More from Tony Smith, Oakland’s new supe

Lillian Mongeau, of UC Berkeley’s Oakland North, sat down with Tony Smith last week and produced this Q & A. She asks the new superintendent about teacher quality, the racial achievement gap, teacher evaluations and the fact that he has never been a classroom teacher.

Do you agree with where he stands on these issues? Did anything strike you about his responses?

If you’re planning to attend tonight’s town hall meeting with Smith at International High School, maybe the interview will spark some follow-up questions.

In other Smith news: I heard the superintendent made quite a speech at last week’s school board meeting (while I was away) about the performance of Oakland’s African American students. I’ve requested a copy of the video so you can hear it if you haven’t already. It should be here soon.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Steven Weinberg

    Welcome back, Katy. Here is a link to the video of the Sept. 23 School Board meeting: http://ousd.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=4&clip_id=48
    scroll down to N. Superintendent’s Report to hear the speech. You are correct, it is quite interesting.

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks, Steve!

  • Cranky Teacher

    He gives good answers. However, it is not really that hard to give good answers, especially if you’ve been interviewing for these kinds of jobs for years.

    Perhaps he can spruce up our systems, improve professional development, plug the money leaks and corruption … that would be a start. But if you want to remake Oakland through it’s schools, you need to launch some radical approaches — and find the resources to carry them out.

    Reality? The current contract offered teachers proposes TAKING AWAY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS’ PREP PERIOD. And then you want me to believe you care about the quality of teaching?!

    Yeah, I’ll wait and see.

    One thing I found ironic, which plagues all administrators caught between the political/federal/state bureaucracies and the reality of teaching is how he bashes (accurately, in my opinion) the star tests as a “reductive, narrow, and very fixed multiple choice test” — and yet then goes on to cite them throughout his discussion of the achievement gap!

    I know, he was just using the test as shorthand, and certainly those numbers are telling in the way he means them. And yet, they are may not always telling in the same ways; there can be variance in different areas than ability. For example, how hard are students of different background TRYING on the tests?

    More importantly, let’s realize that, to a very large degree, the tests are a measure of ALL that children
    have absorbed about the subjects whether inside or outside the classroom. This is not to say the children are “deficient,” but they do come from different cultural and economic milieus with different sets of what is called “background knowledge.”

    My childhood experience in public schools very much like Oakland’s was that I learned almost NOTHING in class and yet tested like a rock star every year. With the possible exception of math, my learning was almost entirely done through (non-school) books and interactions with my (self)educated parents and step-parents. My mother, a unionized factory worker who had only made it through a year of college, nevertheless read to me as a child every night, and all my parents loved to engage me in discussions about the world around me, patiently answering my questions for as long as I wanted to ask them. I also watched them pursue learning every day, after work, and, perhaps because of this modeling, became an obsessive reader myself — and was allowed to buy any book I wanted! By osmosis, then, I picked up all those vocab words that are the basis of understanding all our textbooks and standardized tests. My parents’ parents had been extremely poor, but valued “book learning” highly, and the tradition had continued.

    Does that sound like the background of MOST children in Oakland being raised by an impoverished single mother on welfare or working two dead-end jobs who did not graduate from high school?

    I guess what I’m saying in my usual long-winded way is that Smith is oversimplifying the achievement gap. Of course we don’t want to write off kids as doomed or “deficient.” Yet, the current mantra is that if our teaching practices are top-notch and backed by state-of -the-art research, everybody can be caught up.

    One big buzzword is “differentiation,” in which every student is getting curriculum and support uniquely appropriate to them. If that was truly a solution and we actually cared about these children as much as is claimed, these would be the natural next steps:

    — Massive committment to smaller classes at all levels.
    — Dramatic increase in paid teacher prep/planning time to differentiate curriculum and create individualized learning plans. Starting point: Pay teachers to work six weeks every summer on this.
    — Huge increase in paraprofessionals to help implement increased support in classrooms. Those in special ed currently have such aides, but thousands of non-identified Oakland students are equally behind and in need of additional support.
    — Truly innovative curriculum that ignores the state tests completely in favor of what is going to HELP STUDENTS SUCCEED in college and/or the workplace. The state standards are created by academics who believe in the “banking” model of learning and favor memorization. We often complain about the tests and textbooks, but it is the standards that are the guidepost for both.
    — Quality of life support for the students so they can actually learn: Free and healthy breakfast and lunch in EVERY school for EVERY student (not just the ones who filled out the paperwork). Sane bell schedules. Lunch periods long enough to actuall eat and digest (they are shrinking every year to save money and prevent fights). Mental, physical and emotional support for students dealing with trauma every day in their homes and neighborhoods.

    And that’s just a beginning.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Excellent post, Cranky, particularly the part about the deficiencies of the standards.

  • Gordon Danning

    Steve W: I’m guessing you meant “deficiencies of the standardized tests,” rather than “deficiencies of the standards.” There are many great state standards that focus on analysis and thinking but which are not tested on the tests, probably because they are very, very difficult to assess with a multiple-choice test.

    Re: Dr. Smith’s take on the achievement gap, particularly the gap in who takes AP classes, my experience is the following: When I have a high-skills student in one of my senior clesses, and I ask why he or she was not enrolled in my AP World History class, the answer is almost always the same: “I didn’t want to work that hard.” Asian Americans, particularly girls, are very under-represented among students who give me that answer.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Gordon: I actually do mean deficiencies of the standards. While you are correct that the standards as tested are far worse than the standards themselves, there are also seriously problems with the standards themselves, and even the notion that standards should be the basis for our educational program. I will post more on this subject soon.

  • Cranky Teacher

    The standards vary be subject matter — history standards, for example, are particularly awful, while English is a little better. Yet throughout, there is a comprehensiveness to them which staggers the imagination — and leads inexorably to shallow, rushed teaching, and breadth over depth.

