EdBrief

 

Torlakson Announces Release of Draft ESSA State Plan, Invites Public Comment

June 5, 2017

On May 22, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced the release of California’s draft Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plan, and invited public comment.

ESSA is the new federal law passed in December 2015 that governs U.S. education policy for kindergarten through grade twelve. States are required to submit plans to the U.S. Department of Education that describe how they will meet various federal goals.

California released its draft State Plan online at the California Department of Education’s (CDE) Draft ESSA State Plan Public Comment Toolkit Web page...

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Torlakson Opposes Potential Federal Medicaid Cuts for School-based Health Services

May 22, 2017

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said on May 11 that he sent two U.S. Senators a letter announcing his opposition to changes proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives in the American Health Care Act that could endanger funding for school-based health services.

The bill includes a per-state cap on spending for Medicaid, the federal program that funds health care for low-income people and families, and is referred to as Medi-Cal in California. The proposed funding limits mean states will have less money to support the benefits and services outlined in their Medicaid plans, including assistance for Medicaid-eligible children who receive health care at schools.

School-based services include medical supplies such as feeding tubes for disabled children, vision and hearing screenings, and funding for school health aides...

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Handful of Rich School-Choice Donors Spend Big in California

By Sophia Bollag, Associated Press - May 22, 2017

Much of the funding for California’s pro-school choice groups and candidates comes from a handful of very wealthy donors, including the founders of Netflix and The Gap and children of Wal-Mart creator Sam Walton.

An Associated Press analysis of top donors to school-choice ballot measure campaigns around the country found 48 individuals and couples provided most of the reported contributions to those initiatives since 2000. Some of those top donors are major backers of pro-school choice candidates in California.

In the past, California teachers unions have spent big to defeat high-profile school choice candidates. Last year, several state legislative candidates backed by school choice advocates beat union-backed candidates. Looking ahead to 2018, some of the most active school choice donors are already contributing to pro-charter candidates for governor and state schools chief...

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Kimberly Tarvin Appointed as Director of CDE’s Audits and Investigations Division

May 22, 2017

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today the appointment of Kimberly Tarvin as the new Director of the Audits and Investigations Division at the California Department of Education. She began her assignment May 8, 2017.

A Certified Public Accountant, Tarvin brings more than two decades of auditing and management experience to her new role. She spent the past 20 years working for the California Department of Finance’s Office of State Audits and Investigations leading and managing various audit teams and other department-wide projects. At the CDE, Tarvin will oversee internal, external, and investigative audits to ensure compliance with federal and state programs.

“Kimberly is a veteran leader whose auditing experience and expertise is second to none,” Torlakson said. “I am delighted to welcome her to the California Department of Education.”...

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Researchers: LCFF Has Strong Support, But Implementation Still “a Work in Progress”

May 8, 2017

The California law that simplified how education dollars are allocated across the state, vastly expanded local fiscal control, and altered education governance is helping some school districts spend money more strategically and target supplemental support to low-income students, English Learners, and foster youth, according to a new report released on April 28 by the Local Control Funding Formula Research Collaborative (LCFFRC), a group of California education researchers from various organizations and institutions who have been studying LCFF implementation for three years.

The report – the third in a series of studies and based on eight in-depth case studies of districts mirroring California’s demographic and geographic diversity – also reveals that LCFF has been implemented unevenly in districts. Many districts lack organizational capacity to engage stakeholders or develop cohesive plans as the law intended, and there is not universal understanding of the equity purposes of the law, the report says...

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CDE: Updated School Planning Tool Available in Spanish

May 8, 2017

On April 28, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson thanked the Orange County Office of Education for preparing a new Spanish language translation of the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) template, which will help students, parents and community members get more involved in school planning decisions.

The Legislature and Governor Brown in 2013 approved the landmark Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which changed how all California schools are funded, gave districts more resources and more flexibility in spending, and required them to work with their communities to create education plans.

The funding formula includes the LCAP to set goals, plan actions, and use available resources to meet those goals to improve student outcomes...

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Marshall Tuck, Tony Thurmond Promoting Their Campaigns for State Superintendent

May 8, 2017

The two declared candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction both drew attention to their policy positions during the month of April.

On April 27, candidate Marshall Tuck published an opinion piece in LA School Report, an advocacy-oriented online news site covering education and politics in Los Angeles. In the opinion piece, Tuck stressed that while he is a longtime advocate for non-profit charter schools, he opposes charter schools that do business on a for-profit basis. Tuck wrote:

“...While I know from experience that nonprofit public charter schools can offer opportunity and hope in some of our most underserved neighborhoods, I’ve also seen how for-profit schools fail to serve students’ best interests. Thanks in part to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, her home state of Michigan leads the nation in for-profit charter schools and provides many examples of the corrosive influence of the profit motive in managing public schools...

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Torlakson Appoints New Directors for Improvement and Accountability Division, Fiscal and Administrative Services

May 8, 2017

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on April 25 the appointment of Melanie Schoeppe as the Director of the Improvement and Accountability Division at the California Department of Education (CDE). She began her new assignment April 19.

“Melanie is an ideal fit to lead the Improvement and Accountability Division, which administers several Title I programs and other services to support some of our most vulnerable students,” Torlakson said. “Melanie has devoted her professional life to education and social welfare. As a former teacher and principal of an elementary school in East Oakland, she has a keen awareness of the challenges of serving students in poverty and also the strategies that can help those schools and students succeed.”...

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Federal Court Ruling in Indiana Case Could Impact Antidiscrimination Cases Nationwide

April 24, 2017

In Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana (7th Cir., April 14, 2017, No. 15-1720) ___ F.3d ___ < http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/rssExec.pl?Submit =Display&Path=Y2017/D04-04/C:15-1720:J:Wood:aut:T:fnOp:N:1942256:S:0>, a federal appeals court evaluated whether federal antidiscrimination laws protect an individual against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation under Title VII (42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)). In a landmark decision, the court held that under Title VII, such discrimination is unlawful.

Kimberly Hively was an openly lesbian adjunct professor at Ivy Tech Community College (Ivy Tech). After unsuccessfully applying for at least six full-time positions between 2009 and 2014, and after her part-time contract was not renewed in July 2014, Hively initiated legal action against Ivy Tech alleging that she was discriminated against based on her sexual orientation in violation of Title VII...

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Legislative Counsel Bureau Confirms: K-12 Schools Must Have Warrant to Search Student’s Personal Device

April 24, 2017

On March 27, 2017, the Legislative Counsel Bureau issued an opinion interpreting the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act ("CalECPA") as applying to all California public entities, including K-12 school districts. In summary, CalECPA, which our firm previously discussed in a February 2016 NewsFlash, imposes significant limitations on the ability of a state government entity to compel the production of – or access to – information on an electronic device, including cellphones, laptop computers, tablets or any other device that stores, generates or transmits information in electronic form.

The legislative history of CalECPA, codified in Penal Code Section 1546 et seq., indicated an intent to prevent law enforcement from conducting unlawful searches. However, the law’s language more broadly applies to all political subdivisions of the state. It has therefore been widely understood – even prior to the Legislative Counsel Bureau’s March 2017 opinion – that CalECPA’s requirements apply to school districts...

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Following School Shooting in San Bernardino, CSBA Highlights Online Resources for Educators

April 24, 2017

In the aftermath of a school shooting in San Bernardino on April 10, which left a teacher and an 8-year-old student dead, the California School Boards Association (CSBA) released a list of online resources that may be useful to school board members, school administrators and educators.

“We are devastated by the violence that occurred at a San Bernardino elementary school today and further saddened that this tragedy took place in a community which has suffered so much heartbreak in recent years,” said CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy. “We grieve for all those affected by the shooting, particularly the families of the student and two adults who died in the attack and the family of the injured student. Our hearts go out to all the students at North Park Elementary School who were exposed to this traumatic event. We simply must do a better job of caring for, protecting and nurturing the most vulnerable members of our society.”...

