to working with parents, local school districts and communities to safely open our schools for in-person instruction. The pandemic is not going to interfere with CTA’s long-standing mission to proudly advocate for a free and equitable public education for all students and the future they deserve.”

Diana Lambert

Monday, January 25, 2021, 12:01pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Gov. Newsom elaborates on options for spending $4.6 billion on extended learning time

The California Department of Finance has released a three-page “trailer bill” with more details of Gov. Newsom’s $4.6 billion proposal to make up for learning time lost as a result of the pandemic. Newsom wants the Legislature to pass the proposal quickly so that districts can start to receive funding in March, for use though June 2022.

Key details include:

The bulk of the funding would be allocated through the Local Control Funding Formula, which provides additional money for English learners, low-income and foster youths; those students should be the priority for expanded instructional time and targeted academic interventions, the bill says. Districts would separately get $1,000 for every homeless student.

Funding could go toward:

  • Extended learning time: This could be achieved through a longer day, a longer year, summer school or intersessions during an academic year.
  • Accelerated learning: Acceptable uses would be one-on-one or small-group tutoring by teachers or classified workers, and credit recovery programs.
  • Supports for students needing credits for graduation or grade promotion.
  • Community-based learning hubs, like the Oakland Citywide Virtual Family Hub, which provide technology and learning supports.
  • Mental health and social-emotional supports and counseling.
  • Teacher training.

Districts would be required to include their plans as an addendum to their Local Control and Accountability Plans, which lay out their spending priorities, and hold a hearing on updated plans.

On Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 9 a.m., the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education will hold a hearing on Newsom’s proposed spending on education, including the $4.6 billion for extending learning.

John Fensterwald

Friday, January 22, 2021, 2:48pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Fremont Unified walks back plans to remove cops from campuses

Only about three months after Fremont Unified school board officials voted to remove police officers from school sites, board members this week voted to reverse the decision and reinstate the district’s school resource officer program.

Fremont Unified was one of several California school districts that voted to eliminate campus police following the killing of George Floyd last summer, which sparked protests over police brutality across the country.

Some parents support bringing cops back to schools, citing safety reasons and that they believe having officers on campus deters violence, the Mercury News reports.

But the news came as a major blow to students, parents and alumni who have been pushing for new safety strategies that don’t involve officers, who are more likely to arrest and use force against Black and Latino students in Fremont Unified. A 25-member task force created by the school board found that between 2015 and 2018, Black students made up more than 21% of the arrests in the district, but only made up 2% of the district’s enrollment. Latino students made up 27.4% of arrests, while comprising about 14.4% of students, the task force found.

Sydney Johnson

Tuesday, January 19, 2021, 6:54pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.California community college chancellor still mulling future for embattled Oakland-based district

The chancellor overseeing California’s 116 community colleges is still contemplating whether a state takeover of the Peralta Community College District is necessary.

Eloy Ortiz Oakley, the systemwide chancellor, said during a statewide Board of Governors meeting Tuesday that he is still “monitoring the situation” at Peralta. The district includes four colleges in the East Bay: Laney College and Merritt College in Oakland, Berkeley City College and the College of Alameda.

Oakley said it would be necessary to take over Peralta “if the district and its campuses are on the verge of losing their accreditation, or if they are on the verge of not being able to meet their fiscal obligations.”

He added: “And so we are monitoring both and working with all of the partner organizations that share the responsibility to make sure that Peralta is serving its students.”

All four colleges were put on probation last year by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

Oakley has faced a number of calls to intervene at the district, including from former Peralta chancellors, Oakland’s NAACP chapter and former and current Peralta trustees. They have called on Oakley to appoint a special trustee, who would have far-reaching powers at Peralta, EdSource has reported.

Last fall, Oakley’s office indicated that he would decide by this month whether to appoint a special trustee at Peralta. He announced Tuesday that he won’t announce his decision on Peralta until March at the earliest.

The Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), a state-funded agency that provides financial oversight of K-12 and community college districts, has also encouraged Oakley to increase his office’s oversight of the district.

Michael Burke

Friday, January 15, 2021, 4:51pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Sue Burr and Ilene Straus reappointed to State Board of Education

Gov. Gavin Newsom this week reappointed two longtime members of the State Board of Education, Sue Burr and Ilene Straus, indicating his support for a continuity of leadership on the policy-making board.

Straus’ reappointment coincided with her election Wednesday as vice president of the board, a position she has held since 2013. First appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011, Straus will serve her fourth 4-year term. Straus, a lecturer for the Educational Leadership Program at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, served as principal and in administrative positions for Santa Monica-Malibu Unified before becoming assistant superintendent of educational services at Beverly Hills Unified from 2006 to 2011.

Burr, appointed by Brown in 2013, will begin her third term. The executive director of the state board and an education adviser to Brown in 2011-12, she helped shape the adoption of the Local Control Funding Formula. She previously served as executive director and governmental relations director of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, undersecretary of education for Gov. Gray Davis and assistant superintendent for business services at Elk Grove Unified.

John Fensterwald

Wednesday, January 13, 2021, 12:12pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.San Francisco to fundraise up to $2 billion for schools

San Francisco city officials are proposing to fundraise up to $2 billion for schools, to improve public education in the city and spend on par with private schools. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, supervisors are proposing to create a commission that would choose which programs need to be added, and then fundraise from private donors. The programs might include “summer school, Saturday school, smaller class sizes, or additional staff in the classrooms or music and art programs.”

Zaidee Stavely

Tuesday, January 12, 2021, 2:39pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Thurmond — with help from Goldie Hawn and Ava DuVernay — unveils free mental-health guides for schools

Free mental-health curriculum will be available to California teachers and students to help them cope with escalating stress related to the pandemic, school closures, racial injustice and national political strife, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced Tuesday.

The materials are provided by organizations including the Social Emotional Learning Alliance for California, Headspace, MindUP, ARRAY101, Kevin Love Fund and Beyond Differences. The materials include classroom mindfulness exercises, social justice discussion guides, curriculum related to brain science and mental health, and other topics.

“It’s hard enough being a young person, but right now young people are facing some of the toughest times we’ve had in our lifetimes,” Thurmond said. “But we want young people to know that even in these times, there is hope, and there is help available.”

Actress Goldie Hawn, director and writer Ava DuVernay and Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers joined Thurmond for Tuesday’s announcement. They each spearhead nonprofits that are involved in the initiative.

“We can’t turn a blind eye to the next generation, because they will shape the world,” Hawn said. “We have to give them a holistic, simple way to handle their sadness, their fear, their uncertainty.”

Thurmond also encouraged school districts to bill Medi-Cal and work with county social service agencies or local nonprofits in order to expand mental-health services for students. The state Mental Health Services and Oversight Commission recently made a similar recommendation.

Carolyn Jones

Tuesday, January 12, 2021, 8:27am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.State board to discuss possible federal waiver from standardized tests

During its meeting Wednesday, the State Board of Education will discuss how the state should respond if the president-elect’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, authorizes a waiver for annual standardized testing this spring in math and English language arts.