    What is lost in all this is that the key skill students need in order to enter the elite professional and creative classes is the ability and desire to learn new things and adapt to new situations.

    Of course, not every one “gets” to be a professional or a creative — but if we acknowledge that directly, it raises a bunch of uncomfortable truths and questions Americans don’t like to look at, i.e., we either need to pay more to those who do the crappy jobs or accept a completely unequal society full of crime, prisons and rampant addiction.

    I just got off the phone with a parent who had just put in a 16-hour-shift at work and wanted to know how hard she should try to stay awake to take her daughter to a Saturday enrichment program. She is trying hard, but her daughter, also trying, is already far behind her peers at Head Royce or The Academy. What is in her future?

  • Cranky Teacher

    Oh, and if those kids aren’t going to get professional or creative jobs, why do they need to cram so much biology and math and literature anyway?

  • Gordon Danning

    Cranky Teacher:

    As a social studies teacher, I agree that the History-Social Science CONTENT standards are a bit over the top (eg, 12th grade standard 12.9.1 says that students will be able to “[e]xplain how the different philosophies and structures of feudalism, mercantilism,
    socialism, fascism, communism, monarchies, parliamentary systems, and constitu­tional liberal democracies influence economic policies, social welfare policies, and human rights practices.” That would be a lot for a 1-semester course, even if there were NOT another 30+ standards to cover.

    BUT: The high school social studies ANALYSIS standards are pretty good. For example: 1. Students distinguish valid arguments from fallacious arguments in historical interpreta­tions. 2. Students identify bias and prejudice in historical interpretations. 3. Students evaluate major debates among historians concerning alternative interpretations of the past, including an analysis of authors’ use of evidence and the distinctions be­tween sound generalizations and misleading oversimplifications. 4. Students construct and test hypotheses; collect, evaluate, and employ information from multiple primary and secondary sources; and apply it in oral and written presentations.

    The problem is that the analysis standards are not tested, and hence are essentially ignored.

  • Skyline Teacher

    I hear you, Gordon. There are always some good standards lying around and in the mix.

    However, I’d wager most teachers given time to review available curriculum and prepare it would focus on usually focus on the most important stuff NATURALLY. They identify what the students actually in their classroom can and can’t do, and teach them accordingly.

    But yeah, if someone could make these standards realistic and consistently focused and high-quality, then fine, let’s do it and make textbooks for it and tests and all that. Currently, however, a HUGE and EXPENSIVE edifice has been built on a bunch of rotted materials.

    And I’d like to know how many adults with college degrees can explain mercantilism!

  • Debora

    Cranky Teacher and Skyline Teacher:
    As a social studies teacher, I agree that the History-Social Science CONTENT standards are a bit over the top (eg, 12th grade standard 12.9.1 says that students will be able to “[e]xplain how the different philosophies and structures of feudalism, mercantilism,
    socialism, fascism, communism, monarchies, parliamentary systems, and constitu­tional liberal democracies influence economic policies, social welfare policies, and human rights practices.” That would be a lot for a 1-semester course, even if there were NOT another 30+ standards to cover.

    I would actually love for you to teach my daughter these topics and hold her accountable for learning them. We currently have military personnel in countries around the world which have systems of government that have many pieces of feudalism, mercantilism, socialism, fascism, and monarchies, and our own country is struggling with constitu­tional liberal democracies and how it influences economic policies (insert Tony Smith and redistribution of wealth here as well as our struggle with the health care system), social welfare policies (reinsert health care system and OUSD educational system), and human rights practices (police balancing safety vs targeting and profiling).

    If you teach it, my daughter will attend, and work her rear-end off for you if you ask of her high quality, in-depth work. But if you do not teach high standards work, what you will get is exactly the type of students you have now. You will have those students who are not highly motivated learners, because you are not asking of them high-end thinking. You are asking the bottom third of the academic middle. It is not enough. The standards are there. Teach to them. If you can’t or don’t want to, then say you will not teach high standards and let someone who wants to teach to the highest standards come in and do so. It is what our children deserve. They deserve to work hard, stretch their minds, compare and contrast theory with what is happening in the world today.

    I am tired of excuses, tired of looking for private school alternatives, tired of believing that I have to move to the other side of the hill where they will teach to the standards and expect students are capable of learning the material.

  • Gordon Danning


    Who said anything about not teaching high standards?? My point was note that the content standards for social studies are “too hard,” but that they are too broad. In order to teach to high standards, teachers must give students a great deal of support. That takes time. The standard I cited would take a month to teach properly (note that I said “teach properly,” not “cover”), but I only have 18 weeks (17, really, since finals take up the last week) to teach that standard, plus the other 30+. That’s simply too many.

    PS: My seniors are currently working on a multipage essay that asks them to analyze the extent to which Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau would support the tenets of Liberalism. I think that’s holding them to a pretty high standard.

    PPS: Here are the 12th grade American Government standards in their entirety:

    Students in grade twelve pursue a deeper understanding of the institutions of American government. They compare systems of government in the world today and analyze the history and changing interpretations of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the current state of the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches of government. An emphasis is placed on analyzing the relationship among federal, state, and local governments, with particular attention paid to important historical documents such as the Federalist Papers. These standards represent the culmination of civic literacy as students prepare to vote, participate in community activities, and assume the responsibilities of citizenship.
    12.1 Students explain the fundamental principles and moral values of American democracy as expressed in the U.S. Constitution and other essential documents of American democracy.
    12.1.1 Analyze the influence of ancient Greek, Roman, English, and leading European political thinkers such as John Locke, Charles-Louis Montesquieu, Niccolo Machiavelli, and William Blackstone on the development of American government.
    12.1.2 Discuss the character of American democracy and its promise and perils as articulated by Alexis de Tocqueville.
    12.1.3 Explain how the U.S. Constitution reflects a balance between the classical republican concern with promotion of the public good and the classical liberal concern with protecting individual rights; and discuss how the basic premises of liberal constitutionalism and democracy are joined in the Declaration of Independence as “self-evident truths.”
    12.1.4 Explain how the Founding Fathers’ realistic view of human nature led directly to the establishment of a constitutional system that limited the power of the governors and the governed as articulated in the Federalist Papers.
    12.1.5 Describe the systems of separated and shared powers, the role of organized interests (Federalist Paper Number 10), checks and balances (Federalist Paper Number 51), the importance of an independent judiciary (Federalist Paper Number 78), enumerated powers, rule of law, federalism, and civilian control of the military.
    12.1.6 Understand that the Bill of Rights limits the powers of the federal government and state governments.
    12.2 Students evaluate and take and defend positions on the scope and limits of rights and obligations as democratic citizens, the relationships among them, and how they are secured.
    12.2.1 Discuss the meaning and importance of each of the rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights and how each is secured (e.g., freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, petition, privacy).
    12.2.2 Explain how economic rights are secured and their importance to the individual and to society (e.g., the right to acquire, use, transfer, and dispose of property; right to choose one’s work; right to join or not join labor unions; copyright and patent).
    12.2.3 Discuss the individual’s legal obligations to obey the law, serve as a juror, and pay taxes.
    12.2.4 Understand the obligations of civic-mindedness, including voting, being informed on civic issues, volunteering and performing public service, and serving in the military or alternative service.
    12.2.5 Describe the reciprocity between rights and obligations; that is, why enjoyment of one’s rights entails respect for the rights of others.
    12.2.6 Explain how one becomes a citizen of the United States, including the process of naturalization (e.g., literacy, language, and other requirements).
    12.3 Students evaluate, take, and defend positions on what the fundamental values and principles of civil society are (i.e., the autonomous sphere of voluntary personal, social, and economic relations that are not part of government), their interdependence, and the meaning and importance of those values and principles for a free society.
    12.3.1 Explain how civil society provides opportunities for individuals to associate for social, cultural, religious, economic, and political purposes.
    12.3.2 Explain how civil society makes it possible for people, individually or in association with others, to bring their influence to bear on government in ways other than voting and elections.
    12.3.3 Discuss the historical role of religion and religious diversity.
    12.3.4 Compare the relationship of government and civil society in constitutional democracies to the relationship of government and civil society in authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.
    12.4 Students analyze the unique roles and responsibilities of the three branches of government as established by the U.S. Constitution.
    12.4.1 Discuss Article I of the Constitution as it relates to the legislative branch, including eligibility for office and lengths of terms of representatives and senators; election to office; the roles of the House and Senate in impeachment proceedings; the role of the vice president; the enumerated legislative powers; and the process by which a bill becomes a law.
    12.4.2 Explain the process through which the Constitution can be amended.
    12.4.3 Identify their current representatives in the legislative branch of the national government.
    12.4.4 Discuss Article II of the Constitution as it relates to the executive branch, including eligibility for office and length of term, election to and removal from of office, the oath office, and the enumerated executive powers.
    12.4.5 Discuss Article III of the Constitution as it relates to judicial power, including the length of terms of judges and the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
    12.4.6 Explain the processes of selection and confirmation of Supreme Court justices.
    12.5 Students summarize landmark U.S. Supreme Court interpretations of the Constitution and its amendments.
    12.5.1 Understand the changing interpretations of the Bill of Rights over time, including interpretations of the basic freedoms (religion, speech, press, petition, and assembly) articulated in the First Amendment and the due process and equal-protection-of-the-law clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
    12.5.2 Analyze judicial activism and judicial restraint and the effects of each policy over the decades (e.g., the Warren and Rehnquist courts).
    12.5.3 Evaluate the effects of the Court’s interpretations of the Constitution in Marbury v. Madison, McCulloch v. Maryland, and United States v. Nixon, with emphasis on the arguments espoused by each side in these cases.
    12.5.4 Explain the controversies that have resulted over changing interpretations of civil rights, including those in Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, and United States v. Virginia (VMI).
    12.6 Students evaluate issues regarding campaigns for national, state, and local elective offices.
    12.6.1 Analyze the origin, development, and role of political parties, noting those occasional periods in which there was only one major party or were more than two major parties.
    12.6.2 Discuss the history of the nomination process for presidential candidates and the increasing importance of primaries in general elections.
    12.6.3 Evaluate the roles of polls, campaign advertising, and the controversies over campaign funding.
    12.6.4 Describe the means that citizens use to participate in the political process (e.g., voting, campaigning, lobbying, filing a legal challenge, demonstrating, petitioning, picketing, running for political office).
    12.6.5 Discuss the features of direct democracy in numerous states (e.g., the process of referendums, recall elections).
    12.6.6 Analyze trends in voter turnout; the causes and effects of reapportionment and redistricting, with special attention to spatial districting and the rights of minorities; and the function of the Electoral College.
    12.7 Students analyze and compare the powers and procedures of the national, state, tribal, and local governments.
    12.7.1 Explain how conflicts between levels of government and branches of government are resolved.
    12.7.2 Identify the major responsibilities and sources of revenue for state and local governments.
    12.7.3 Discuss reserved powers and concurrent powers of state governments.
    12.7.4 Discuss the Ninth and Tenth Amendments and interpretations of the extent of the federal government’s power.
    12.7.5 Explain how public policy is formed, including the setting of the public agenda and implementation of it through regulations and executive orders.
    12.7.6 Compare the processes of lawmaking at each of the three levels of government, including the role of lobbying and the media.
    12.7.7 Identify the organization and jurisdiction of federal, state, and local (e.g., California) courts and the interrelationships among them.
    12.7.8 Understand the scope of presidential power and decision making through examination of case studies such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, passage of Great Society legislation, War Powers Act, Gulf War, and Bosnia.
    12.8 Students evaluate and take and defend positions on the influence of the media on American political life.
    12.8.1 Discuss the meaning and importance of a free and responsible press.
    12.8.2 Describe the roles of broadcast, print, and electronic media, including the Internet, as means of communication in American politics.
    12.8.3 Explain how public officials use the media to communicate with the citizenry and to shape public opinion.
    12.9 Students analyze the origins, characteristics, and development of different political systems across time, with emphasis on the quest for political democracy, its advances, and its obstacles.
    12.9.1 Explain how the different philosophies and structures of feudalism, mercantilism, socialism, fascism, communism, monarchies, parliamentary systems, and constitutional liberal democracies influence economic policies, social welfare policies, and human rights practices.
    12.9.2 Compare the various ways in which power is distributed, shared, and limited in systems of shared powers and in parliamentary systems, including the influence and role of parliamentary leaders (e.g., William Gladstone, Margaret Thatcher).
    12.9.3 Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of federal, confederal, and unitary systems of government.
    12.9.4 Describe for at least two countries the consequences of conditions that gave rise to tyrannies during certain periods (e.g., Italy, Japan, Haiti, Nigeria, Cambodia).
    12.9.5 Identify the forms of illegitimate power that twentieth-century African, Asian, and Latin American dictators used to gain and hold office and the conditions and interests that supported them.
    12.9.6 Identify the ideologies, causes, stages, and outcomes of major Mexican, Central American, and South American revolutions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
    12.9.7 Describe the ideologies that give rise to Communism, methods of maintaining control, and the movements to overthrow such governments in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland, including the roles of individuals (e.g., Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Pope John Paul II, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel).
    12.9.8 Identify the successes of relatively new democracies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the ideas, leaders, and general societal conditions that have launched and sustained or failed to sustain, them.
    12.10 Students formulate questions about and defend their analyses of tensions within our constitutional democracy and the importance of maintaining a balance between the following concepts: majority rule and individual rights; liberty and equality; state and national authority in a federal system; civil disobedience and the rule of law; freedom of the press and the right to a fair trial; the relationship of religion and government.

