Education reform comes in many varieties in California

The many reform movements that California education has seen over the years has made educators cynical about the process. Reforms are often pushed by politicians as an election issue, only to be ignored once elected. But there is little doubt that our public schools are not equipped to handle the number of children who come to school unprepared. So reform is needed, but it must be targeted to improve the education of children who need it the most.

The Fresno Bee’s main editorial on Sunday urged fundamental changes in public education to deal with the children who come from impoverished neighborhoods. In many ways, California schools remain stuck in the 1950s when their students were mostly white, came from two-parent families and the middle class was a vibrant part of our society. Today in urban school districts, such as Fresno Unified, the vast majority of children live below the poverty line and often don’t have two parents living in their homes.

The lack of parental support is a main cause of children failing in school. They often don’t get help with their homework at home, don’t have a quite place to study and don’t have computers. Against this backdrop, our schools continually push students on a college track, and don’t put enough resources into career and technical education. Even though Fresno Unified’s Duncan Polytechnical High School has the best graduation rate, school leaders resist creating similar schools, opting for traditional high schools instead.

This is what Sunday’s editorial said:

“But while the reform movement has had many faces and many failures over the years, that doesn’t mean the public schools in California don’t need fundamental changes in how they operate. Too many children growing up in poverty in California are in failing schools.

“The problem we see with most reforms is they attempt to place blame on someone — teachers, administrators, school boards, parents — but don’t offer a consistent strategy for how to teach children who don’t have the economic advantages and family networks needed to succeed in our schools.

“The latest idea is to better evaluate teachers, with the premise being that schools will be able to reward the best teachers, and “coach” teachers who are lacking in classroom skills. The logical extension of that strategy is to weed out the bad teachers.

“That has caused the teachers union to fight evaluations of its members, claiming that it would create an unfair system, and leave teachers at the mercy of the demographics of their schools. Why would a teacher want to teach in a school in a poverty-stricken neighborhood when the performance of their students could negatively affect their pay or lead to their termination?”

Read more of the editorial by clicking here.

Responses

Brian Murray says:

Democrats running everything…unions dictating policy…”We’re Living in a Liberal Wonderland”.

Kim Tanksley says:

There are several things I disagree with in the viewpoint of those attempting to reform the schools. First and significant to me is the characterization that the “…schools remain stuck in the 1950s when their students were mostly white, came from two-parent families and the middle class was a vibrant part of our society.” That is a tired and racially inspired argument. The only part of that statement that is true is the part about the lack of two-parent families. California schools do not function as if they cater to white population nor the middle class. There are programs for Native Americans, English as a second language courses and help programs, there are low income breakfast and lunch food programs, after school and lunch time tutoring, there are cultural events that celebrate many cultures… etc., etc. The only part of that statement that is true is the lack of two parent homes and family support structure which is true of all income levels, cultures and skin colors and the ramifications for the students is the same among them all. What has hurt the educational system is the regimentation of school curriculum and regimented testing structure. Teachers are aware that differently children learn differently. However, they no longer have the flexibility to change their methods to reflect the needs of those they are teaching. Testing used to be a method of determining where students need additional help. Schools need to have guidelines, a list of milestones that must be achieved during a grade level and a test to make sure those milestones are reached but that is all. Teachers need to flexibility to make it happen as experts in teaching. Bad teachers wont make the effort and will either leave of their own accord or their lack of teaching skills we be readily apparent. The individual schools should be allowed to fire those that dont measure up. They know best because they are intimately aware of the characteristics of their student body. The unions are doing their teachers a disservice by creating an environment in which administrations lose their flexibility because they must set stringent frameworks for fear of being sued. Money attached to test results doesnt promote teaching, it promotes robotic memorization. Fix these problems and I guarentee you the remaining problems will either go away or be much easier to fix. There are alot of good teachers out there that are stifled under the present framework and it has nothing to do with race nor economic level. The biggest problem of all is addressing the lack of support from home due to time contraints of single parents, parental drug addiction (very common in wealthy families and very distructive to their children), parental apathy, etc. How we provide the support for education that is lacking at home is the biggest unknown in my view of things.

Brian Murray says:

With super majorities in the capital, liberal dominance in every office coupled with unprecedented union power along with a 60-70 percent democrat voting population…why do we need reform?…the education system seems to be working as planned over the last 40-50 years…a little more effort by the members of the CTA and it could have been accomplished sooner…I’m not saying they’re lazy…just corrupt.

Kim Tanksley says:

Would you like to offer any solutions or do you have any ideas as to why reform is broken that we should strive to correct? All we ever get from you is that you hate Democrats and you can place blame. Seriously… is that all you’ve got?

Brian Murray says:

Reform is not broken…it’s a smoke screen…Ideas?, decertify the union and go local for the needs and desires of the region not the Feds…the needle on this California record has been stuck since early 73 when I first became exposed to the state and its’ educational system…a lot of folks have been abused longer.

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