Last year, amid the initial shutdown of schools from Covid-19, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos canceled the tests, mandated annually for students in grades 3 to 8 and for one grade in high school. Whether to suspend the tests — the Smarter Balanced assessments in California — for another year or, more likely, to allow states to modify the requirements  through a waiver, will be one of Cardona’s first big decisions.

Some civil rights groups and political leaders, including Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, who will chair the Senate’s education committee, argue that resuming the tests will be crucial to measure the disparate impact of the pandemic on racial and ethnics groups and on low-income students, students with disabilities and English learners. Others counter that administering testing remotely will impose technical challenges, and produce invalid results, while administering in-person tests to students who need a joyous welcome back to school would be counterproductive.

Possible alternatives would be to push the testing window back to summer and administer a different, shorter test that would produce schoolwide or districtwide results but not necessarily individual scores.

The Biden administration has not indicated its preference. But Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the state board, has led Biden’s education transition team. She may indicate what the state can anticipate. The issue will be taken up Wednesday morning on Item 3 of the agenda.  To view the meeting webcast, go here. The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m.

John Fensterwald

Thursday, January 7, 2021, 7:13pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos resigns after insurrection at Capital

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos resigned Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported, after condemning the insurrection at the nation’s capitol Wednesday incited by President Donald Trump.

DeVos tweeted a statement Wednesday evening condemning the violence, but not directly blaming Trump for inciting it though he rallied supporters to walk up to the capital and “take back our country” in a conspiracy theory-laden speech moments before. In her resignation letter to Trump Thursday, which the New York Times obtained, she said there was “no mistaking the impact (Trump’s) rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.”

“We should be highlighting and celebrating your Administration’s many accomplishments on behalf of the American people,” DeVos said in her letter. “Instead, we are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protestors overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people’s business. That behavior was unconscionable for our country.”

She added: “Impressionable children are watching all of this, and they are learning from us. I believe we each have a moral obligation to exercise good judgement and model the behavior we hope they would emulate. They must know from us that America is greater than what transpired yesterday.”

The resignation is effective Friday.

DeVos is the second secretary in Trump’s cabinet to resign after Wednesday’s riot. The first was Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, January 6, 2021, 9:25am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.New Pomo-focused curriculum in Lake County

Pomo tribal leaders partnered with the Lake County Office of Education, in Northern California, to develop new curriculum based on Pomo culture and history, according to The Press Democrat. The lesson plans include math and science concepts based on woven basket patterns and a fish that has historically been used by the Pomo people, as well as Pomo language lessons. About 4% of Lake County’s students are Native American. The project aims to help Native American students see themselves represented in school, which the leaders hope will encourage more of them to attend school on a regular basis and graduate high school at higher rates.

Zaidee Stavely

Tuesday, January 5, 2021, 10:29pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Last chance to comment on proposed ethnic studies curriculum

Two weeks remain for the public to comment on the final draft of the model ethnic studies curriculum that will go before the State Board of Education for final approval in March.

There has been no shortage of responses to the controversial document: 57,000 comments over 18-months, according to the California Department of Education. It has gone through two rewrites and 240 amendments in the last review alone by an advisory commission to the state board in November.

The department didn’t publish a notice of the final review on its website, and it’s not easy to find the latest revision. But here it is, along with instructions for submitting comments.

The document will be a guide to resources and teaching ethnic studies, concentrating on the four ethnic and racial groups that have been the focus on college ethnic studies programs: African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans. Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, is the author of Assembly Bill 101, which would require a course in ethnic studies for a high school diploma. Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year, citing unspecified problems with a previous draft of the curriculum.

John Fensterwald

Wednesday, December 23, 2020, 5:19pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Biden selects Miguel Cardona as nominee for education secretary

President-elect Joe Biden officially announced Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona as his pick for U.S. Secretary of Education on Wednesday, following reports of his selection on Tuesday.

Biden has pledged to get the majority of American students back into physical classrooms within his first 100 days in office. Cardona, who will oversee the task of helping schools reopen amid the pandemic, has been publicly vocal about his opposition to long-term school closures and the urgent need to get students back to school safely.

“Though we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we also know that this crisis is ongoing, that we will carry its impacts for years to come and that the problems and inequities that have plagued our educational system since long before Covid will still be with us even after the virus is gone,” Cardona said, speaking publicly as Biden’s nominee on Wednesday.

Prior to his role as education commissioner, Cardona was an elementary school teacher and then a school principal starting at age 28. Born in Connecticut to Puerto Rican parents, Cardona would also further Biden’s aim of appointing a diverse cabinet that reflects more Americans. The pick could be particularly resonant in California, where nearly 55% of students enrolled in public K-12 schools, about 3,380,000, are Hispanic or Latino.

Sydney Johnson

Tuesday, December 22, 2020, 11:04am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Biden taps Dr. Miguel Cardona to be next U.S. education secretary

President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Miguel Cardona, commissioner of education for Connecticut, to be his secretary of education.

Since the coronavirus pandemic caused schools to pivot to distance learning, Cordona has been outspoken about wanting to bring students back to their physical campuses. If confirmed by the Senate, Cardona would oversee Biden’s pledge to safely bring back the majority of the nation’s students who are still learning from home back to their physical campuses within his first 100 days in office.

“In-person education is too important for our children to disrupt their education further, unless and until local conditions specifically dictate the need to do so,” Cardona wrote in a letter to school superintendents last month.

Cardona served as an elementary school teacher in Connecticut and then as a school principal for 10 years starting at just 28 years old — the youngest person in the state to hold the job, according to the Hartford Courant. Biden has been vocal about wanting an educator in the position, a notable contrast to current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has never worked as a teacher or school administrator. Cardona was later appointed to lead education for the state of Connecticut in August 2019.

Cardona, who is of Puerto Rican descent, would also further Biden’s aim of appointing a diverse cabinet that reflects more Americans. The pick could be particularly resonant in California where nearly 55% of students enrolled in public K-12 schools, about 3,380,000, are Hispanic or Latino.

“We know that all schools, from the elementary level to the college level, face a challenging road ahead as we work to recover from the pandemic,” the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wrote in its letter to Biden urging for more Latino representation in his cabinet. “It is clear that Mr. Cardona’s record of accomplishments demonstrates that he is capable and qualified to lead the Department of Education. Further, as a Puerto Rican leader, he will bring a valued and diverse voice to the cabinet.”

 

Sydney Johnson

Friday, December 18, 2020, 11:55am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.California is bringing 116 kids home after reports of abuse in faraway programs

California county officials must find new homes and services for 116 children who were sent to out-of-state facilities for mental health and behavior issues following a state decision to stop sending struggling youth to programs far from home.

A recent investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle and The Imprint found that California’s Department of Social Services knew for years that children who were sent to programs run by a for-profit company called Sequel Youth & Family Services outside of California reported abuse including choking, punching and sexual assault by staffers at the facilities.

In May, one teenager in Michigan died after staff members piled on top of him for throwing pieces of bread in the cafeteria, the Chronicle reported.

Now, counties must find new and safe homes for the more than 100 children who have been ordered to return to California.

“To receive the news last week in this way puts us in a very difficult position,” San Francisco Juvenile Probation Chief Katy Miller told the Chronicle. “But as difficult as it is, I’m hopeful that it will lead to options for kids in California that meet their needs.”