  • Nextset

    One way to destroy a program is to create a list of standards that are superficially interesting but inane – that don’t work. Algebra for ghetto 8th graders, for example.

    The real purpose of our public schools are not to educate, but to pacify and indoctrinate. The people who design and run these systems are very clever. They know exactly what they are doing. It’s the teachers and their unions that are slow to get it. They think they are in a school.

    Meanwhile the upper middle class are all in private and public Ivy schools.

    Brave New World.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Debora, it is clear from your postings that you care deeply about in-depth education and value the kind of passionate connection with subject matter that your 6th grade teacher helped you make.
    The sheer volume of standards today work against that type of education. Mr. Danning’s post listed the 52 standards in 12th grade having to do with American Democracy. There are 28 more standards for that course having to do with economics. That is a total of 80 standards, allowing about 2 days of instruction for each.
    Dedicated educators, like Mr. Danning, find ways to demand rigor, but we all need the assistance of concerned parents, like yourself, in supporting efforts to restructure standards so there are a reasonable number that can be taught in depth.

  • Debora

    Gordon and Steven:

    I have copied the 11th grade standards. I believe the assignment you listed is an excellent one and it holds to what I consider rigor. I believe it is more in line with the 11th grade standards because of the inclusion of the impact of enlightenment on democratic ideals, and movement toward equal rights and the political principals that resulted from those activities. I would expect an assignment like the one you have stated to be completed weekly by my daughter.

    Please know that I clearly understand the overwhelming content required. I also understand how the information builds on the foundation of the previous years; therefore, if the teachers in previous grades did not teach the standards, it becomes nearly impossible to cover the material for which you are held accountable because the material, in this case 12th grade, cannot be taught in a vacuum.

    This is why I push so hard for my daughter’s elementary teachers to teach to the highest standards and continue to teach after the STAR test is given to students. When one grade fails to meet the standards it becomes progressively difficult for future teachers to have the base of knowledge from which to work.

    I personally think that these standards are achievable for my daughter and believe that they need to be taught to have an educated student ready to pursue a rigorous course of education in college and graduate school.

    I am not a wealthy person. I cannot afford elite private schools. My daughter is capable of learning all of the grade level standards and more. She is also capable of learning foreign languages, music, and art far beyond the standards. When you talk about reducing the standards and reducing the pool of knowledge that is allowed to obtain through public education I FEAR (yes that is what my blog entries are about – my fear) that she will never be able to get the type of education in which her mind, maturity, intellect and curiosity desire and are capable of achieving.

    11.1 Students analyze the significant events in the founding of the nation and its attempts to realize the philosophy of government described in the Declaration of Independence.
    1. Describe the Enlightenment and the rise of democratic ideas as the context in which the nation was founded.
    2. Analyze the ideological origins of the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers’ philosophy of divinely bestowed unalienable natural rights, the debates on the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, and the addition of the Bill of Rights.
    3. Understand the history of the Constitution after 1787 with emphasis on federal versus state authority and growing democratization.
    4. Examine the effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction and of the industrial revolution, including demographic shifts and the emergence in the late nineteenth century of the United States as a world power.