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School Districts, ACSA, Others Join Legal Challenge to Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration

April 10, 2017

On March 13, Dozens of California school districts and leading education organizations today announced the filing of an amicus brief supporting Santa Clara County in its legal challenge to President Trump’s executive order threatening to withhold funding from so-called sanctuary cities.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, a global law firm representing the school districts pro bono, submitted the brief on behalf of 18 public school districts, including the state’s largest in Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco and San Diego; 13 charter schools and three community college districts; and education leaders such as the California Teachers Association (CTA) and Association of California School Administrators (ACSA).

ACSA President Ralph Porras said “All students have the right to attend school in California, not just undocumented students but all students,” Porras said. “They also have a right to be in a public learning environment free from discrimination, harassment, and intimidation and ACSA is going to be a voice for all students.”...

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California’s AG Asked to Take Action Against Enrollment Practices Denying Latino Students Right to Enroll in School

April 10, 2017

On March 27, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR) and California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA) sent a letter to California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra requesting that he use the power of his office to investigate practices used by certain school districts that discriminatorily impact students and families based on their national origin by requiring immigration and citizenship information at enrollment. The letter urges the Attorney General to take all necessary action to ensure that school districts immediately cease these unlawful practices that have a chilling effect and discourage Latino and other students perceived to be immigrants, both documented and undocumented, from enrolling in school.

After an extensive review of school district websites and registration processes, CRLA and LCCR advocates uncovered 75 school districts from 35 counties that unlawfully inquire about a student’s citizenship status or social security number during their registration process. One district even requires the student’s immigration number if a student is not a U.S. citizen and asks if the student ever left the U.S. for any period of time since entering...

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New Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Criticizes Federal Education Spending, Advocates for Choice Policies

April 10, 2017

Betsy DeVos, recently appointed as Secretary of Education by President Donald Trump, made her first major policy address as head of the U.S. Department of Education on March 29, addressing the Brookings Institution in the nation’s capital.

In a March 29 news article in the New York Times, reporter Erica L. Green wrote:

Betsy DeVos, in her first extended policy address as education secretary, argued on Wednesday for an expansion of school choice programs, pointing to lagging test scores and a program championed by the Obama administration that funneled billions into low-performing schools but failed to produce better academic outcomes.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution, which released a ranking of choice options in the country’s 100 largest school districts, Ms. DeVos made her case for choice policies that she said focused on the “individual child.” And she called for the rejection of an “us versus them mentality” when it comes to investing in programs, like charter schools and school vouchers, to which President Trump has proposed giving part of a $1.4 billion funding increase in the fiscal year that begins in October...

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Marshall Tuck, Tony Thurmond Declare Candidacy for State Superintendent of Public Instruction

April 10, 2017

Two contenders have recently declared their candidacy for California’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction – a job that will be on the ballot in June 2018, with a possible run-off election in November 2018. (Current incumbent Tom Torlakson is in the midst his second term and will be termed out in January 2019).

Candidate Marshall Tuck was born in 1973, he earned an undergraduate degree in Political Science at UCLA in 1995, and an MBA at Harvard in 2000. He became president of Green Dot Public Schools (a nonprofit Los Angeles-based charter school operation with 18 campuses) in 2002. Then in 2007, he became the founding CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. He is currently an Educator-in-Residence at the New Teacher Center, a non-profit based in Santa Cruz.

Tuck was a candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2014. In the June 2014 primary election, he finished second to incumbent Tom Torlakson – with Torlakson getting 46 percent of the vote, and Tuck receiving 28 percent...

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Brown Appoints Four to State Board of Education

April 10, 2017

On March 10, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced the reappointment of two current State Board of Education (SBE) members, and the appointment of two new SBE members.

Sue Burr, 63, of Rancho Murieta, has been reappointed to the California State Board of Education, where she has served as a member since 2013 and served as executive director from 2011 to 2012. Burr was executive director of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association from 2006 to 2011, where she was governmental relations director from 2003 to 2006. She was assistant superintendent for business services for the Elk Grove Unified School District from 2000 to 2003 and served as undersecretary of education in the Office of the Governor from 1999 to 2000, where she was interim secretary of education in 2000. Burr was co-director at the California State University Institute for Education Reform from 1995 to 1999. She was a principal consultant for the California State Senate Education Committee from 1991 to 1994 and for the California State Senate Appropriations Committee from 1986 to 1991. Burr earned a Master of Business Administration degree from California State University, Sacramento. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Burr is a Democrat...

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Wyden Urges Education Secretary to Spell out Trump Plans to Increase Graduation Rates at Public High Schools

March 27, 2017

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asked Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on March 13 to spell out the Trump Administration’s plans to help public high schools increase graduation rates in Oregon and across the country.

In a letter, Wyden specifically asked DeVos how she would implement a Wyden priority to increase graduation rates that was included in the new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Congress passed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015 to give all children better access to quality education and give more control to states and educators. The Wyden provision in the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act provides struggling public schools with federal funding to improve their graduation rates...

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Torlakson Asks Federal Authorities to Clarify Policy on Immigration Actions Near Schools

March 13, 2017

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, as part of his efforts to ensure parents and students feel safe at schools regardless of their immigration status, asked federal law enforcement authorities on March 9 to explain if they are changing a policy that had avoided immigration actions near schools.

Torlakson wrote a letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and requested information if the agency is still following the “Sensitive Locations” guidance, which directs federal agents to generally avoid enforcement activities at schools, school bus stops, college and universities, and other education-related locations.

His letter was prompted by the need to inform school leaders in California, but also by his alarm at an action taken in late February by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who took Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, a 48-year-old father of four, into custody after he dropped off one of his daughters at Academia Avance public charter school...

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Trump’s Call for School Vouchers During First Address to Congress is a Return to a Campaign Pledge

March 13, 2017

During his first address to Congress as President on February 28, Donald Trump renewed his campaign support for school vouchers. In an article about Trump’s Congressional address in the New York Times, reporter Yamiche Alcindor wrote:

President Trump, returning to a promise that won him cheers on the campaign trail, signaled in his first address to Congress on February 28 that he will move aggressively to allow more public school students to use tax money to pay for tuition at public charter schools, private schools and even religious schools.

At rallies last year across the country, Mr. Trump said over and over again that he would use the nation’s schools to fix what he described as failing inner cities and a virtual education crisis that most hurts black and Hispanic children. In North Carolina, he called school choice “the great civil rights issue of our time.”...

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Trump-DeVos Plan to Voucherize Public Schools Is Unlikely to Work in 85 Percent of Public School Districts, Analysis Finds

March 13, 2017

On the campaign trail, now-President Donald Trump laid out a plan to redirect $20 billion in federal education funding to support vouchers for private-school choice – and his new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has indicated strong support for such a program. Press reports now indicate that a $20 billion tax cut for private-school vouchers is under serious consideration. A new analysis from the Center for American Progress, however, shows that such a plan is unlikely to be viable in 85 percent of the more than 13,000 school districts in the United States.

“Public education is far from a one-size-fits-all endeavor. There is tremendous diversity across the country in what school districts look like and the needs of the students they serve, and our new president and education secretary should take the time to learn more about the needs of schools, students, and families before barreling ahead with an ill-devised plan to voucherize our public school system,” said Neil Campbell, Director of Innovation for the K-12 Education Policy team at CAP...

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Evidence Fails to Show that School Vouchers Improve Student Achievement, Stanford Researcher Finds

By Carrie Spector - Rep: March 13, 2017

Proponents of “school choice” say that voucher programs – which allow parents to use state education funds to enroll their children in private schools – promote learning by providing access to different types of schools and by fostering competition that motivates public schools to improve.

But there’s no evidence that voucher programs significantly increase test scores, according to a new report by Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) Professor Martin Carnoy.