Sydney Johnson

Tuesday, December 15, 2020, 4:56pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Tanya Ortiz Franklin becomes newest member of Los Angeles Unified school board

Tanya Ortiz Franklin, a former teacher, took her oath of office Tuesday to become the newest member of Los Angeles Unified’s seven-member school board.

Franklin was elected to the board in November and replaces Richard Vladovic, who was termed out. Before her election, Franklin was a staff member at the Partnership for LA Schools, a non-profit organization that helps run 18 L.A. Unified district schools.

Caleb Ebo, an elementary school student in the district, administered the oath of office for Franklin.

“Over the next four years, you can expect that I will work diligently and strategically with integrity and compassion so that every child in LAUSD has the best possible public education,” Franklin said during brief remarks. “You can expect that I will center the students and communities that have been historically marginalized so that we reshape our system to serve our most vulnerable neighbors.”

Three board members who were re-elected to the board this year — Jackie Goldberg, Scott Schmerelson and George McKenna — also began new terms Tuesday. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond administered the oath of office for each of them.

The board on Tuesday also unanimously voted board member Kelly Gonez to serve as the board’s president for the 2021 calendar year. Her current term as a board member runs through December 2022.

Gonez said during the meeting that she is “truly humbled to lead this board, particularly at such a pivotal moment” for Los Angeles schools.

“It’s my promise to serve as a president who is centered on our students and families above all else, especially during this dire and extremely difficult time for so many in our school community,” Gonez said.

Michael Burke

Tuesday, December 15, 2020, 12:01am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Decline in California’s number of high school graduates looms, according to study

The overall number of California high school graduates will continue to climb for the next several years before peaking in 2024, when declining birth rates will drive a steady downturn for the foreseeable future, according to a new report.

The report, “Knocking at the College Door,” projects similar trends for the rest of the United States. The study is published by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).

Here are some of the key findings from the study:

  • In 2019, 484,629 high school students graduated in California, including about 439,000 from public schools.
  • There will be a peak of 506,890 high school graduates in California in 2024, according to the study.
  • Beginning in 2025, the number of California’s high school graduates will steadily decline, all the way down to about 411,000 in 2037, the last year for which the study includes projections.
  • The Latino student population is a major driver of the trends in California. The number of Latino students graduating from California’s public high schools is expected to hit a peak of about 248,000 in 2024 before beginning to decline, according to the report.

The report also acknowledges that the uncertain impact of Covid-19 presents an “enormous asterisk” for the data.

“Future declines could be further mitigated if the nation continues to improve graduation rates, particularly among underserved students, or conversely, they could be exacerbated if impacts related to Covid-19 erode the progress we previously made,” Demarée Michelau, president of WICHE, said in a statement.

Michael Burke

Monday, December 14, 2020, 10:51am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Latest draft of ethnic studies model curriculum posted for review, comments

The State Board of Education is receiving public comments through Jan. 21 on the final draft of the proposed high school ethnic studies model curriculum that will go to the board for adoption at its March 17-18 meeting.

This is the third draft of the curriculum, which the Legislature set in motion in 2016. Modeled on a college ethnic studies course, it focuses primarily on the histories, struggles and achievements of four groups that traditionally are studied: African-Americans, Hispanics and Chicanos, Asian Americans and Native Americans.

The Instructional Quality Commission, which advises the state board on curriculum issues, made the latest revisions at a two-day meeting in November. In response to continuing criticisms by ethnic and religious groups that their experiences, too, should be included, the commission added references to and lessons about Sikh, Jewish, Arab Americans and other Asian American groups. It also toned down the language in sections containing sharp critiques of white oppression and American capitalism.

In a separate but related action, in September, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have made ethnic studies a mandatory high school graduation course. Newsom referred to dissatisfaction with the wording of the proposed curriculum in his veto message. The chief author of that bill, Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, announced last week he would reintroduce the bill this year.

Members of the public can read the latest draft and instructions for submitting comments by going here.

John Fensterwald

Friday, December 11, 2020, 3:21pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Suzanne Kitchens becomes new president of school boards association

Pleasant Valley School District board member Suzanne Kitchens is the new president of the California School Boards Association. Delegates from the association elected her to the post at its annual convention this month.

A native Californian and Ventura County resident, she served for more than 20 years as a volunteer in the Pleasant Valley district, where her three daughters graduated, before winning election to the school board in 2000; she has served as board president.

Suzanne Kitchens

An accountant who owns a tax business, she has also chaired CSBA’s Finance and Audit Committees. She has a bachelor’s degree in Business and a master’s degree in Business Administration from CSU-Dominguez Hills.

“In this year of the pandemic, CSBA leaders have worked hard to help every board member and give them quality resources. In 2021, we will continue to advocate for public education and to provide tools and services for board members at every level of continuous learning,” Kitchens said.

Joining Kitchens on CSBA’s 2021 Executive Committee are President-elect Susan Heredia of Natomas Unified and Vice President Susan Markarian of the Pacific Elementary School District. Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez of Azusa Unified will serve as immediate past president.

John Fensterwald

Friday, December 11, 2020, 3:18pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.CSBA honors Milpitas Unified board member Chris Norwood

Milpitas Unified school board Vice President Chris Norwood is the California School Boards Association’s Board Member of the Year. CSBA announced its Golden Gavel Award, honoring school board members who exemplify best practices in effective governance and boardsmanship, at the end of its virtual convention last week.

Norwood, a Milpitas High School graduate, was first elected to the Milpitas board in 2014. He has had a hand in molding state math placement and education finance legislation through his work with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, CSBA said.

He also has co-hosted discussions on violence prevention, housing for teachers and vulnerable families, and other critical topics in the district. Building collaboration through dialogue will be essential for districts and families facing food and housing insecurity, unemployment and mental health challenges during the pandemic, CSBA said.

John Fensterwald

Thursday, December 10, 2020, 1:33pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Schools need to work with health, justice other agencies to stop ‘toxic stress’ among children

California’s education, health, justice, social service and other agencies need to join forces to address pervasive “toxic stress” among young people that’s been made worse by the pandemic, according to a report released this week by California Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris.

Roadmap for Resilience: The California Surgeon General’s Report on Adverse Childhood Experiences, Toxic Stress, and Health” outlines the scope of the problem and provides guidance for how schools and other institutions can help students and their families cope with stress and trauma. Training for all staff, referrals to health professionals, investments in a safe and welcoming school climate, and promotion of healthy habits are among the recommendations for schools. Burke Harris has already encouraged schools to screen children for adverse childhood experiences, which can be linked to poor academic performance and physical and mental health challenges. Those experiences can include abuse, neglect, witnessing violence or living with a parent who’s mentally ill or an addict.

Carolyn Jones

Thursday, December 10, 2020, 11:40am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.CSU plans to reopen all 23 campuses for fall 2021 term

California State University announced Wednesday that it plans to return to offering primarily in-person classes starting in the fall of 2021.

“It’s critical that we provide as much advance notice as possible to students and their families, as we have done previously in announcing our moves toward primarily virtual instruction,” CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White said. “While we are currently going through a very difficult surge in the pandemic, there is light at the end of the tunnel with the promising progress on vaccines.”