    11.2 Students analyze the relationship among the rise of industrialization, large-scale rural-to-urban migration, and massive immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe.
    1. Know the effects of industrialization on living and working conditions, including the portrayal of working conditions and food safety in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.
    2. Describe the changing landscape, including the growth of cities linked by industry and trade, and the development of cities divided according to race, ethnicity, and class.
    3. Trace the effect of the Americanization movement.
    4. Analyze the effect of urban political machines and responses to them by immigrants and middle-class reformers.
    5. Discuss corporate mergers that produced trusts and cartels and the economic and political policies of industrial leaders.
    6. Trace the economic development of the United States and its emergence as a major industrial power, including its gains from trade and the advantages of its physical geography.
    7. Analyze the similarities and differences between the ideologies of Social Darwinism and Social Gospel (e.g., using biographies of William Graham Sumner, Billy Sunday, Dwight L. Moody).
    8. Examine the effect of political programs and activities of Populists.
    9. Understand the effect of political programs and activities of the Progressives (e.g., federal regulation of railroad transport, Children’s Bureau, the Sixteenth Amendment, Theodore Roosevelt, Hiram Johnson).

    11.3 Students analyze the role religion played in the founding of America, its lasting moral, social, and political impacts, and issues regarding religious liberty.
    1. Describe the contributions of various religious groups to American civic principles and social reform movements (e.g., civil and human rights, individual responsibility and the work ethic, antimonarchy and self-rule, worker protection, family-centered communities).
    2. Analyze the great religious revivals and the leaders involved in them, including the First Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening, the Civil War revivals, the Social Gospel Movement, the rise of Christian liberal theology in the nineteenth century, the impact of the Second Vatican Council, and the rise of Christian fundamentalism in current times.
    3. Cite incidences of religious intolerance in the United States (e.g., persecution of Mormons, anti-Catholic sentiment, anti-Semitism).
    4. Discuss the expanding religious pluralism in the United States and California that resulted from large-scale immigration in the twentieth century.
    5. Describe the principles of religious liberty found in the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment, including the debate on the issue of separation of church and state.

    11.4 Students trace the rise of the United States to its role as a world power in the twentieth century.
    1. List the purpose and the effects of the Open Door policy.
    2. Describe the Spanish-American War and U.S. expansion in the South Pacific.
    3. Discuss America’s role in the Panama Revolution and the building of the Panama Canal.
    4. Explain Theodore Roosevelt’s Big Stick diplomacy, William Taft’s Dollar Diplomacy, and Woodrow Wilson’s Moral Diplomacy, drawing on relevant speeches.
    5. Analyze the political, economic, and social ramifications of World War I on the home front.
    6. Trace the declining role of Great Britain and the expanding role of the United States in world affairs after World War II.

    11.5 Students analyze the major political, social, economic, technological, and cultural developments of the 1920s.
    1. Discuss the policies of Presidents Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover.
    2. Analyze the international and domestic events, interests, and philosophies that prompted attacks on civil liberties, including the Palmer Raids, Marcus Garvey’s “back-to-Africa” movement, the Ku Klux Klan, and immigration quotas and the responses of organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Anti-Defamation League to those attacks.
    3. Examine the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution and the Volstead Act (Prohibition).
    4. Analyze the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and the changing role of women in society.
    5. Describe the Harlem Renaissance and new trends in literature, music, and art, with special attention to the work of writers (e.g., Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes).
    6. Trace the growth and effects of radio and movies and their role in the worldwide diffusion of popular culture.
    7. Discuss the rise of mass production techniques, the growth of cities, the impact of new technologies (e.g., the automobile, electricity), and the resulting prosperity and effect on the American landscape.

    11.6 Students analyze the different explanations for the Great Depression and how the New Deal fundamentally changed the role of the federal government.
    1. Describe the monetary issues of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that gave rise to the establishment of the Federal Reserve and the weaknesses in key sectors of the economy in the late 1920s.
    2. Understand the explanations of the principal causes of the Great Depression and the steps taken by the Federal Reserve, Congress, and Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt to combat the economic crisis.
    3. Discuss the human toll of the Depression, natural disasters, and unwise agricultural practices and their effects on the depopulation of rural regions and on political movements of the left and right, with particular attention to the Dust Bowl refugees and their social and economic impacts in California.
    4. Analyze the effects of and the controversies arising from New Deal economic policies and the expanded role of the federal government in society and the economy since the 1930s (e.g., Works Progress Administration, Social Security, National Labor Relations Board, farm programs, regional development policies, and energy development projects such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, California Central Valley Project, and Bonneville Dam).
    5. Trace the advances and retreats of organized labor, from the creation of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations to current issues of a postindustrial, multinational economy, including the United Farm Workers in California.

    11.7 Students analyze America’s participation in World War II.
    1. Examine the origins of American involvement in the war, with an emphasis on the events that precipitated the attack on Pearl Harbor.
    2. Explain U.S. and Allied wartime strategy, including the major battles of Midway, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the Battle of the Bulge.
    3. Identify the roles and sacrifices of individual American soldiers, as well as the unique contributions of the special fighting forces (e.g., the Tuskegee Airmen, the 442nd Regimental Combat team, the Navajo Code Talkers).
    4. Analyze Roosevelt’s foreign policy during World War II (e.g., Four Freedoms speech).
    5. Discuss the constitutional issues and impact of events on the U.S. home front, including the internment of Japanese Americans (e.g., Fred Korematsu v. United States of
    6. America) and the restrictions on German and Italian resident aliens; the response of the administration to Hitler’s atrocities against Jews and other groups; the roles of women in military production; and the roles and growing political demands of African Americans.
    7. Describe major developments in aviation, weaponry, communication, and medicine and the war’s impact on the location of American industry and use of resources.
    8. Discuss the decision to drop atomic bombs and the consequences of the decision (Hiroshima and Nagasaki).
    9. Analyze the effect of massive aid given to Western Europe under the Marshall Plan to rebuild itself after the war and the importance of a rebuilt Europe to the U.S. economy.