At best, they have only a modest impact on high school graduation rates, Carnoy found – and the risks they pose outweigh any advances...

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Trump Administration Rescinds Obama Administration’s Guidance on Transgender Students

February 27, 2017

On February 22, the Trump Administration rescinded the guidance on transgender students that had been issued in 2016. The change was announced in statements released by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education. The Department of Justice statement said:

The Department of Justice and the Department of Education today withdrew guidance for educational institutions, issued in 2015 and 2016, that took the position that the prohibitions in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and implementing regulations against discrimination on the basis of sex require access to sex-segregated facilities on the basis of gender identity rather than biological sex. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued the following statement:

“The Department of Justice has a duty to enforce the law. The prior guidance documents did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX...

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Torlakson Reminds Californians that State Law Protects Transgender Students’ Rights

February 27, 2017

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson reiterated on February 23 his strong support for the rights of transgender students and reminded all Californians that state law requires public schools to allow students access to the restroom or locker room consistent with their gender identity.

“All students deserve a safe and supportive school environment. California will continue to work to provide that environment for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students regardless of any misguided directives by the federal government and the Trump administration,” Torlakson said.

Joint action by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice has revoked federal guidelines adopted by the Obama administration in May 2016 to protect the rights of transgender students at schools by allowing them to use the bathrooms and locker rooms matching their chosen gender identity...

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How Trump Could Abolish the Department of Education

By Alexander Holt, New America Foundation - Rep: February 27, 2017

Kentucky Republican Congressman Thomas Massie loves brevity, which he demonstrated with his new one-sentence bill introduced in early February: “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.” Massie is probably just scoring some political points, but abolishing the Department of Education is a favorite idea of Republicans, including President Donald Trump. And while elimination is unlikely, it’s also not impossible.

I’ve previously dismissed the idea of eliminating the functions of the Department of Education as fantasy programs like Pell grants and K-12 funding for poor districts are too popular to cut. But what if there were a way to eliminate the department, as Massie proposes, without cutting these popular programs? It is possible to do. Granted, it would be a bureaucratic nightmare, expensive, and possibly lead to fraud, waste, and abuse. Eliminating a department is unlikely to solve many problems, but very likely to create a lot of new ones...

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Change in Law May Require Shift to Even-Year Elections

February 27, 2017

In September 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 415. SB 415, which becomes operative on January 1, 2018, prohibits political subdivisions from holding odd-year regular elections if a prior odd-year election resulted in a "significant decrease in voter turnout," as defined by statute. The new law reflects a policy of encouraging election consolidations to defray election costs and encourage voter participation. It applies only to regular elections and not to special elections.

Specifically, the new law, which is codified at Elections Code sections 14050 et seq., provides that a political subdivision (such as a city, school district, community college district or other district organized pursuant to state law) shall not hold an election other than on a statewide election date if holding an election on a "nonconcurrent date" has previously resulted in a "significant decrease in voter turnout." "Nonconcurrent dates" are non-statewide election dates such as odd-year board member elections (or "off-cycle" election dates)...

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Betsy DeVos Confirmed as Education Secretary, With VP Pence Casting Deciding Vote

February 13, 2017

By the narrowest possible margin, the United States Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as the Trump Administration’s Secretary of Education. In a roll call vote, the senators split 50-50, with all 48 Democrat senators voting against DeVos, along with two Republican senators. The tie-breaking vote was then cast by Vice President Mike Pence, who was on hand in the event that a tie-breaker was needed. The Senate also postponed by a few days the confirmation vote on the Trump administration’s nominee for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), so that Sessions could vote in favor of confirmation of DeVos.

The Washington Post noted in an article on February 7 that the vote on DeVos was the closest vote in history in terms of confirming a cabinet nominee:

The entire Democratic caucus of 48 senators voted against DeVos, as did two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, who said they did not think that DeVos was qualified for the job. The remaining 50 Republicans voted for her, setting up a 50-50 tie that could be broken only with Pence’s vote...

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“Rhetoric Devoid of Facts”

NSBA Objects to Trump’s Inaugural Remarks, and “Sets the Record Straight about Public Education”

January 30, 2017

Responding to remarks made by President Donald Trump in his inaugural address, the National School Boards Association issued a statement on January 23 aiming to “set the record straight about public education.” The statement said:

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) working with and through state associations and more than 90,000 school board members is committed to providing the highest quality education for every child. At a time when public schools are educating more students at a higher level than ever before in history – and doing so despite enormous financial challenges – recent statements by the Trump administration are troublesome. The profound lack of knowledge about public education, as reflected in comments about public schools being “flush with cash” and badly underserving the nation’s children, coupled with policy proposals based on these “alternative facts”, pose a threat to a high-quality education for more than 50 million students...

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California Supreme Court Declines Review of Out-of-District Charter School Decision

January 30, 2017

The debate over whether a charter school may operate outside of the geographical boundaries of its authorizing district, but within the same county, is now over.

On January 18, 2017, the California Supreme Court announced that it will not review the decision in Anderson Union High School District v. Shasta Secondary Home School ("Anderson decision"), a case that has been closely monitored by local educational agencies and charter schools alike. The Court of Appeal had previously ruled that charter schools generally may not operate resource centers outside of their authorizing school district’s boundaries even if they are within the same county, unless they fall within one of the narrow statutory exceptions. The California Supreme Court’s decision not to hear this case on appeal means that the Anderson decision stands...

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Betsy DeVos Nomination Drawing Some Opposition as Senate Committee’s Vote Nears

January 30, 2017

Sen. Lamar Alexander (D-Tenn) confirmed on January 25 that the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which he chairs, will vote on the nomination of Betsy DeVos as the Trump Administration’s Secretary of Education on Tuesday, January 31 at 10 a.m. EST.

Last week, Alexander spoke on the Senate floor regarding the confirmation process for Mrs. DeVos, noting, “She visited every office of the Democratic senators. She testified for up to 90 minutes longer than president Obama’s secretaries. She’s answering nearly 1,400 follow-up questions when each of those secretaries under President Obama answered 53 and 56. The reasons for opposing her are reasons that are not valid. How can you turn down a woman for United States Secretary when she spent 30 years of her life trying to help low-income children find a better school?”...

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ACLU Letter to Superintendents Offers Recommendations to Ensure Safe, Supportive Campus Environments

January 16, 2017

Reacting to a significant nationwide increase in politically motivated bullying of students on the basis of race, religion, immigration status and sexual and gender orientation, the ACLU of California has sent a detailed letter to the state’s school superintendents laying out key points of antidiscrimination law and offering guidance on securing an inclusive educational environment.

The letter was delivered on Dec. 12 to every superintendent in the state. It reminds them that under state and federal law, each district must provide all children equal access to school regardless of immigration status, and that districts “have an affirmative duty to protect students from discrimination and harassment whether perpetrated by district employees or by students.”...

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Senate Schedules Confirmation Hearings on Education Secretary Nominee Betsy DeVos

January 16, 2017

On January 9, Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced the committee will move its confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos–President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the U.S. Department of Education – to January 17. (The hearing had originally been scheduled for January 11). The committee is then expected to vote on the nomination on January 24.

In a joint statement on January 9, Alexander and Murray said: “At the request of the Senate leadership to accommodate the Senate schedule, we have agreed to move the nomination hearing of Betsy DeVos to Tuesday, January 17th at 5:00 p.m. (Eastern).”

However, Alexander and Murray have also issued separate statements that illustrate the considerable difference of opinion between Republicans and Democrats regarding DeVos as a nominee...

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Schools Try to Calm Students’ Fears Over Deportation

By Mike McPhate - Rep: December 19, 2016

(Editor’s note: The New York Times published the following article as part of the newspaper’s ongoing “California Today” series on December 7, 2016)

The automated voice mail went out to every public school parent in San Francisco.