White retires at the end of this year and will be replaced by Fresno State President Joseph Castro in January.

“This decision comes at a good time as high school and transfer students have until December 15 to complete their applications for fall admission,” Castro said. “I urge eligible students across the Golden State to apply for admission to one or more CSU campuses.”

Ashley A. Smith

Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 11:16pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.New survey points to income inequality and anxiety among Californians

A survey by the Public Policy Institute of California has revealed considerable pessimism toward the future and immediate economic distress particularly among lower-income Californians interviewed in the grip of the pandemic. PPIC released “Californians and Their Economic Wellbeing,” a survey of 2,325 adult residents, including 1,000 lower-income adults, on Wednesday.

Among the findings:

  • 63% think that children in California today will be worse off financially than their parents when they grow up, including 78% of whites and 47% of Latinos; 35% say children will be better off.
  • 69% say the gap between rich and poor in their part of the state is getting wider, led by 78% in the Bay Area; 6% statewide say the gap is narrowing.
  • 43% living in households earning less than $40,000 had with reduced work hours or pay and 42% cut back on food to save compared with 12% in households earning $80,000 or more.
  • 78% say it is important for workers to organize, a view shared by majorities across parties, regions, and income and racial/ethnic groups.
  • While 83% of Californians say racism is a problem in the US, 63% of Blacks say that racial and ethnic discrimination contributes “a great deal” to inequality, compared with 29% of whites.
John Fensterwald

Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 4:26pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Cal State LA awarded grant for simulation lab to prepare teachers

Cal State LA has been awarded a $586,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to train future teachers in math and science instruction using a simulation lab.

The three-year grant will be used to establish the Simulations for Minority Interactive Learning Environments: A Design and Development Project at Cal State LA. The simulation lab will help prepare elementary teachers working in schools in high-poverty urban areas to teach math and science.

“Just as pilots spend long hours using virtual simulators before flying a plane carrying real passengers, it is now possible to provide students studying to be teachers opportunities to virtually practice teaching strategies to enhance learning before serving students in real classrooms,” said Costello Brown, a consultant on the project and an emeritus chemistry professor at Cal State LA.

Diana Lambert

Monday, December 7, 2020, 11:06am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Michael Kirst takes new position at institute established by Linda Darling-Hammond

Michael Kirst is picking up where he left off nearly two years ago when he retired as president of the State Board of Education, with a new venue to contemplate education policy in California.

Kirst announced last week that he is now Senior Fellow in Residence at the Learning Policy Institute in Palo Alto. His initial task, he wrote in an email, will be an analysis and revision of the state’s system of education reform that combines many components, including classroom instruction, community schools and district operations such as human resources and budgeting. This will include “new and more comprehensive strategies” and “much tighter linkages between K-12 and postsecondary education,” he said.

Kirst, an adviser for former Gov. Jerry Brown for five decades, was a co-author of what came to be the Local Control Funding Formula, the new system for allocating state funding for school districts. During his eight years as state board president, he oversaw the integration of new academic standards and assessments and a new, still-evolving system of school accountability. His successor as board president, Linda Darling-Hammond, is president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute and a longtime collaborator and colleague at Stanford University, where both are professors emeriti.

Kirst said his the deadline for presenting his initial report is June 2021.

John Fensterwald

Friday, December 4, 2020, 5:21pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.DACA, the federal program for undocumented immigrants, to begin accepting new applicants

Thousands of undocumented immigrants are now eligible to apply for a federal program that provides protection from deportation and a work permit if they meet specific requirements.

A federal judge on Friday ordered the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to fully restore an Obama-era executive order known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and publish a public notice by Monday specifying first-time applications will be accepted.

Court battles ensued after the Trump administration attempted to end DACA in September 2017, and first-time applications have not been accepted since then. And although the attempt to end the program was described as “arbitrary and capricious” by the U.S. Supreme Court in June and a Maryland federal judge in July ruled that DACA be restored, the Trump administration continued denying new applications. They also began requiring this year that those already in the program renew their application every year, rather than the previously-established two years.

In California, there are an estimated 4,000 undocumented students enrolled in the 10-campus UC system, about 9,500 at California State University’s 23 campuses and up to 70,000 in the state’s 115 community colleges. About half of those students are estimated to have DACA certification.

Advocates of the program rejoiced on Friday, some using the hashtag HomeIsHere on Twitter to communicate their support.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Thursday, December 3, 2020, 4:15pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Los Angeles County needs a more diverse teacher workforce, report says

School districts in Los Angeles County need to recruit and retain more teachers of color, particularly Latinx and Black educators, according to a report from the Greater LA Education Foundation released today.

The foundation is a philanthropic arm of the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

The report found that 57% of teachers and 61% of administrators in Los Angeles County are Latinx, Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Filipino or multiracial, compared to 85% of its students.

The largest gap exists between Latinx students, who make up 66% of the student population, and Latinx teachers, who are 33% of the teacher workforce.

Research shows a diverse teacher workforce can help close gaps in academic performance for students of color.

There are several recommendations in the report for how government and education officials can incentivize teaching programs, including offering loan forgiveness, reduced credentialing fees, increasing starting salaries in lower-performing schools and offering housing and teaching stipends.

The report also recommends the expansion of pathways to teaching careers, including district-operated programs like residencies, where student teachers work alongside veteran teachers.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, December 3, 2020, 1:17pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.California bill would revamp state broadband funding as distance learning continues

A bill introduced today by state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, could update the state’s existing broadband funding system.

The bill, which has been dubbed the Broadband for All Act, would update requirements for communities to apply for grants, finance their own internet infrastructure and increase deployment speeds to at least 100mbps.

The bill would also remove a sunset on the existing broadband law, AB 1665, which allows the California Public Utilities Commission to collect $330 million through 2022 to fund broadband through the California Advanced Services Fund. It would also create a Broadband Bond Financing Securitization Account to fund ongoing costs for broadband infrastructure.

The announcement comes as schools across California continue with distance learning, even though hundreds of thousands of students are expected to be without a stable internet connection, according to a recent report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

“High-speed broadband is a right for all Californians, just as we all have a right to telephone service and electricity,” said David Griffith, District 5 supervisor for the Alpine County Board of Supervisors. “We who live in areas that have no broadband or inadequate broadband are Californians, too.”

During the 2020 legislative session, two bills — SB 1130 and AB 570 — similarly aimed to reform broadband funding and increase internet access but failed to pass. Both bills were introduced before the pandemic caused schools and businesses to switch to online settings to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“From the standpoints of kids families and schools in California, broadband for all is a complete no-brainer,” said Jim Steyer, president of the children’s media nonprofit Common Sense Media, which is co-sponsoring the bill. “You have to have broadband access to be a citizen in California or any part of the world today, and we need to provide this for everyone in California, particularly our kids who are going to school over the internet.”

Sydney Johnson

Tuesday, December 1, 2020, 4:22pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.California State University system extends application deadline

The California State University system has extended its fall 2021 priority application deadline to apply to Dec. 15, to “better serve high school and community college students facing university admission challenges caused by COVID-19,” the system said in a statement.

