Schwarzenegger says he stands with Obama, calls for swift changes to California ed laws

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During a press conference this morning that veered suddenly into a Q & A about prison reform (and never really went back), the governor announced he was lining up with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama — and that the state planned “to go all out” to make California eligible for competitive federal stimulus funding.

Schwarzenegger said he was calling a special legislative session to do away with laws that might make California ineligible. He has asked state Legislators to present him with a package by early October that would lift the state’s charter school cap and allow teacher evaluations to be linked to student test scores.

“The Obama administration has pointed to California and said we have no way to distinguish good teachers from bad teachers, and I happen to agree with that,” Schwarzenegger said. “They call it a firewall and I say, `Let’s tear down that wall.”‘

Standing with the governor were representatives from the NAACP and the new CSU Center to Close the Achievement Gap, a public/private partnership with the business community.

Oh, and someone you might know: Randy Ward, OUSD’s first state administrator, who thanked Schwarzenegger “for his aggressive leadership.” 

At the end of the news conference, after a reporter tried to steer the questioning from crime and punishment to Schwarzenegger’s proposal, the governor dismissed questions about teacher unions and others who have expressed concern about linking teacher evaluations to student test scores. 

“We are all in sync. I think everyone knows these are the reforms that need to be done to reform our education system,” he said, as he walked off the stage.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Katy Murphy

    Arne Duncan liked what he heard today. Here’s a statement from our U.S. Secretary of Education:

    Statement By Secretary Arne Duncan On California’s Efforts To Remove Barriers To Reform

    August 20, 2009

    Arne Duncan

    U.S. Secretary of Education

    When I visited California in May, I challenged the education leaders — I asked them if their state was going to lead the Race to the Top or if they were going to lead the retreat. I am encouraged by the governor’s proposal which appears to be consistent with the reforms the President and I have outlined. I am hopeful the education package the governor has proposed will garner the support it needs to pass ultimately removing a legislative barrier that prohibits the state from distinguishing good teachers from bad teachers. These are tough decisions that will not only require the political will of the governor but also that of the elected officials, unions, legislators and community leaders. California may indeed serve as an example to other states that are facing similar challenges — this is a step in the right direction.

  • Katy Murphy

    I also thought you might be interested in Randy Ward’s reference to Oakland schools this morning in his statement of support for the governor’s proposal:

    “It’s critically important that we access all available resources, that we remove all obstacles, and that we foster innovative and transformative options and models to provide all students with a great teacher and a high-quality learning environment.

    This is especially needed in our lowest-performing schools. Having served 10 years as a state administrator in Compton and in Oakland, trust me, I know this to be true.”

  • Katy Murphy

    From the California Teachers Association:

    BURLINGAME – The governor’s call today to rush the Legislature to change state laws in order to meet federal funding mandates will hurt student achievement and is all too similar to the failed, one-size-fits-all policies of the No Child Left Behind Act, cautions the California Teachers Association.

    “California teachers certainly recognize the need for more school funding, but calling lawmakers into a special session to rewrite state education laws so California can apply for federal ‘Race to the Top’ (RTTT) grants before the guidelines have even been established and without public discussion is a knee-jerk reaction that our state can’t afford, and could undermine the achievement and progress our students and schools are making,” said Dean E. Vogel, vice president of the 340,000-member CTA. The federal guidelines for the RTTT grants won’t be finalized until October.

    “California voters overwhelmingly rejected the governor’s education reform agenda in 2005 and this is just more of the same. The proposed Race to the Top requirements repeat the top-down mandates of the flawed No Child Left Behind Act, with its over-reliance on test scores to measure student achievement,” said Vogel. “Students are more than one test score and so are educators. There must be multiple measures for student achievement and evaluating teachers. Using test scores to pay and evaluate teachers will lead to more teaching to the test and will hurt those students who need the most help.”

    Despite U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s claims, and concerns by the governor, student testing data is already linked to teachers at the local level in this state. Right now, this data is available to teachers and school administrators to analyze and evaluate student progress. State law also already requires the use of student assessment results in the evaluation of teachers, including the use of criterion-referenced tests as determined by local teachers and administrators.

    “Education reform is important business for the state of California as our children’s future depends on it. Rather than racing to make changes to appease the federal government, any education changes should be done with serious thought, consideration and input from educators and parents,” Vogel said.

    CTA supports using student testing data to improve student learning, instructional strategies and professional development. CTA has long supported and advocated for growth models as a better measurement of student achievement as students and schools should be given credit for the progress they make. In California, CTA has also led efforts to improve lower-performing schools. The CTA-sponsored Quality Education Investment Act provides funding for proven education reform efforts such as smaller class sizes and teacher and administrator training, and for hiring much-needed counselors in high schools.

    After the governor cut more than $18 billion from public education over the last two years, teachers certainly agree that our schools need and deserve more money, but according to the proposed Race to the Top guidelines the governor could hold onto half of the funds to use as he sees fit. “Any additional money should be focused in our classrooms – not paying for more layers of bureaucracy,” Vogel said.

  • http://www.reform-america.net A Former Tilden Dad

    It doesn’t need to be one or the other as far as teacher evaluation. There could be an evaluation matrix established taking into account overall test scores, individual student improvement from year to year and available resources for the individual schools and classrooms (average parent household income, PTA and district funds, parent volunteer time, etc.) We do need to evaluate teachers and offer incentives for excellence. (Rewarding most those who achieve with the least resources available to them.)

    We also need to take a long hard look at how we deal with teacher tenure and ongoing performance evaluation using the same type of matrix to avoid tenure complacency on the part of teachers. Structured teacher rotation (moving teachers between schools and grades within the district periodically) might not be a bad idea also to lessen burnout among long-time teachers and to assure that all schools within districts have equal access to the best and brightest teachers available.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Arne Duncan is a high school basketball star given a plum job to dole out millions to schools by his Wall Street buddy, which then leads to a top Chicago schools job and the chance to play pick-up ball at lunch with future president Barack Obama, who then made him the nation’s education czar.

    Arnold Schwarzenegger rose to prominence as a steroid-abusing male model who parlayed his big muscles and heavy accent into a fabulously lucrative film career before marrying into America’s greatest political dynasty and winning the governorship during a special election over a political near-nobody.

    But hey, let’s trust them to “fix” education with a couple of gimmicky ideas that are just cover for centralizing power to education bureaucracies and funneling tax revenues to private companies (charters, consultants, testing firms).

    Seriously, pathetic.

  • Cranky Teacher

    “The Obama administration has pointed to California and said we have no way to distinguish good teachers from bad teachers, and I happen to agree with that,” Schwarzenegger said. ”They call it a firewall and I say, `Let’s tear down that wall.”

    This is absurd. Of course there are ways to assess teachers without test scores, just as there are for every other employee anywhere. The reason the state banned the use of test scores to assess teachers was because it is so potentially abusive and inaccurate.

    And the reason to tie assessments to test scores is simple: To force teachers to teach to the test. If you agree with that goal, fine — but be up front about it!
    It is not about finding the best teachers, it is about finding the teachers who can best teach to standardized tests based primarily on multiple-choice questions.

    BTW, don’t you love how they attack everything about schools and teachers as a complete mess, but then tell us that the use of test scores to assess teachers will be done carefully, systematically, with all manner of precision and safeguards? In the Twilight Zone, perhaps.

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