“We are committed to providing a safe space for learning for each and every one of our students, including recent immigrants regardless of immigration status. We will continue to uphold San Francisco’s sanctuary city for all immigrants.”

Like major cities around the country, San Francisco city leaders have vowed to maintain their status as a “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants, limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

But students and parents continued to express anxiety over the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States...

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Children Age Eight and Under Should Ride in Back Seat

California Department of Public Health Awarded Grant to Expand Child Safety-Seat Use

December 19, 2016

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith announced on December 14 that CDPH has received a $488,650 grant to expand statewide programs that train parents how to keep their children safe when riding in motor vehicles.

“Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the number one cause of death for children,” said Dr. Smith. “This grant allows these programs to continue their life-saving work, and help more parents protect their children, whether the child is in a booster seat, car seat or the vehicle’s seat-belt system.”

The funding, from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, allows the CDPH Vehicle Occupant Safety Program (VOSP) to train 450 new child passenger safety (CPS) technicians and keep more than 2,000 existing technicians up-to-date on current practices. In turn, these technicians will teach parents how to choose and properly install their car seats. VOSP also develops and provides educational materials to parents, via local programs, to increase proper child-restraint use and reduce injuries and deaths. More child passenger safety information is available on the CDPH website...

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Holiday Travelers to Mexico Reminded to Take Precautions to Prevent Zika

December 19, 2016

Holiday travelers, including those making trips to see family, should protect themselves from mosquito bites when traveling to areas with known transmission of Zika virus, including Mexico.

Many areas of Mexico continue to experience transmission of the Zika virus, particularly popular tourist destinations, including Cancun, Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa, and Mazatlan. The states of Baja California Sur, where Cabo San Lucas is located, and Sonora, which borders Arizona, have recently reported local Zika virus transmission. While the state of Baja California bordering California has not reported local Zika virus transmission, the mosquitoes that transmit the virus are present along the border. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers any travel to Mexico to be a potential risk for Zika virus infection.

While there has been no local transmission of Zika virus in California to date, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has confirmed 443 cases of travel-associated infections in the state. Florida and Texas have experienced locally transmitted cases of Zika...

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Obama Administration Sends Letter to States Calling for an End to Corporal Punishment in Schools

December 5, 2016

U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. sent a letter on November 22 urging state leaders to end the use of corporal punishment in schools, a practice repeatedly linked to harmful short-term and long-term outcomes for students.

King said “While some may argue that corporal punishment is a tradition in some school communities, society has evolved and past practice alone is no justification. No school can be considered safe or supportive if its students are fearful of being physically punished. We strongly urge states to eliminate the use of corporal punishment in schools – a practice that educators, civil rights advocates, medical professionals, and researchers agree is harmful to students and which the data show us unequivocally disproportionally impacts students of color and students with disabilities.”

There is a wide consensus from teachers’ groups – including both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association – as well as the National PTA, medical and mental health professionals, and civil rights advocates that corporal punishment has no place in our schools. Eighty organizations, include the National Women’s Law Center, are releasing a letter this week calling on states and policymakers to end this practice...

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Community Colleges Join UC and CSU Asking Trump Administration to Preserve DACA

December 5, 2016

On November 29, incoming California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, along with the heads of the University of California and California State University, today formally asked President-elect Donald J. Trump to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows children of undocumented immigrants to pursue higher education in the United States.

“California’s three systems of public higher education are committed to supporting all students, including those pursuing their higher educational goals through this important program,” Oakley said. “It is vital that these students, who were brought to this country as children, have the ability to learn without fear of being deported. The California community colleges stand with these students because they represent some of the best qualities that our state and nation have to offer.”

As outlined in the letter, the California Community Colleges, UC and CSU systems each have thousands of DACA students at campuses across the state...

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Trump Nominates Betsy DeVos – Advocate of Charter Schools and Vouchers – for Secretary of Education

December 5, 2016

On November 23, the Trump transition team identified the next President’s pick for the cabinet post of Secretary of Education. According to a press release:

President-elect Donald J. Trump today announced his intent to nominate Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the United States Department of Education. A leader in the national school reform movement for more than two decades, Betsy DeVos is a highly successful education advocate, businesswoman, and philanthropist.

“Betsy DeVos is a brilliant and passionate education advocate,” said President-elect Donald J. Trump. “Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families. I am pleased to nominate Betsy as Secretary of the Department of Education."

“I am honored to accept this responsibility to work with the President-elect on his vision to make American education great again,” said Ms. DeVos...

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Voters Approve 13 School Parcel Tax Measures, and Scores of School Facilities Bond Measures

November 21, 2016

California voters smiled on many local ballot measures put forward by school districts in the November 8 general election. Voters in 13 school districts approved local school parcel tax measures (which require a two-thirds majority of votes cast for approval). Another six school parcel taxes came up short of the two-thirds threshold – including a few that failed by a very narrow margin.

Voters also approved a slew of school facilities bond measures. There were 178 school facilities bond measures that required a 55 percent majority for approval – and 164 of them passed (a 92 percent success ratio). There were another six school facilities bond measures that required a two-thirds majority for approval – but only two of them passed. All told, voters approved some $23 million in local school facilities bond measures in the November 8 election (in addition to approving $9 billion in school facilities bonds in statewide Proposition 51)...

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Proposition 51 Passes, Authorizing $9 Billion in School Facilities Funding

November 21, 2016

On November 8, 2016, California voters approved Proposition 51, authorizing the issuance of $9 billion in bonds for school facility funding. The measure, which passed with approximately 54 percent of the statewide vote, went into effect on November 9, 2016.

Proposition 51 introduces new funding for repairs, construction and new school facilities across the state, as any remaining funding for such projects was dwindling. Under Proposition 51, school districts, charter schools and community college districts can apply through the existing School Facilities Program (“SFP”) on a “first-come, first-served” basis for a state match against local district funding for eligible projects.

Proposition 51 bond funds target the following areas:

  1. $3 billion for the construction of new school facilities;
  2. $500 million for providing school facilities for charter schools...

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Voters Approve Props. 55 and 58, Extending Funding for Schools and Repealing Restrictions on Bilingual Education

November 21, 2016

California voters approved two school-related ballot propositions in the November 8 election. Proposition 55 will extend the term some of the income taxes that were part of 2012’s Proposition 30. Proposition 58 will repeal many aspects of 1998’s Proposition 227, the “English in Public Schools” Initiative, which placed a variety of restrictions on bilingual education programs.

The California Teachers Association (CTA) was quick to hail the passage of the two propositions. “California’s voters are truly committed to providing our students with a quality public education and their overwhelming support of Prop. 55 shows they never want to go back to the days of devastating cuts that drastically impacted our schools and communities,” said CTA President Eric C. Heins. “On behalf of our state’s 9 million students and 325,000 CTA members, we thank all Californians who voted to keep public education moving in the right direction. Educators want to work with parents and communities to build on the improvements we’ve made, and to ensure all students are ready for 21st Century jobs in the global economy.”...

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Illegal Tobacco Sales to Minors Increase in California

November 7, 2016

California’s rate of illegal tobacco sales to minors is up by one-third since last year, according to the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) 2016 Youth Tobacco Purchase Survey. The current rate, 10.3 percent, is the highest in eight years.

“Preventing the illegal sale of tobacco to minors is extremely important,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. “Delaying the age when young people begin using tobacco reduces the possibility of them becoming long-term users, which can protect them from a lifetime of tobacco-related illnesses.”

The CDPH survey was conducted using 75 youth decoys (under age 18) who tried to buy tobacco products at 793 stores, which were randomly selected out of the 34,428 licensed tobacco retailers throughout California. The survey was completed before the minimum age for tobacco sales increased to 21 years of age on June 9 of this year...