The application deadline was initially set for 11:59 p.m. Dec. 4.

The CSU is following the University of California which extended its application deadline due to technical difficulties from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4.

CSU is encouraging students who apply to visit the university’s financial aid website. Students should complete and submit their financial aid application and follow-up with their campus’ financial aid office.

Ashley A. Smith


Monday, November 30, 2020, 5:10pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.California parents sue state alleging inequity in distance learning

A group of seven families from Oakland and Los Angeles, as well as the Oakland REACH parents group filed a lawsuit Monday against the State of California alleging the state hasn’t done enough to prevent racial and socio-economic inequality in distance learning.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Alameda County Superior Court, says the state failed its “constitutional obligation” to provide students an equal education by not ensuring equal access to devices, technology and support necessary for remote learning. The lawsuit also alleges the state has failed to provide teachers the support needed to help students learn under the current circumstances.

The impact, the lawsuit said, has disproportionately affected Black and Latinx students, as well as students from low-income backgrounds.

“The change in the delivery of education left many already-underserved students functionally unable to attend school,” the plaintiffs said in the lawsuit. “The State continues to refuse to step up and meet its constitutional obligation to ensure basic educational equality or indeed any education at all.”

Nine Los Angeles families filed a similar lawsuit against Los Angeles Unified in September, alleging the district’s distance learning program does not meet state educational standards and disproportionately harms Black and Latinx students, the Associated Press reported.

The Alameda County lawsuit calls for a judgment barring the state from “further depriving Plaintiffs of their constitutional rights,” as well as for low-income, Black and Latinx families to be included in the state and local planning for in-person instruction when conditions allow.

The families are being represented by Public Council — a nonprofit civil rights law firm — and international law firm Morrison and Foerster.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, November 30, 2020, 12:41pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.University of California extends application deadline

The University of California has extended its application deadline to apply to Friday, citing technical difficulties that applicants experienced.

The application deadline was initially set for Monday. Now, the deadline is Friday at 11:59 p.m.

“Due to the technical difficulties that many were experiencing on Nov. 29, the deadline for the UC application has been extended to 11:59 pm PST, Friday, Dec. 4,” the system said in a statement.

Even with the extension, the system encouraged students to submit their applications as soon as possible.

“We do encourage applications to be submitted as soon as possible! If you can, submit early and don’t wait until the last day to apply,” the system said in a tweet.

Michael Burke

Friday, November 20, 2020, 4:31pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.California school districts undervalue and must improve civic learning, new report concludes

Even as students have become more politically active, California school districts have paid scant attention to civics education, a new report by social science researchers at UC Riverside and UCLA found.

Based on a representative sampling of districts, researchers concluded that 5 million of 6 million students in the state attend schools that “do not articulate any sort of substantial focus on civics education,” Erica Hodgin, co-author of the report, Reclaiming the Democratic Purpose of California’s Public Schools, said during this week’s EdSource podcast. For example, civic and democratic commitments are absent from most districts’ Local Control and Accountability Plans, in which districts set academic priorities and funding.

The presidential election reaffirmed the need to educate and inspire students about how to make democracy work, Hodgin said. This includes not only teaching the basics of voting and representative government, but also building skills to determine accuracy in the media, how to engage in civic discussions and how to take informed action, Hodgin said.

The report calls for more investment in civic education and the establishment of a state task force to create a master plan in civic learning. It also credits the the State Board of Education’s recent approval of the State Seal of Civic Engagement in California, which will be awarded to high school graduates who develop and demonstrate an understanding of and participation in civic life. The authors said they hope students will pursue the recognition and districts will improve the quality of their programs so that more students can qualify for it.

John Fensterwald

Friday, November 20, 2020, 10:37am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Some California counties are paying more than $500,000 per youth to lock up young people

It costs more than $500,000 per youth per year to run California’s juvenile halls in counties such as Alameda, according to a recent report from the Youth Law Center and the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center.

Juvenile hall is a still jail-like experience for many young people despite many efforts to reform the state’s system. Youth crime has dropped significantly over the last few decades in California and across the U.S., the San Francisco Chronicle reports. While some counties are like San Francisco, which closed its juvenile hall and replaced it with community-based programs, other programs can last up to a year in Fresno County and 730 days Tulare County, both in California’s Central Valley.

“What we found is that juvenile hall commitment programs suffer from many of the very things that caused Gov. Newsom to want to shutter the state facility system,” Sue Burrell of the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center told the Chronicle. “The governor’s goal of transforming youth justice as we know it cannot be fulfilled by locking youth in jail-like settings where they cannot exercise judgment, develop skills or engage in healthy peer activities, and where they lack meaningful access to their families and the community.”

Sydney Johnson

Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 11:16am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Governing board of California community colleges elects new president, vice president

The governing board for California’s community college system has a new president and vice president for the 2021 calendar year.

The board on Monday elected Pamela Haynes to serve as president and Amy Costa as vice president.

Haynes, who ran unopposed for president, will replace outgoing board president Tom Epstein. She previously served as vice president under Epstein. Haynes is also an elected trustee for the Sacramento-based Los Rios Community College District.

Costa, former chief deputy director for budget at the California Department of Finance, was elected vice president over Hildegarde Aguinaldo, who is assistant general counsel for the dialysis company DaVita.

Of the 15 board members present for Monday’s meeting, Costa received eight votes and Aguinaldo received six. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalaki, an ex-officio voting member of the board, abstained from the vote.

Michael Burke

Monday, November 16, 2020, 3:09pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Crisis response interferes with districts’ ability to meet learning needs: report

An update of a study of how 100 U.S. school districts are coping with the pandemic, including nine large districts in California, concluded that “school districts are too often consumed by crisis response and the logistical challenges of reopening to develop new strategies for teaching and learning.”

“Districts are going it alone — procuring equipment and setting up plans to keep children safe in buildings, only to have those plans derailed by rising case counts in their communities,” it said.

In the latest report, by the Center for the Reinvention of Public Education, based at the University of Washington-Bothell, 80 out of 100 districts say they plan to measure student learning, and nearly two-thirds specify strategies like tutoring or small-group instruction for students who fall behind. But 59 districts didn’t specify what assessment system they’ll use or what data they will make available to parents and the public, and only 16 said they would use a universal or standardized diagnostic, which can be useful to determine learning needs across schools.

The authors wrote that especially in big districts, large numbers of students remain disengaged from learning or going without crucial support services. Relying on returning to in-person instruction won’t solve this problem, they said. “At every stage, school districts’ response to the pandemic has been thrown off course by the mistaken assumption that things will soon return to normal,” they concluded.

California districts included in the study include Oakland, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, Fresno, Oakland, Santa Ana, Sacramento City and Stockton unified districts. The full report and database can be found here.

John Fensterwald

Friday, November 13, 2020, 5:19pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Fremont Unified votes to remove police officers from school campuses

Fremont Unified is the latest California school district to part ways with police officers on school campuses. The school district, which is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, follows Oakland Unified, San Francisco Unified, Alum Rock Union and East Side Union High School districts in San Jose, which all voted to sever ties with local police departments and school resource officer programs this summer following widespread protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd in May.