    11.8 Students analyze the economic boom and social transformation of post–World War II America.
    1. Trace the growth of service sector, white collar, and professional sector jobs in business and government.
    2. Describe the significance of Mexican immigration and its relationship to the agricultural economy, especially in California.
    3. Examine Truman’s labor policy and congressional reaction to it.
    4. Analyze new federal government spending on defense, welfare, interest on the national debt, and federal and state spending on education, including the California Master Plan.
    5. Describe the increased powers of the presidency in response to the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War.
    6. Discuss the diverse environmental regions of North America, their relationship to local economies, and the origins and prospects of environmental problems in those regions.
    7. Describe the effects on society and the economy of technological developments since 1945, including the computer revolution, changes in communication, advances in medicine, and improvements in agricultural technology.
    8. Discuss forms of popular culture, with emphasis on their origins and geographic diffusion (e.g., jazz and other forms of popular music, professional sports, architectural and artistic styles).

    11.9 Students analyze U.S. foreign policy since World War II.
    1. Discuss the establishment of the United Nations and International Declaration of Human Rights, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and their importance in shaping modern Europe and maintaining peace and international order.
    2. Understand the role of military alliances, including NATO and SEATO, in deterring communist aggression and maintaining security during the Cold War.
    3. Trace the origins and geopolitical consequences (foreign and domestic) of the Cold War and containment policy, including the following:
    i. The era of McCarthyism, instances of domestic Communism (e.g., Alger Hiss) and blacklisting
    ii. The Truman Doctrine
    iii. The Berlin Blockade
    iv. The Korean War
    v. The Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis
    vi. Atomic testing in the American West, the “mutual assured destruction” doctrine, and disarmament policies
    vii. The Vietnam War
    viii. Latin American policy
    3. List the effects of foreign policy on domestic policies and vice versa (e.g., protests during the war in Vietnam, the “nuclear freeze” movement).
    4. Analyze the role of the Reagan administration and other factors in the victory of the West in the Cold War.
    5. Describe U.S. Middle East policy and its strategic, political, and economic interests, including those related to the Gulf War.
    6. Examine relations between the United States and Mexico in the twentieth century, including key economic, political, immigration, and environmental issues.

    11.10 Students analyze the development of federal civil rights and voting rights.
    1. Explain how demands of African Americans helped produce a stimulus for civil rights, including President Roosevelt’s ban on racial discrimination in defense industries in 1941, and how African Americans’ service in World War II produced a stimulus for President Truman’s decision to end segregation in the armed forces in 1948.
    2. Examine and analyze the key events, policies, and court cases in the evolution of civil rights, including Dred Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, and California Proposition 209.
    3. Describe the collaboration on legal strategy between African American and white civil rights lawyers to end racial segregation in higher education.
    4. Examine the roles of civil rights advocates (e.g., A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, Thurgood Marshall, James Farmer, Rosa Parks), including the significance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and “I Have a Dream” speech.
    5. Discuss the diffusion of the civil rights movement of African Americans from the churches of the rural South and the urban North, including the resistance to racial desegregation in Little Rock and Birmingham, and how the advances influenced the agendas, strategies, and effectiveness of the quests of American Indians, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans for civil rights and equal opportunities.
    6. Analyze the passage and effects of civil rights and voting rights legislation (e.g., 1964 Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act of 1965) and the Twenty-Fourth Amendment, with an emphasis on equality of access to education and to the political process.
    7. Analyze the women’s rights movement from the era of Elizabeth Stanton and Susan Anthony and the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the movement launched in the 1960s, including differing perspectives on the roles of women.

    11.11 Students analyze the major social problems and domestic policy issues in contemporary American society.
    1. Discuss the reasons for the nation’s changing immigration policy, with emphasis on how the Immigration Act of 1965 and successor acts have transformed American society.
    2. Discuss the significant domestic policy speeches of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton (e.g., with regard to education, civil rights, economic policy, environmental policy).
    3. Describe the changing roles of women in society as reflected in the entry of more women into the labor force and the changing family structure.
    4. Explain the constitutional crisis originating from the Watergate scandal.
    5. Trace the impact of, need for, and controversies associated with environmental conservation, expansion of the national park system, and the development of environmental protection laws, with particular attention to the interaction between environmental protection advocates and property rights advocates.
    6. Analyze the persistence of poverty and how different analyses of this issue influence welfare reform, health insurance reform, and other social policies.
    7. Explain how the federal, state, and local governments have responded to demographic and social changes such as population shifts to the suburbs, racial concentrations in the cities, Frostbelt-to-Sunbelt migration, international migration, decline of family farms, increases in out-of-wedlock births, and drug abuse.

  • Gordon Danning


    You mention your opposition to “reducing the pool of knowledge.” Therein lies the root of our disagreement. In social studies, the state sets forth both content standards and analysis standards. There is a tension between covering content and teaching analysis skills, because teaching analysis takes a lot of time. So, would you rather your daughter learn to write an analytical essay, or memorize facts? Would you like to be able to “construct and test hypotheses; collect, evaluate, and employ information from multiple primary and secondary sources; and apply it in oral and written presentations”? So would I, but I can’t teach those skills if I have to cover vast amounts of factual material.

    As it happens, I do not cover all of the standards, because I want students to write and to analyze in depth. I teach AP World History, but do I cover everything that will be on the test? Do I give students practice multiple-choice tests, because 1/2 of the test is multiple choice? No. I have them write, and then write some more, and then write more, and I give them lots of instruction on how to analyze evidence, construct theses, etc. As a result, I do not give students all of the knowledge they need to do well on the AP test. On the other hand, here is what a (very bright) student emailed me a while back:

    “I’ll be glad to have you know, so far, you are like the best AP teacher that I have come to know of, so I felt compelled to write this email to you. I don’t know how you do it, but you have that weird manner of teaching that I can’t seem to describe, but I think it is mainly due to your vigorous focus on analysis. Your “so what’s” and your “why’s that so important” phrases seem to do the trick to help open up minds, or at least, my mind. Your class is like the only class that stands out in my mind right about now, except for the summer classes that I took at Laney, an introductory statistics class taught by a German female teacher named Ola and a beginning chemistry class taught by some bearded Spanish PhD guy who is an awesome Cornell-notes-lecturer for chemistry (he writes everything on the whiteboard so neatly and clearly and defined, and explains it so pristinely, he plans everything out beforehand. He once took the time out of a lecture to note to us that individuals like him work extra hard so that people who are extra lazy are compelled to work extra hard as well. Those weren’t his exact words, but I think I’ve captured the meaning). Other than these two college courses and your class, I can think of no other class that can really compete with them, except for maybe my 9th grade geometry class with Mr. Sawyer. Well other than that, your class really was a wonderful experience, I have to say. Maybe it was due to your syllabus, which is like a thing virtually nonexistent in all other classes that I know of, and your vigorous enforcement of it. Maybe it was because of your like for the Simpsons or something. But anyways, your class was fun, overall. I just wanted to say all this before I forget about it.”

    Unfortunately, there is great pressure to “cover the content standards” because the content standards are tested for No Child Left Behind purposes, and the analysis standards are not tested. So, many teachers skimp on the analysis. So, either the content standards should be reduced, or the State test should assess the analysis standards as well.

  • Nextset

    When those standards were posted I wonder just who (which students) the writers expected to cover that material? Otis and Latifa? Ken & Barbie? Josefina and Paco? The Upper Volta delegation??

    The more we discuss education the more you can see how the one size fits all mentality – the “all men are created equal” nonsense – when applied to public school education, trashes the prospects of the left side of the bell curve.

    Those students of any color with an IQ of 85 cannot possibly handle this curriculum. Where is the curriculum for them? Why do we not have a clear set of standards for the IQs of 70, 85, 90, 100 and 115 or whatever cutoffs you want to set. Why do we have to set a standard that is higher than half the population can reasonably reach for the pleasure of the right side of the bell curve?

    People are different. Some are good at material requiring higher function, some are not. Some play football, some can be engineers and are useless at competitive football. Why do we not have different standards of coursework for the different abilities clustered in the population?

    The best way to wreck academic interest in a population is to cram unwanted material down their throats they can’t process until they give up and leave. There is another way to develop what potential that is there and try to keep people out of the prisons. Private schools can ignore these “standards” and the school boards should publicly declare them optionals. It’s nice of the students can handle and absorb all this material. I believe most of the urban students can’t, won’t, and would be better served learning to write business letters and bookkeeping along with survey courses in history and lots more standard english composition and speech.

    The list above is just not realistic for lower class students. Also I don’t like the politics of much of it and would be interested to combine some of the leftist indoctrination with right wing indoctrination so the students are familiar with all the issues.

    Example: Discuss how the “Treason Lobby” headed by the Kennedy faction of the Democratic Party starting in the early 1960s altered over a Century of immigration policy and flooded the USA with 3rd worlders and through Great Society programs destroyed the great cities of the USA. Explain how Communist infiltration of USA Government (especially the State Dept), Civil Rights Movement and Media assisted in Cold War plans to steal weapons plans & subvert the USA prepatory to a USSR attack on USA. Discuss the Color of Crime and racial differences in criminality. Discuss the failure of Socialism as a viable political or economic concept. Examine how multi-cultural societies such as Malaysia avoid crime and high cost justice with corporal punishment and death penalty…that sort of thing.

    There’s plenty of history & policy that the left doesn’t want taught while their version of reality is listed in these “standards”.

    The bottom line is that the public schools produce – with these “standards” cited above – leftist indictrinated weak thinkers who are not desirable as workers or citizens.

  • Gordon Danning

    Re: Nextset’s post: I am confused. Is this is the Oakland Education Blog, or The Onion?

  • Nextset


    The point I’m making is that in public schools such as OUSD, never is heard a discouraging word… When these kids leave they have never had contrasting viewpoints about much of anything. They are indoctrinated. They are physically uncomfortable with any contrary view to what is politically correct. Because of this they are not as competitive and not as mobile in society as they should be.

    People can follow whatever doctrine they want to but they – as educated adults – should be familiar with the contrary points of view. Our public school kids are not even aware there is a point of view opposite leftist doctrine and are programmed to regard any who would pose one as mad/bad. This is exactly how China programs their people and may have something to do with the fact they can’t invent much of anything. They are a conformist society that is easily controlled by their government. (A government that would send it’s own children to the USA to study at Ivy League schools – so that they are not as sheepish as the rabble.)

    Gordon your post about “The Onion” goes right to my point. It’s not whether or not I like or agree with contrarian view – as an instructor I would mask my own views to a large extent to keep sheepish kids from blindly following in an attempt to brownnose an A. When you teach you are attempting to train these kids to have an analytical approach on everything all the time. The only thing I want them to take on gospel is that part about lying, cheating and stealing.

    If you are a public secondary school educator you probably don’t grok this. You are there to indoctrinate whether you realize it or not. This is less so at college level as long as you are in the sciences and not drivel such as black studies and sociology.

    Doctrinaire kids are desirable for parking lot attendants and rote work – such as the assembly line and manufacturing jobs we have sent to Asia. They are facing a downward spiral in their standard of living. They are less desirable as service workers. The analytical students are the ones who can better surf the Brave New World. We are facing a period of wrenching change. Some people are going to manage better than others.

  • Debora


    Your assumption is that with all students you must decide between “analysis” and “facts.” To learn and explain the differences between the different philosophies
    socialism, fascism, communism, monarchies, parliamentary systems, and constitutional liberal democracies influence economic policies, social welfare policies, and human rights practice, is not simply fact based, it’s understanding the content. Proving the ability to analyze the differences would be how the student proves to the teacher, the testing facility and the district that the material is fully analyze and synthesize the material.