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Survey Finds Public Opinion Almost Evenly Split on Prop. 51, While Most Voters Favor Prop. 55

November 7, 2016

A statewide survey released on October 26 by the Public Policy Institute of California found that Proposition 51 (school facility bonds) is in a tight race, while a majority of likely voters favor Proposition 55 (extension of some Prop. 30 taxes). According to the survey findings:

  1. Fewer than half favor Proposition 51. When read the ballot title and label, 46 percent of likely voters would vote yes, 41 percent would vote no, and 12 percent are undecided about this measure, which would authorize the state to issue $9 billion in bonds to fund construction and modernization of K-12 schools and community college facilities. A solid majority of Democratic likely voters (62%) would vote yes on the measure, but fewer than half of independents (45%) and even fewer Republicans (29%) support it. When asked about the importance of the outcome of Proposition 51, 41 percent say it is very important. Supporters are somewhat more likely than opponents to say that the outcome of the vote on this measure is very important to them. In response to a tracking question, the survey finds that support for Proposition 51 (46%) is lower than the level of general support for a state school bond (59%)...

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Proposition 55: Should California Maintain Higher Taxes on the Wealthiest to Fund Education?

By Scott Graves- Rep: October 24, 2016

Proposition 30, approved by voters in 2012, provided critical revenues to California at a time when the state faced daunting budgetary challenges. Prop. 30’s tax rate increases are scheduled to fully expire at the end of 2018. Prop. 55, which will appear on the November 8, 2016 statewide ballot, would extend for 12 years the Prop. 30 tax rate increases that affect very-high-income Californians. Revenues generated by Prop. 55 – a projected $4 billion to $9 billion per year from 2019 through 2030 – would go to K-12 public schools, community colleges, health care for low-income Californians, the state’s rainy day fund, state debt payments, and other state services. This Issue Brief provides an overview of Prop. 55 and the policy issues it raises. The California Budget & Policy Center neither supports nor opposes Prop. 55.

What Would Proposition 55 Do?

Prop. 55, “The California Children’s Education and Health Care Protection Act of 2016,” would amend the California Constitution to (1) extend Prop. 30’s personal income tax provisions for 12 years beyond their scheduled expiration at the end of 2018 and (2) create a formula to provide additional funding for Medi-Cal from the revenues raised by the measure...

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Proposition 51: Should California Voters Approve Bonds to Pay for School Facilities?

By Jonathan Kaplan - Rep: October 24, 2016

Proposition 51, which will appear on the November 8, 2016 statewide ballot, would authorize $9 billion in general obligation (GO) bonds for K-12 school and community college facilities. The measure would maintain California’s current financing system under which state and local dollars are used to pay for K-12 school and community college facilities. This Issue Brief provides an overview of Prop. 51 and the policy issues it raises. The California Budget & Policy Center neither supports nor opposes Prop. 51.

What Would Proposition 51 Do?

Prop. 51, the “Kindergarten Through Community College Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2016,” would authorize $9 billion in GO bonds for construction and modernization of K-12 school and community college facilities. The measure would provide $7 billion in bond proceeds for K-12 education facilities...

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Whether or Not Voters Approve Prop. 51, Inequities in School Facilities Funding Likely to Continue

By Jonathan Kaplan - Rep: October 24, 2016

Earlier this week the California Budget Project released an analysis of Proposition 51, the $9 billion state general obligation (GO) bond for K-12 school and community college facilities on the November ballot. Our analysis shows the difficult choice faced by California voters who want to help students from low-income families. State bond dollars for K-14 education facilities effectively have been exhausted for several years, leaving local school districts without a key source of state support. So, there is obvious appeal in approving the new bond funds that Prop. 51 would provide. Yet, whether or not voters pass Prop. 51, inequities in the funding of California’s K-12 school facilities are likely to continue for at least the near future.

Prop. 51 would provide $7 billion in new state funds for K-12 school facilities. However, Prop. 51 would require that these funds be distributed according to current rules for allocating K-12 facilities dollars, unless voters approve changes to these rules in the future...

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New Screening Tool Allows for Early Identification of Children Who Have Dyslexia

October 24, 2016

A new, first-of-its-kind screening tool will enable schools nationwide and internationally to quickly and reliably screen all kindergarten and first grade students for dyslexia, allowing early support and intervention for the estimated 20 percent of the population who have dyslexia, including 80 percent of those with learning disabilities.

The Shaywitz DyslexiaScreen™ is an evidence-based assessment that helps teachers identify students in kindergarten and first grade who may have dyslexia. The low-cost screening tool is delivered in less than five minutes per student, making it simple for schools to implement and use in evaluation of early readers.

Created by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, the digital assessment emphasizes phonological, linguistic and academic performance. Shaywitz, the Audrey G. Ratner Professor in Learning Development at the Yale University School of Medicine, is co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. As a physician-scientist, she conducts cutting-edge research that provides a 21st century scientific understanding of dyslexia...

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Despite Progress, Bias-based Bullying Remains Significant Problem in U.S. Secondary Schools

October 10, 2016

Biased remarks, bullying and harassment remain a significant problem in U.S. middle and high schools, according to a report released on September 28 by GLSEN, the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for all students. Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of middle and high school students experienced some type of peer victimization in the past school year, and over half (51 percent) of teachers believe that bullying is a significant problem at school.

The report, From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited, a Survey of U.S. Secondary School Students and Teachers, includes data from a nationally representative sample of 1,367 U.S. middle and high school students and 1,015 teachers. Data was collected online between January 29 and February 15, 2015 on behalf of GLSEN by Harris Poll. All analyses were conducted by GLSEN. More information about the survey methodology can be found in the report. The report is an update of a survey of secondary school students and teachers conducted in 2005...

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California Announces Proposed Rules on Agricultural Pesticide Use Near Schools and Child Day-Care Centers

October 10, 2016

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has released a proposed regulation that would give further protections to children when agricultural pesticides are applied close to schools and child day-care facilities*.

Many K-12 schools and child day-care facilities are located near farming operations and increasingly teachers, parents and the public want to know whether the chemicals being applied could adversely affect them.

Following extensive public input, the proposed regulation would provide an extra measure of protection to these sites from the risk of short-term pesticide exposure. It would also provide advance notification when certain pesticides are applied, so as to increase communication between growers and schools or child day-care facilities, and help them in responding to inquiries and potential incidents...

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New State Guidance Pending on English Learners in Special Education

October 10, 2016

Assembly Bill (AB) 2785 was signed by the Governor on September 24, 2016. AB 2785 requires the California Department of Education (CDE) to develop a manual providing guidance to local educational agencies (LEA) on identifying, assessing, supporting and reclassifying English learners who may qualify for special education services, and also, pupils with disabilities who may be classified as English learners. Other states offer similar guidance.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) alleged that California failed to adequately address reports dating back to the 2007-2008 school year indicating that more than 20,000 students in the state’s English learner population of 1.4 million had not received proper instruction. In a recent federal settlement with the DOJ, the CDE and State Board of Education (SBE) agreed to implement new training and monitoring procedures to ensure language education is provided for all students designated as English learners...

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Judge Rules against Lawsuit to Make Standardized Test Scores a Key Part of Teacher Evaluations

September 26, 2016

The Los Angeles Times reports that a judge has ruled against another lawsuit brought by the Silicon Valley-based advocacy group Students Matter, which backed the recent Vergara v. California lawsuit. An article by education reporter Howard Blume, published on September 22, said:

A judge in Northern California dealt a blow this week to a controversial campaign to make teachers more accountable for their students’ level of achievement, the second key setback in recent months for those behind the effort.

The ruling by Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Barry Goode went against the Bay Area group Students Matter. The group’s lawsuit aimed to force 13 school districts, including seven in Southern California, to make student standardized test scores a key part of teacher evaluations...

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SBE Seeks Applications to Fill Multiple Vacancies on Commissions – Deadline October 6

September 26, 2016

The State Board of Education (SBE) office is accepting applications for the positions listed below until 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 6, 2016. Information about the application process may be found at http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/cc/ab/.