The decision in Fremont Unified, which has an enrollment of about 35,000 students, was made based on a recommendation from a 25-member task force created to evaluate the issue earlier this year, the Mercury News reported. About 70 people spoke in favor of removing police from campuses in a district meeting on Thursday when the vote took place, and about 30 said they wanted to keep officers on campus.

Sydney Johnson

Thursday, November 12, 2020, 12:23pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.CSU breaks enrollment record during pandemic

Enrollment at California State University campuses is up since the pandemic began, according to the Chancellor’s Office.

The university system had 485,549 students enroll for the fall semester. It had 481,929 students enrolled in the university in the fall of 2019. This breaks the enrollment record of 484,297 from the fall of 2017.

“The record enrollment of 485,549 students reflects the confidence that state residents have in the California State University,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White in a statement. “I commend the creativity and hard work of our faculty and staff who implemented innovative ways to carry on our tradition of inclusive academic excellence, despite the current pandemic and necessary transition to virtual instruction. Their efforts enabled us to welcome our new students and to connect and engage with all students like never before.”

University enrollment fell about 4% nationwide.

The enrollment increases are due, in part, to an all-time high retention rate of 85.5% for first-year students, according to the university. Fresno State, Sacramento State and CSU Bakersfield had record high enrollments.

Diana Lambert

Tuesday, November 10, 2020, 8:31pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.California voters defeat Proposition 15, measure to collect higher property taxes from commercial properties

California voters have defeated Proposition 15, the measure to collect higher property tax revenue from commercial properties.

The proposition has been lagging since the Nov. 3 election. The Associated Press on Tuesday called the proposition defeated following a ballot update that showed that Prop. 15 had only 48% support and was trailing by more than a half-million votes. Official returns won’t be certified until early next month.

The proposition was the first ballot attempt to amend Proposition 13, the ever-popular 1978 constitutional amendment limiting property tax increases.

One of the most contested and expensive state issues on the ballot, Prop. 15 would have raised anywhere from $10.3 billion to $12.6 billion annually for cities, counties and schools. Of that amount, 40% — $2.6 billion to $4.6 billion — would have gone K-12 schools and community colleges.

All the revenue would have come from higher taxes on commercial properties valued over $3 million by reassessing them at market value every three years while leaving intact Prop. 13’s rules for reassessing homes and apartment buildings only when they’re sold. Prop. 13 limits property taxes to 1% of assessed value, with a maximum 2% increase in taxes annually. Changing taxation only for commercial properties is why Prop. 15 is called a split-roll tax.

Rose Ciotta

Tuesday, November 10, 2020, 2:17pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Education transition team for Biden administration announced, with Linda Darling-Hammond as “lead”

President-elect Joe Biden announced his 20-person education transition team, along with teams focused on 38 other federal agencies and functions ranging from Arts and Humanities to the U.S. Postal Service. Heading the education team is Linda Darling Hammond, president of the Learning Policy Institute, as well as president of California’s State Board of Education. Darling-Hammond played the same role a dozen years ago on the transition team of President-elect Barack Obama.

Four of the members work for the American Federation of Teachers or the National Education Association, but almost all of the others have worked at senior levels for the federal government in some capacity before, especially in the Obama administration. For more details on the K-12 members, check out this report by EdWeek’s Evie Blad. The team is heavily tilted towards members whose principal background is in K-12 arenas. One of the few from the postsecondary field is James Kvaal, president of the Oakland-based The Institute for College Access and Success. Kvaal also worked in the Obama administration, both at the U.S. Dept. of Education and at the White House for the Domestic Policy Council.

Earlier this week, there was a good deal of speculation that Darling-Hammond was a top prospect to be Secretary of Education, but she has indicated forcefully that she is not interested in the position, preferring to stay in California to work with Gov. Newsom in her role as president of the State Board of Education as well as of the Learning Policy Institute. In response, Gov. Newsom on Wednesday said that “Linda is a vital leader in my administration, and is instrumental in advancing our shared objectives to expand equity, set the course to universal pre-K and prepare all students for success in college, careers and civic engagement — especially as we manage the impacts of COVID-19.”

As to her decision not to move to D.C., Newsom said “I am thrilled that Linda will continue to architect and drive our vision for education in California, in addition to advising President-Elect Biden and his transition team as they chart a better course for our students nationwide.”

The full transition team is as follows:

Linda Darling-Hammond Learning Policy Institute
Ary Amerikaner The Education Trust
Beth Antunez American Federation of Teachers
Jim Brown United States Senate, Office of Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (Retired)
Ruthanne Buck Self-employed
Norma Cantu University of Texas at Austin, School of Law
Jessica Cardichon Learning Policy Institute
Keia Cole MassMutual
Lindsay Dworkin Alliance for Excellent Education
Donna Harris-Aikens National Education Association
Kristina Ishmael Open Education Global
Bob Kim John Jay College of Criminal Justice
James Kvaal The Institute for College Access & Success
Peggy McLeod UnidosUS
Paul Monteiro Howard University
Pedro Rivera Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology
Roberto Rodriguez Teach Plus, Inc
Shital Shah American Federation of Teachers
Marla Ucelli-Kashyap American Federation of Teachers
Emma Vadehra The Century Foundation

 

Louis Freedberg

Thursday, November 5, 2020, 3:17pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.West Contra Costa Unified superintendent to step down after this year

West Contra Costa Unified Superintendent Matthew Duffy will step down after this school year, district officials announced Thursday afternoon.

Theresa Harrington / EdSource

West Contra Costa Unified Superintendent Matthew Duffy delivers his “State of the Schools” address on Oct. 12, 2018.

Duffy has held the position since 2016. He received criticism from parents and community members after the district announced a $48 million deficit in mid-2019. Duffy scored an “intermediate” at his most recent performance review in June, meaning his contract was not automatically extended. It’s unclear, however, if his handling of the budget crisis had an impact on his score.

Prior to Thursday’s announcement, the West Contra Costa Unified school board scheduled a special meeting for Friday to discuss the search for a new superintendent. Duffy would have been a potential candidate had he not stepped down.

Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, November 3, 2020, 10:11pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Early results in L.A. Unified school board races show Schmerelson, Franklin with leads

Early voting results in Los Angeles Unified on Tuesday showed newcomer Tanya Ortiz Franklin and incumbent Scott Schmerelson with leads in two pivotal school board races.

Franklin, a former teacher, is running against labor organizer Patricia Castellanos in District 7, which stretches from South L.A. to the L.A. Harbor. As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, Franklin had earned about 59% of the vote with approximately 118,000 votes counted. Castellanos and Franklin are vying to replace school board president Richard Vladovic, who is termed out.

In District 3, which covers much of the west San Fernando Valley, Schmerelson was winning 55% of the vote with nearly 200,000 votes counted. 

Schmerelson was initially elected to the school board in 2015 and is a close ally of United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing teachers in the district. His opponent, Marilyn Koziatek, is a staffer at Granada Hills Charter High School and was endorsed by the California Charter Schools Association. 