    Teaching the material as AP material means that you are teaching it as a college course rather than a high school senior course. I believe you are one of the top teachers in the district. I believe you are teaching to high standards. And perhaps my feelings and thoughts come from a parent for an extremely bright child who synthesizes material quickly from a vast number of sources.

    While Nextset may make his comments crudely, impatiently or politically incorrectly, the question of teaching the same standard to a student with an IQ of 100, 130 or 155 is a valid question. My daughter’s IQ is above the top end of this range. It is very difficult to find teachers who will truly differentiate or teach students to the highest level of the standards both in content and analysis because we do not allow the students who are able to learn the material to move beyond the class average at best, or the lowest one third of the class usually in the district overall. And while I believe there is some flexibility in IQ, a student whose mind works extremely well, efficiently with a student who is highly motivated to learn is rarely going to function well in classrooms where the learning is targeted to the bottom third, or even the middle third of learners.

    When she arrived in kindergarten, we were told to wait until she was tested in third grade and “identified” then the work would be adjusted, it has not been; then we were told to wait until fourth grade because up until then students were learning to read and now they are reading to learn, it has not changed, in fact, the “work” is a repeat of third grade with the exception of learning to fill in worksheets about California history. Now we are being told to wait until middle school for algebra because before then NO children are developmentally ready. In the local middle schools advanced classes are only taught after the regular school day. Now in high school a student must take an AP or college class to be challenged with the State 12th grade standards.

    Mr. Danning, I ask you what if it were your child with a high IQ who asked to take the year end exams the first week of school so she could give the school the test scores they want just so she could spend her time actually learning something? What would you do?

  • Gordon Danning


    I think we largely agree:

    1. I dont care about the year-end tests, because they test little of value — they test knowledge, rather than analysis (at least the state social studies tests do that). I also have a certain degree of freedom in that regard: I teach seniors and AP World (to sophomores). Seniors do not take the state tests, and AP World covers a completely different time period than do the state 10th grade World History standards. But I am in the minority. Most teachers worry about the tests, and so they worry about “covering” everything. So, they dont take the time to ask students to write about and think deeply about topics. If the standards were narrower, teachers would feel more free to ask students to analyze in depth. That seems to be what happens in Japan re: math, by the way. See http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun98/depth.html

    2. You say: “To learn and explain the differences between the different philosophies socialism, fascism, communism, monarchies, parliamentary systems, and constitutional liberal democracies influence economic policies, social welfare policies, and human rights practice, is not simply fact based, it’s understanding the content.” And yet, the state tests say there is only one answer to a question about the effect of liberal democracy on human rights. So, the textbook says “liberal democracy had XYZ effect on human rights.” A student who memorizes that will get a good grade on the test, but does that student “understand” the effect? I doubt it. Wouldn’t you rather that I ask your daughter, “Defend or refute the following: ‘The development of the norm of human rights was the inevitable result of the rise of liberal democracy in the West.'” A student who writes an essay addressing that prompt will probably end up understanding the standard. However, writing a decent response to that prompt will require understanding of ultimate and proximate causation, contingency, and numerous other concepts. It will also require a good deal of research.

    I can’t teach all of that in 2 days, and yet that is all I have if I am to cover all of the standards. (Again, Government classes in high school are 1 semester only; the other semester is Economics). So, something has to give. And, just to give some context: I scored above the 99th percentile on the LSAT. I graduated from Boalt Hall School of Law (UC Berkeley). I dont have a family. So, I am a very smart, very well-educated guy with lots of time to devote to my students, YET I CAN NOT COVER ALL OF THOSE STANDARDS. I am not “making excuses” — I simply don’t know how to do it. So if I can’t do it, how many teachers can? Probably not many. Thus, the breadth of the standards is a serious impediment to the type of learning you’d like to see for your daughter.

    3. It is true that OUSD tends to neglect the needs not just of “high end” kids, but also the needs of most kids who are motivated to learn. Our focus on “the achievement gap” means that energies, money, etc, are channeled towards the absolutely worst performing kids, to the detriment of most of the others. That needs to change. But, one way to change it would be to change the standards, and to change the tests, so that they test thinking more and rote memorization less.

  • Nextset

    Gordon D: When you say “achievement gap” I say “ability gap”. Only the public school would ever pour money and energy on the low ability kids thinking they can magically transform low ability students into something they are not.

    The better course is to give them a program which identifies what they are good at and maximizes that.

  • Gordon Danning

    Nextset: Actually, ‘achievement gap” is the not my terminology. Be that as it may, it seems to me an error to equate lack of achievement with lack of ability. Of course there is a strong correlation between ability and achievement. However, I just reviewed the records for my AP classes over the last 8 years. I have had 44 African American students enrolled therein. Of those, only 19 got a perfect score on the first assignment. But that does not reflect a lack of ability, because the first assignment is simply to read Chapter 1 of Guns, Germs and Steel, and to write 1 question per paragraph. In other words, only 19 of 47 bothered to complete the first assignment. There is something going on other than lack of ability (and, by the way, it is tough to see how “institutional racism” would explain their failure to complete the assignments, to that ain’t it, either).

  • Jim Mordecai


    Can you recheck your records and determine how many of the 19 that did the assignment were female?

    Built in assumption is that all 44 African American students could read the text of Guns, Germs and Steel and the assignment was not a test of reading ability but reflects motivation to do the assignment.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Gordon Danning

    Jim: The gender breakdown is males 8 of 21 finished the assignment, and females 11 of 23.

    It is certainly my experience that males are very underrepresented in my AP classes; one year, only 11 of 76 students were male.

    I sincerely doubt that reading ability was a determining factor, because: 1) this is an AP class, after all, and all of the students were recommended by their 9th grade English teachers; 2) the assignment was to write questions, rather than to exhibit understanding; and, 3) most importantly, most of my Asian-American students are not native-English speakers, and have lower reading test scores, etc, than my African-American students, yet they almost universally complete the assignment.