  1. Advisory Commission on Charter Schools
    The SBE is currently seeking applications for a county superintendent appointment to serve on the Advisory Commission on Charter Schools (ACCS), whose role is to support the SBE. The SBE has policy-making authority on a number of issues related to individual charter schools and the California charter system as a whole. Upon request by the SBE, the ACCS shall advise the State Board on all aspects of the State Board’s duties under the Charter Schools Act of 1992...

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Torlakson Appoints Donna Wyatt as Director of Career and College Transition Division

September 26, 2016

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has appointed of Donna Wyatt as the new Career and College Transition Division Director at the California Department of Education (CDE). She began her assignment September 6.

“Donna has devoted her professional career to helping students identify their passions and professional callings and providing those students the skills and direction needed to succeed,” Torlakson said. “She will be a tremendous resource for all of our schools. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have her join us in this important role.”

A long-time educator, Wyatt has more than 25 years of experience teaching, developing, and administering Career Technical Education (CTE) programs...

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U.S. Education Dept., Lodi Unified Agree to End Unequal Discipline Impacting African-Americans

September 12, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced on August 24 that the Lodi Unified School District in Lodi, California, has entered into a resolution agreement to end the racially discriminatory impact of the district’s discipline policies and address concerns that it disciplines African-American students more harshly than white students.

“I thank Lodi Unified School District for its renewed commitment to civil rights, ensuring that its discipline policies and practices keep students in the classroom learning critical content rather than lessons in discrimination,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights.

OCR found that Lodi’s discipline policy, while neutral on its face and not adopted with discriminatory intent, had a disproportionate impact on African-American students and was not necessary to meet the district’s educational goals, thereby violating Title VI...

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CTA Launches Campaign “Exposing the Agenda of Billionaires to Divert Money from Neighborhood Public Schools”

September 12, 2016

After a lengthy legal battle fighting the Vergara v. California lawsuit – financed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch – as well as fighting several other education-related lawsuits backed by business figures, the California Teachers Association has embarked on a campaign to tarnish the reputation of the tycoons.

On August 31, the California Teachers Association posted a press release announcing:

California’s educators launched the “Kids Not Profits” campaign, calling for more accountability and transparency of California charter schools and exposing the coordinated agenda by a group of billionaires to divert money from California’s neighborhood public schools to privately-managed charter schools. These billionaires are spending record amounts of money to influence local legislative and school board elections across the state...

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SBE Approves New School Accountability System

September 12, 2016

On September 8, the State Board of Education approved key elements of a new accountability system that evaluates schools and districts in 10 areas critical to student performance, including graduation rates, readiness for college and careers, test scores, and progress of English learners.

The system reinforces California’s national leadership in developing an accountability system designed to help all schools continuously improve.

“The State Board has taken a big step toward improving our accountability system, as required under the new school funding formula approved by the Governor and the Legislature. This accountability design is unique and has never been used before in the United States,” said California State Board of Education President Michael Kirst. “Parents, educators, and the public will soon be able to look at a variety of areas to tell how their school is doing, where it may be strong, where it may be weak, and where it may need help.”...

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Federal Judge Temporarily Halts Obama’s Directive to Schools on Accommodating Transgender Students

August 29, 2016

A judge in Texas issued a ruling last week that appeared to block – at least temporarily – the recent Obama Administration guidance to schools regarding transgender students.

In an article published on August 22 in the Washington Post, reporters Emma Brown and Moriah Balingit wrote:

A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked an Obama administration directive meant to expand bathroom access for transgender students in the nation’s public schools, the latest development in an ongoing battle pitting the federal government and LGBT advocates against those who believe the policy violates student privacy and infringes on states’ rights.

Texas and a dozen other states sued in an attempt to block the federal directive shortly after it was released in May, and in a 38-page opinion issued Sunday (August 21), Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas temporarily prohibited the federal government from enforcing it as that lawsuit proceeds...

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California Supreme Court Declines to Review Vergara Case

August 29, 2016

The closely-watched Vergara v. California lawsuit – which challenged several union-backed laws regarding teacher hiring, firing and layoffs – got a cold shoulder from the California Supreme Court last week, and may be at a dead end.

In a decision announced on Monday (August 22), the California Supreme Court declined to review the April ruling by the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles, which reversed the decision of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu (who ruled in favor of the Vergara lawsuit in June 2014).

Bottom line: The California Supreme Court’s decision is widely interpreted as a big win for teachers unions, as well as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and Gov. Jerry Brown (who supported the appeal of Judge Treu’s 2014 ruling). Because the California Supreme Court isn’t getting involved, the appellate court decision (striking down Judge Treu’s ruling) stands. The Vergara lawsuit would appear to have nowhere to go at this point...

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San Bernardino County, U.S. Education Department Reach Agreement Regarding Students with Disabilities

August 22, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education announced on August 5 that its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has entered into a resolution agreement with the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools in California to address compliance issues involving students with disabilities in alternative and juvenile court schools.

An OCR investigation found that the county discriminated against students with disabilities in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

"All students, including students in alternative and juvenile court schools, deserve equal access to a high-quality public education," said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for OCR. "In providing strong and effective systems to identify, evaluate, and serve students with disabilities, these schools can stop the cycle of revolving placements, place students with disabilities on a path to educational success, and remove them from the school-to-prison pipeline."...

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Opponents Challenge New California Vaccine Law

August 22, 2016

Anti-vaccination groups are challenging a new California law requiring students in public schools to show proof of vaccination, which went into effect on July 1. A judge in a San Diego courtroom heard arguments on August 12.

According to reporter Paul Sisson, writing for the San Diego Union-Tribune:

A judge declined to immediately decide whether to suspend California’s nationally watched school vaccination law after a hearing (August 12) in downtown San Diego.

The courtroom session took place as the law, one of the toughest of its kind in the United States, is being rolled out for the first time with resumption of K-12 classes from Chula Vista to Los Angeles to San Francisco...

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State Public Health Officer Urges Parents to Vaccinate Children, Send Them Back to School Protected from Disease

August 22, 2016

With the arrival of back-to-school season, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) urges parents and guardians to ensure their children are current on vaccines. Immunizations protect against a number of serious and potentially life-threatening diseases.

“Getting children all of the vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control is one of the most important things parents can do to protect their children from serious diseases,” said Dr. Karen Smith, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer, speaking on August 12. “If you haven’t done so already, check with your child’s doctor to find out what vaccines your child needs. Vaccinations are the best way to ensure that students are protected against serious and preventable diseases, including measles.”

When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for contracting diseases and can also spread diseases to other people, including students in their classrooms and both children and adults within their communities...

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U.S. Department of Education Releases New Guidance on Homeless Children and Youth

August 8, 2016

On July 27, the U.S. Department of Education released guidance to states and school districts on the new provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for supporting homeless youth. The new provisions address the needs of homeless individuals, and ensure educational rights and protections for homeless children and youth. The guidance released today will assist state and local partners in understanding and implementing the new law in order to better protect and serve homeless students and help schools in providing these students with much needed stability, safety, and support. The guidance was informed by the input of a diverse group of stakeholders to best address the needs of homeless youth.

“Homeless children and youth face a number of barriers to getting the education they deserve and the services they need to succeed in school and beyond,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “As a kid, home was a scary and unpredictable place for me and I moved around a lot after my parents passed away...

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Sylvia Torres-Guillén to Lead Education Team at ACLU

August 8, 2016

The American Civil Liberties Union of California announced on July 22 the appointment of Sylvia Torres-Guillén as director of education advocacy/legal counsel, a position designed to identify critical civil rights issues in California’s public education system and to help create and implement comprehensive strategies for protecting students’ rights.