In the District 7 race, Franklin was also backed by charter advocates, while Castellanos was endorsed by the union. If either Franklin or Koziatek were to win their election, it would give charter-backed school board members a 4-3 majority on the board. Castellanos and Schmerelson both need to win for union-backed members to have a majority.

Michael Burke

Monday, November 2, 2020, 2:42pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Local school bonds on ballot would widen facilities gap among poor districts

An analysis by an institute at UC Berkeley of the 57 local school construction bond proposals on the Nov. 3 ballot reveals that the long-standing patterns of inequity in public school facility funding in California “remain strong.”

The size of the proposed bonds varies tremendously, from $2 million proposed by Sunnyside Union Elementary School District in Tulare County to $7 billion on the ballot in Los Angeles Unified. These amounts also vary greatly by enrollment: from $318 per student at Dehesa Elementary School District in San Diego County to $85,950 per student at Sausalito-Marin City School District, according to researchers Jeff Vincent and José Lopez of the Center for Cities and Schools at UC Berkeley.

They found that districts with higher local property values per student and with higher median household incomes would generate more money per student than property-poor districts and those with lower household incomes. Also, districts with higher proportions of low-income students are proposing bonds that would yield less bonding per student than bonds proposed by wealthier communities.

In past years, matching money from state construction bonds would compensate for some of the disparities. But voters in March narrowly defeated a $15 billion state construction bond, Proposition 13, that would have replenished state funding for school districts that passed school bonds. As a result, until voters pass a new bond or the Legislature appropriates more money through the state budget, the state has run out of school construction aid for districts.

John Fensterwald

Thursday, October 29, 2020, 8:21am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.East Bay Area school district unveils new elementary school named after Michelle Obama

West Contra Costa Unified officials will unveil the district’s newest campus, named after former First Lady Michelle Obama, on Thursday.

The new elementary school campus replaces that of Wilson Elementary school in the North & East neighborhood of Richmond. Though the district has not yet returned to in-person instruction, district officials will be giving a virtual tour of the campus 11 a.m. Thursday on Facebook Live.

West Contra Costa Unified’s newest campus, Michelle Obama School, replaces Wilson Elementary School in Richmond. District officials will unveil the innovative new campus Thursday on Facebook Live, since the district has not yet returned to in-person instruction. (Courtesy of Charles Anderson/Epicycle Media)

In January, the school’s parent teacher association called on the West Contra Costa Unified school board to approve the name change, feeling as though “Wilson Elementary School” did not represent the school’s community. The parent teacher association felt as though naming the school after the former first lady would be “fundamental to this fresh start,” since the facility features a 21st century design, including a public plaza and “flexible learning spaces,”— open spaces with movable furniture intended to facilitate collaboration and personalization.

“The Michelle Obama School Grand Opening marks a historical turning point for the way our society views and experiences education,” Principal Claudia Velez said in a news release. “The children in our community will be at the center of deeper learning opportunities that are driven by their own interests and passions in an environment that will be flexibly tailored to their needs.”

Throughout the state, communities have been considering renaming local schools that some say glorify racist figures. The school’s previous namesake, former president Woodrow Wilson, was a segregationist who voiced racist views about Black people. An Edsource analysis in June found that 29 schools in California were named after Wilson.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, October 26, 2020, 3:39pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Power outages cancel classes across California

Schools in 36 California counties have either cancelled classes or asked students to study at home independently because of PG&E power shutoffs.

The utility shut off power to some areas of the counties on Sunday because of high winds and dry conditions.

The shutoffs, called Public Safety Power Shutoffs by the utility, have impacted students in parts of Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Kern, Lake, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo and Yuba counties.

Many schools in the rural areas have returned to in-person instruction, but most schools are still in distance learning because of Coronavirus concerns, with students learning from home on Zoom.

This year wildfires burned 4 million acres and killed 31 people in California.

Go here to find out when PG&E will restore power to each county.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, October 22, 2020, 4:30pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Lawmakers urge Gov. Newsom to restore funding for science teacher program

Nearly 20 California legislators have sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to restore funding for a professional development program for California science teachers that focuses on best practices and how to implement the Next Generation Science Standards that California adopted in 2013. The Exploratorium K-12 Science Leader Network is offered through the San Francisco-based Exploratorium museum and was previously supported with $3.5 million in state funding before the funds were cut from the current state budget.

Since 2016, the program has partnered with California school districts to train more than 800 teacher leaders in the science standards and teaching strategies, and about 90% of those teachers work in Title 1 schools that enroll large numbers of students from low-income families. The Exploratorium had plans to expand its reach to nearly 125,000 teachers by 2023 before the funding was lost.

Since the coronavirus pandemic has caused most schools to offer distance learning, the Exploratorium science teacher program has shifted its lessons online to provide teachers with science teaching strategies specifically for a virtual classroom. “The impact of COVID-19 with the requirements for Californians to remain at home and the shift to distance learning imposes new demands for teaching and learning science,” the letter reads.

Sydney Johnson

Thursday, October 22, 2020, 1:28pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Liberty Union School District sets reopening date

Liberty Union School District in Contra Costa County will reopen campuses on Jan. 12.

Wednesday district trustees approved a hybrid model of instruction that has students rotating onto campus on alternate days to reduce class sizes, reported the East Bay Times. Teachers opposed the plan, saying it would increase their workloads and would not keep students or teachers safe.

Contra Costa County is in Tier 2, or the red tier, of the state’s Covid-19 tracking system. Since the county has remained in that tier for more than two weeks schools are allowed to reopen. — Diana Lambert

Diana Lambert

Thursday, October 22, 2020, 11:47am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.General Motors will donate a half million masks to schools

General Motors is donating 500,000 cloth face masks to California schools, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced at a press conference Thursday.

The California Department of Education will prioritize distribution of the masks at schools with a high number of Native American, Black and Latino students, who have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, Thurmond said.

General Motors has donated over 6.5 million face masks to people around the world since the pandemic began, said Gerald Johnson, the company’s executive vice president of global manufacturing, in a video played at the press conference.

“In the early stages of the pandemic we mobilized our teams to help support those in need in these times of crisis,” he said. “With speed and urgency we mobilized thousands of employees who worked around the clock to save lives by producing face masks, protective equipment and critical care ventilators.” — Diana Lambert

Diana Lambert

Thursday, October 22, 2020, 9:42am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.75 schools eligible for $47 million in literacy funding under lawsuit deal

The California Department of Education has followed up on the settlement in February of the “Ella T v. California” lawsuit that 10 student plaintiffs attending struggling schools in Los Angeles, Stockton and Inglewood had brought against the state for failing to provide them quality reading and writing instruction.

The administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom agreed to fund $47 million over three years to develop literacy programs in the 75 elementary schools in the state with the lowest third-grade scores on the Smarter Balanced reading and writing test in 2018 and 2019. This month, the department published the list of eligible schools, located in two dozen school districts, and the rules for the program.

Every school will initially get $50,000 to consult with parents and teachers on how to address poor reading and writing instruction, including how to support families’ efforts to help their children. Schools can then apply for larger grants. An additional $3 million will be used to select a county office of education with expertise developing and supporting districts in literacy instruction as the Expert Lead in Literacy to guide the state’s efforts.

