California’s high school exit exam: out the window?

The 10-member Legislative Budget Conference Committee, which is reviewing Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget proposals, voted yesterday to suspend California’s controversial high school exit exam requirement through 2012-13.

This is not set in stone — the budget still has to make it through the Assembly and Senate — but it’s unlikely that a cut already agreed to by the Dems (six of the 10 budget conference committee members are Democrats) will be restored under these fiscal conditions.

This means, of course, that next year’s juniors and seniors who have yet to pass both portions of the test would be off the hook. Sophomores would still take the test, but if they fail, it wouldn’t count against them, and they wouldn’t have to retake it. Continue Reading


Teacher union sues state for $12 billion

Capitol Alert, a Sacramento Bee blog, reports that the California Federation of Teachers sued Schwarzenegger and other state officials yesterday for $12 billion. The CFT says that money is owed to schools under Proposition 98, the constitutional amendment that established a mandatory minimum level of education funding.

This is all wrapped up, of course, in the campaign against Proposition 1A, a deficit-closing measure on the May 19 special election ballot that would establish spending caps and a short-term, $16 billion tax hike. (California’s larger teacher union, the California Teachers Association, has taken a different stance than the CFT. It is backing 1A.)

The latest polls show support for these ballot measures is eroding, as my colleague Josh Richman reported in his politics blog.


Do school districts need more flexibility?

image from Ingorrr’s photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons

If you’ve been following news about the state education budget, you’ve probably been hearing the term “flexibility” quite a bit. At a press conference yesterday, Oakland’s interim superintendent, Roberta Mayor, asked for more of it — minutes before a state PTA representative spoke out against it. (You know you’ve got a contentious issue on your hands when clashing appeals emerge from a joint publicity event.)

But what is budget flexibility, exactly, and what might it mean for California schools? Continue Reading


Algebra I mandate stopped in court

Judge Shelleyanne Chang might have just dashed Gov. Schwarzenegger’s dreams of testing all kids in Algebra I by the eighth grade.

In July, the State Board of Education approved the governor’s 11th-hour algebra proposal over the strong objections of California’s top ranking education official, Jack O’Connell.

But today, the Sacramento County Superior Court judge stopped the implementation of this sweeping policy. You can read her 5-page ruling here.

Among other things, Chang said the State Board of Education didn’t give Joe Public much notice that this was all going down: Continue Reading


Schwarzenegger presents: your new school shopping guide

Our governor knows just what parents need: More school stats!

Schwarzenegger’s office has announced the launch of a new Web site, California School Finder, that will allow school shoppers to scope out the educational institutions in a particular area. It lets you compare course offerings, student demographics and other information — complete with aerial views of the campuses.

If you want to know if the Oakland School for the Arts teaches advanced French, for example, or what Advanced Placement courses your local high school offers, you’re in luck. (The one-year dropout data on the site, however, did not appear to be updated with last week’s release.)

This is not to be confused with Continue Reading


The Algebra I War continues

Each side of the Algebra I duel — Superintendent Jack O’Connell and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — sent out an e-mail blast today with quotes bolstering their respective positions.

Schwarzenegger’s office titled its blast “What They’re Saying… About the Governor’s Support for Algebra I in 8th grade.”

A few hours later, O’Connell’s camp sent its own press release headlined, “What Educators Are Saying…”


Here’s what Schwarzegger’s supporters had to say about the governor’s courageous leadership:

EdVoice Board Co-Chair Eli Broad: “Governor Was Willing To Take The Bold Step On The Path Less Traveled.”

California Business For Education Excellence: Governor Shows “Bold Leadership.” Continue Reading


Math alert! All eighth-graders to take algebra test

The California Board of Education just voted 8-1 to scrap the eighth-grade general math test altogether and require all students to take the Algebra I STAR exam — likely, within the next three years.

It appears the decision may have been influenced by a last-minute appeal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to do so.

Here’s the background: The eighth-grade general math test was deemed out of compliance by the feds, because it only tested sixth and seventh grade standards. In response, State Superintendent Jack O’Connell proposed creating a new general math exam for eighth-graders who take pre-algebra, one which would include some algebra concepts. The state board rejected that proposal.

A teacher’s perspective: I just talked with Juliana Jones, a former Montera Middle School algebra teacher (yes, after seven years in Oakland, she’s leaving for Berkeley Unified) and last year’s Alameda County Teacher of the Year. Jones said she understands the push to expose kids to algebra earlier, but that it’s not as simple as eliminating a test, or requiring schools to enroll all children in algebra by eighth grade.

Because algebra is considered by many to be the “gatekeeper” for academic success, Jones said, some policy-makers believe that students should simply take the course earlier. They figure that even if some students fail, they can take the course again as ninth-graders, she said.

But Jones said there are unintended consequences to repeating the same material, year after year.

“They take it in eighth grade, they take it in ninth grade, they take it in tenth grade — Algebra I, Algebra I, Algebra I,” Jones said. Continue Reading


Arnold wants to pump up eighth-grade math tests

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks California’s general math tests are too weak for the state’s eighth-graders.

Today, the state board of education is expected to approve a change in the eighth-grade general math tests, which, until now, have measured sixth- and seventh-grade skills. But Schwarzenegger wants the state board to drop the general math exam altogether and require all eighth-graders to take the Algebra 1 exam instead.

In 2007, about half of Oakland’s eighth-grade students took the Algebra I STAR test, slightly above the statewide average. About 36 percent took the General Math exam. Six percent took geometry (Not sure about the other 6 percent).

In a letter dated yesterday, Schwarzenegger writes: Continue Reading