Torres-Guillén joins the ACLU from the office of Gov. Jerry Brown, Jr., where she was Special Counsel. Prior to taking on that role last year, she was appointed by Governor Brown as general counsel of the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board, where she zealously pursued complaints of unfair labor practices and sought justice for California’s 800,000 farmworkers. Prior to her appointment to the ALRB, Torres-Guillén served for nearly two decades as a federal public defender, where she tried nearly 40 federal cases and represented thousands of indigent clients...

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Wright is New Director of CDE’s Special Education Division

August 8, 2016

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on August 1 that he has appointed Kristin Wright as the new Special Education Division Director at the California Department of Education (CDE). She begins her assignment September 1.

Wright has spent more than a decade working in education with a focus on special education. Since December 2014, she has worked for the California State Board of Education as an Education Policy Consultant and liaison between the State Board and the CDE on a variety of subjects, including special education, child nutrition, foster and homeless youth, and computer science.

In 2013 and 2014, she worked as an Education Programs Consultant within CDE’s Special Education Division, serving as a liaison to the Advisory Commission on Special Education (ACSE) and consulting on program and policy matters related to California’s Common Core State Standards and accessibility for students with disabilities...

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Sen. Alexander Urges Nation’s Teachers to Say: “Mr. Secretary, Keep Your Hands off My Classroom”

July 25, 2016

On July 7, Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) was given the National Education Association’s “Friend of Education” award at its annual conference in Washington. Alexander told the teachers “the No Child Left Behind era is over; the ‘Mother, May I?’ waiver era is over,” before warning that the current U.S. Education Secretary is attempting to “put those mandates back in through a federal regulation.”

Alexander urged the approximately 10,000 elementary and secondary education teachers, counselors, librarians, and other educational support staff in attendance to send a clear message to U.S. Education Secretary John King Jr.: "Mr. Secretary, keep your hands off my classroom. No more national school board. No more ‘Mother May I?’ waivers. No more telling me how to rate my teachers or whether my school is succeeding or failing,” he said...

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Oakley Named Chancellor of the California Community Colleges

July 25, 2016

On July 18, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors today announced the unanimous selection of Long Beach Community College District Superintendent-President Eloy Ortiz Oakley, a nationally known innovator in public education, as the next chancellor to lead the largest and most diverse system of public higher education in the nation.

Board President Geoffrey L. Baum said “Eloy Ortiz Oakley is an innovative and tested leader who understands how to operate successfully in a large, complex system of public higher education. In Oakley we see a change agent – someone whose relentless focus on student success will help more students obtain certificates and degrees or transfer to four-year institutions on time. As a member of the UC Board of Regents and with his close ties with California State University, he is well positioned to foster greater collaboration that will benefit all students.”...

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CSBA Offers Recommendations to State for Improving California’s Local Control and Accountability Plans

July 6, 2016

A new CSBA report, released on June 15, urges the State Board of Education to revise the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) process and template in order to increase ease-of-use, maximize collaboration and engagement and support school districts in their work to plan for and promote student success.

The CSBA recommendations contained in "Strengthening the LCAP" are based on input systematically gathered from more than 260 local governing board members around the state. Overall, CSBA synthesized more than 400 individual suggestions into 16 specific recommendations organized around two focus areas: improving the LCAP template and process, and providing additional state-level support. The report also includes recommendations for local districts to help them strengthen engagement strategies that enhance community understanding and increase their focus on student needs...

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Federal Government Releases New Joint Guidance on Foster Youth Regarding New Provisions of ESSA

July 6, 2016

On June 23, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released guidance to states, school districts and child welfare agencies on the new provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for supporting children in foster care. The guidance aims to assist state and local partners in understanding and implementing the new law, and to inform state and local collaboration between educational and child welfare agencies across the nation for the well-being of children in foster care. The guidance is the first the Department of Education is releasing regarding provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act, in the coming weeks and months to help states, districts and schools as the implement the new law. In addition, the Education Department is also releasing a letter to states and districts stressing the importance and utility of stakeholder engagement as they begin to transition to ESSA.

Over the past several months, the Education Department hosted over 200 meetings with stakeholders from across the country, including parents and teachers, school leaders, state and district officials, tribes, and civil rights groups on a number of issues...

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PPIC Study Examines Family Engagement Practices in California Schools

By Rebecca London, PPIC Adjunct Fellow - Rep: July 6, 2016

 

(Editor’s note: The Public Policy Institute of California recently released a study of family engagement practices in California schools relating to implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula and Local Control and Accountability Plan policies. The summary of the report is reprinted below, click on the link at the end to read the complete report.)

The California education landscape has shifted dramatically toward local control. With the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), school districts now have freedom to design educational approaches tailored to their student populations. But they also have responsibility for articulating how these plans address student needs. LCAPs require school districts to put plans in place for eight priority areas, among which is family engagement in support of student learning. The literature on family engagement suggests that it is an important part of a comprehensive strategy for improving educational outcomes, particularly for low-income, non-English-speaking, and other at-risk groups.

This focus on family engagement is unprecedented in an education accountability system, both in California and nationally. Therefore, it warrants attention – to understand the various family engagement strategies employed and how they align with the literature on effective practices...

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Realizing the Economic Advantages of a Multilingual Workforce

June 13, 2016

In a new economic analysis released on June 1, UCLA Civil Rights Project Co-director Dr. Patrícia Gandára and coauthor Sylvia Acevedo visit the issue of bilingual education from an economic perspective.

"Realizing the Economic Advantages of a Multilingual Workforce" shows how the transformation of the global economy has enabled countries and businesses to provide American consumers with products and services in English without leaving their home country, thus bypassing the American workforce. The loss of these jobs to bilingual workers outside of the U.S. has made an impact on many industries – from call centers to accounting services, and even medical radiography. Ironically, as a nation of immigrants, the American workforce should be a source of unparalleled linguistic resources. Unlike the multinational bilingual workers who can compete for jobs in their home country and in the United States, Americans who speak only English are left to compete for mostly local jobs. Consequently, many American workers miss out on global business opportunities because they are competing against an increasingly skilled global workforce that is both multilingual and fluent in English...

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UCLA Study

More Suspensions Lead to More Dropouts, and Higher Costs for Crime, Welfare, and Health Care

June 13, 2016

A research study released on June 2 shows that the overuse of harsh school discipline practices is not only harming student achievement, but also is costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

The High Cost of Harsh Discipline and Its Disparate Impact,” released by the UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, is the first to quantify the economic cost of suspending students from school. It builds on a large body of research demonstrating that excessive school suspensions fail to improve school learning environments or enhance academic achievement.

“Being suspended increases risk for dropping out of high school. That is a well-established fact,” said Dr. Russell W. Rumberger, co-author of the study and professor of education in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “People without a high school diploma earn less, have more health problems, and are more likely to get into trouble with the law. That means less tax revenue and higher health care and criminal justice costs for all of us,” Rumberger added...

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New Federal Policy Statement on Supporting Dual Language Learners in Early Learning Settings

June 13, 2016

On June 2, the White House announced a new Federal policy statement from the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education on better supporting our country’s youngest dual language learners (DLLs) in early childhood programs. The Obama Administration will be joined by public and private sector organizations that will also announce new commitments to support DLLs. Additionally, the White House, in collaboration with Too Small to Fail and Invest in US, is holding a regional convening today at the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education in Miami, FL to highlight the importance of supporting our country’s DLLs in early childhood programs.

Data indicate that about one in five school-aged children speak a language other than English at home, a figure that has more than doubled in the past few decades. Estimates suggest that this number may be even higher for learners under the age of six; for example, nearly a third of children in Head Start programs are DLLs. Research with young DLLs clearly reflects that children’s bilingual skill development promotes overall language development and should be encouraged...