At the time of the settlement, plaintiffs attorney Mark Rosenbaum, from the law firm Public Counsel, said, “The state will make certain not just that they have the financial resources,” but also proven programs in place “that we know work in terms of teaching kids how to read.” Public Counsel filed the lawsuit in 2017.

John Fensterwald

Wednesday, October 21, 2020, 9:01pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Prop. 15 in tight vote, Prop. 16 losing in final poll before election

Proposition 15, the initiative to raise property taxes on commercial property by amending the tax limitation law Proposition 13, continues to have around 50% support, and Proposition 16, which would repeal the constitutional amendment banning affirmative action, continues to lag far behind, in the latest — and last — Public Policy Institute of California poll before the Nov. 3 election.

The latest results show 49% of likely voters support Prop. 15, 45% oppose, and 6% are undecided. The bad news for unions and community groups advocating for it is Prop. 15 has lost a little ground, and undecided voters are trending “no” since the September poll, when 51% backed it, 40% opposed and 9% hadn’t decided. Both sides are doing massive TV advertising.

Proposition 16, which would allow gender and racial preferences for college admissions, hiring and public contracting, picked up a little support, but it has a long way to go, with little time to make it up. In the latest poll, 37% of likely voters said they’d vote yes, 50% would vote no, with 12% undecided. A month ago, it was 31% yes, 47% no and 22% undecided.

There was a partisan split for both initiatives, with Democrats largely in favor and Republicans opposed. The survey of 1,701 voters took place between Oct. 9 and Oct. 18.

Among other findings, 57% of Californians said they would probably or definitely get a vaccine for Covid-19 if it were available today, while 40% said they definitely or probably would not.

John Fensterwald

Wednesday, October 21, 2020, 11:43am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Efforts to boost computer science education take a hit during Covid-19

Nearly 1 in 5 computer science teachers across the U.S. temporarily suspended instruction during the coronavirus pandemic, and rates are even higher among teachers in high-poverty schools and rural schools, according to a new report from the Computer Science Teachers Association and the Kapor Center, a nonprofit that focuses on equity in the technology field.

The organizations surveyed nearly 3,700 K-12 computer science teachers to understand how the transition to virtual learning has impacted K-12 computing education. More than half of all teachers at schools with higher proportions of Black, Latino and indigenous students said that distance learning posed a major challenge to computer science instruction, according to the report.

The study comes amid a statewide push for more equitable computer science education in California schools, and authors of the report say the report’s findings could exacerbate already disparate access to technology and computer science education across the state.

To build more opportunities for students to learn computer skills that prepare them for jobs in technology, the authors recommend prioritizing closing the gap between students who can access the internet at home and those who can’t, investing in teacher training for computer science and integrating computer science as a core course offering.

Sydney Johnson

Wednesday, October 21, 2020, 10:56am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.More equitable admissions at San Francisco high school

All students in San Francisco Unified will have a chance next year at entering the long selective Lowell High School, under a new lottery system passed by the school board on Tuesday.

Lowell High offers opportunities such as AP classes and foreign languages that are not all available at other district high schools and is considered one of the best public high schools in the country. For years the district has only admitted students with high grade-point averages and test scores to Lowell High. But this year, the district doesn’t have grades from the spring, because after the coronavirus pandemic, it switched to a pass/fail system for the semester, and standardized tests were canceled statewide.

The change will only be in place for admissions for Fall 2021. The issue has sparked contentious debate in the city, with some saying the current system is elitist and racist while others say students with higher grades deserve a spot at the school.

Zaidee Stavely

Monday, October 19, 2020, 4:37pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Biden trounces Trump in state’s mock student election

Reflecting the challenges of organizing and engaging students online, the number of students participating in this year’s California Student Mock Election dropped precipitously from four years ago, according to figures release by the California Secretary of State’s Office.

But the outcome is the same: Middle and high school students lean Democratic and don’t like President Donald Trump any more than, according to polls, their parents do. Democratic candidate Joe Biden defeated him 68% to 18%, with a victory margin exceeding Hillary Clinton’s 58% to 20% win in 2016; in that election, more students than this year voted for Libertarian and Green Party candidates, accounting for the difference.

This year, students in 181 middle and high schools cast 43,294 ballots from home — about a third of the number of schools and 21% of the ballots cast four years ago, when voting was done in-person, with rallies and civic events in schools preceding voting. Election Day this year was Oct. 6.

The students also cast ballots for initiatives. A majority backed every one, and gave overwhelming support for Prop. 14 (the bond for stem cell research that they will be paying back, with interest, well into adulthood), Prop. 15 (a significant commercial property tax increase), Prop 16 (allowing affirmative action for college admissions) and, not surprisingly, Prop. 18 ( permitting 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they’ll be 18 by the general election).

John Fensterwald

Monday, October 19, 2020, 11:43am

Link to this update copied to clipboard.State schools chief wants donations to expand anti-hate training

State grants to train teachers to teach students to be tolerant of other races and religions, as well as to people in the LGBTQ community, drew interest from 200 school districts within a week of being announced, said Superintendent of Public instruction Tony Thurmond at a press conference Thursday.

The grants were funded by a $200,000 donation from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation.

Thursday Thurmond asked that other foundations donate additional funds to expand the program, so that all school districts that want the professional development can offer it.

“I want to put a call out to other foundations as well, to help us work with those 200 school districts that are saying yeah, I want to be part of the solution at a time when there are those, even in the White House, who would divide us,” Thurmond said.

The grants are part of a “Education to End Hate” initiative launched last month. The initiative includes student and teacher webinars on how to end discrimination and a roundtable with political and social justice leaders on how to create safe learning environment.

“We want to send a strong message that we will not allow our communities to be separated, that we will teach about the impacts of slavery, that we will address that antisemitism is on the rise and that we must address the awful acts of police brutality and racism that we see playing out on our television screens, almost, almost nightly,” Thurmond said. — Diana Lambert

Diana Lambert

Friday, October 16, 2020, 2:57pm

Link to this update copied to clipboard.Oakland’s McClymonds High declared safe for students after chemical contamination last spring

McClymonds High in Oakland Unified, which was shut down last February after trichloroethylene, or TCE, was found in groundwater near the school, is now safe for students and staff, officials said Friday.

However, the entire district is in distance learning due to Covid-19 and has not yet decided to reopen any of its schools to students. The approximately 350 students who attend McClymonds in West Oakland have been learning remotely since the district closed all of its campuses for in-person instruction last March.

The district, in partnership with the county and state, tested air and water throughout the campus and found that there is no threat of TCE. It did find PCE, or tetrachloroethylene, in the outdoor air around the school, but not inside the school.

Principal Jeff Taylor said some staff members are already working on the campus. The district has installed air purifiers in all classrooms and other school facilities such as the gym to ensure that students and staff have the cleanest air possible, said district spokesman John Sasaki.

The likely sources of the TCE, Sasaki said, were a nearby metal shop or the ABC Dry Cleaners. He said the district would continue to advocate with the city to clean up environmental pollution and toxins, which he called “injustices” that many people in Oakland and other urban areas are unfairly subjected to.

Theresa Harrington

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