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National Coalition on School Diversity Urges Policies to Mitigate Segregation in Schools Confirmed by GAO Report

May 31, 2016

On May 17, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report confirming increased racial and socioeconomic segregation in our nation’s public schools. Two years ago, the GAO was asked to examine changes in student racial isolation or integration in schools over time, why and how selected school districts have implemented actions to increase student diversity, and the extent to which the U.S. Departments of Education (DOE) and Justice (DOJ) have addressed issues related to racial discrimination in schools. The GAO concluded that DOE data shows that the percentage of K-12 public schools with students who are both mostly poor and mostly Black or Hispanic is growing. In 2013-14, 16 percent of our nation’s K-12 public schools served student populations comprised of 75 percent or more Black and Hispanic students and 75 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced lunch (FRL) (up from nine percent in 2000-01).

The National Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD) is a network of civil rights organizations, academics and advocates committed to policies that promote racially diverse and integrated learning environments...

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Texas, Ten Other States Sue Federal Government Over Guidance Regarding Transgender Students

May 31, 2016

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on May 25 against the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Justice, and other federal agencies and officials over the recently released guidance issued by the federal government regarding transgender students at school.

A press release issued by Paxton said that the federal government is:

...now issuing directives requiring Texas public schools open up all intimate areas (restrooms, locker rooms, etc.) to both sexes. The State of Texas’s lawsuit also defends a local school district whose policies are at odds with the Obama Administration directive.

“Our local schools are now in the crosshairs of the Obama Administration, which maintains it will punish those schools who do not comply with its orders. These schools are facing the potential loss of school funding for simply following common sense policies that protect their students,” Texas Attorney General Paxton said...

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Vergara Plaintiffs Take Case to State Supreme Court

May 31, 2016

In a move that has been widely anticipated, Students Matter – the Silicon Valley-based advocacy group behind the Vergara v. California case – has filed a petition for review with the California Supreme Court. In a statement released on May 24, Students Matter said:

On May 24, the plaintiffs in the groundbreaking education equality lawsuit Vergara v. California filed a petition for review with the California Supreme Court, asking that Court to consider the constitutionality of California’s teacher tenure, dismissal and layoff laws.

In June 2014, the Los Angeles Superior Court issued a landmark decision finding that these pernicious laws handcuff school districts in their ability to make teacher employment decisions in students’ best interests and trap thousands of grossly ineffective teachers within California’s education system. This, in turn, causes severe and irreparable harm to students across California, particularly low income students and students of color...

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Scott, Conyers Unveil New GAO Report on Segregation in Public Schools

May 31, 2016

On May 17, Committee on Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03) and Committee on the Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) unveiled the findings of a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on actions needed to reduce racial and socioeconomic segregation, and address disparities in K-12 public schools. Ranking Members Scott and Conyers, along with retired Congressman and former Ranking Member George Miller, first requested this report in May 2014.

Sixty-two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down lawful school segregation in the Brown v. Board of Education decision, stating that “it is doubtful that any child may reasonable be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education” The decision also affirmed that education was a right that “must be made available to all on equal terms.” GAO gathered data for this report from the Department of Education and confirmed that increasing segregation along the lines of race and poverty continue to be a driver for inequities in education. Despite Brown’s affirmation that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” our system of public education remains largely separate and largely unequal...

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GOP Senators Say Obama Administration Acting Like National School Board with Transgender Policy

May 31, 2016

A group of 25 Republican senators told the Obama administration on May 19 that it cannot tell the nation’s 100,000 public schools how they must answer the question of which bathrooms, locker rooms and showers transgender students may use.

“Every transgender person is someone’s child and should be treated with respect. But that does not justify a federal executive agency acting as a national school board telling 100,000 public schools how to resolve this issue,” the senators wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and U.S. Secretary of Education John King, after their departments issued guidance dictating bathroom policies for the nation’s 100,000 public schools.

“Deciding which bathroom, locker room, or shower transgender students should use is the kind of issue the states, parents, school boards, communities, students, and teachers should work out in a practical way with a maximum amount of respect for the individual rights of the students who are transgender as well as the rights of those who are not...

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Federal Government Releases Joint Guidance on Civil Rights of Transgender Students

May 16, 2016

The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice sent a letter to schools across the country on Friday (May 13) containing joint guidance and a compilation of examples regarding the civil rights of transgender students and how they should be treated at school under federal law.

The “dear colleague” letter came as issues relating to transgender students have become increasingly prominent – something acknowledged in the statement by the U.S. Department of Education, which noted “Many parents, schools, and districts have raised questions about this area of civil rights law. Together, these documents will help navigate what may be a new terrain for some.”

In releasing the joint guidance, the U.S. Department of Education said in a release:

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status. The guidance makes clear that both federal agencies treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX...

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CDE Releases Report by Task Force, Outlining Plans for State’s New Accountability System

May 16, 2016

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced the release of his Accountability and Continuous Improvement Task Force report on May 11. The report calls for an accountability system organized around three imperatives: performance, equity, and improvement.

The report was developed by a 30-member task force composed of leaders in many fields – teaching, administration, business, higher education, and philanthropy – as well as students, parents, and school board members. The task force was co-chaired by Wes Smith, Executive Director of the Association of California School Administrators, and Eric Heins, President of the California Teachers Association.

“This report contains many exciting ideas about how to build an accountability and continuous improvement system that works for students, parents, teachers, districts, and the entire community,” said Torlakson. “It will add to the already rich dialogue taking place in California, which is leading the way in the development of a groundbreaking new accountability and continuous improvement system.”...

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Case Could Have Implications for Other States

Federal Appeals Court Rules Virginia School Restroom Policy Discriminatory Against Transgender Students

May 2, 2016

A federal court of appeals ruled on April 19 in favor of transgender male student Gavin Grimm (who lives in Gloucester County, Virginia) in his challenge to Gloucester High School’s discriminatory restroom policy that segregates transgender students from their peers by requiring them to use “alternative, private” facilities.

The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit marks the first time that a federal appeals court has determined that Title IX protects the rights of transgender students to use sex segregated facilities that are consistent with their gender identity. The Fourth Circuit sent the case back to the district court to reevaluate Gavin’s request for a preliminary injunction under the proper legal standard.

“I feel so relieved and vindicated by the court’s ruling,” said Grimm. “Today’s decision gives me hope that my fight will help other kids avoid discriminatory treatment at school.”...

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Concealed Weapons on Campus Requires Careful Consideration

By Trevin Sims - Rep: May 2, 2016

 

(Editor’s note: Trevin Sims, attorney with Association of California School Administrators Legal Collaborative partner Lozano Smith, wrote the following article, originally published in ACSA’s EdCal newspaper, addressing the legal implications of Senate Bill 707.)

 

Too often we are reminded of the firearm-related dangers students face in our schools. From 2000 to 2013, there were 27 active-shooter incidents at K-12 schools in the country, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Regularly, school officials must also evaluate the credibility of firearm-related and other violent threats. Keeping students safe in the face of these acts and threats is a national priority that requires effective local strategies.

Allowing teachers and others to carry firearms on school grounds is one strategy being debated. Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook in 2012, more than 30 states have considered or passed legislation dealing with the possession of firearms on school grounds...

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Case Will Likely Go to California Supreme Court

CSBA, ACSA Disappointed by Latest Ruling in Robles-Wong School Funding Lawsuit

May 2, 2016

Plaintiffs in the Robles-Wong v. State of California lawsuit expressed disappointment in the ruling on April 20 by the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. The case, brought forward in 2010 by the California School Boards Association, Association of California School Administrators and California State PTA, along with nine individual school districts and approximately 60 individual students and their families, alleges that the state’s school finance system violates article IX (the Education Article) of the California Constitution.

In a 2-1 ruling for the defendants, the Appeals Court held that the California Constitution does not guarantee the right to an adequate level of education as defined by funding or by qualitative measures, stipulating only that the state must provide for a “system of common schools.”

A copy of the ruling can be found at the link below:

http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A134423.PDF...

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Appellate Court Reverses 2014 Vergara Ruling – Further Appeal to California Supreme Court Likely

By Jeff Hudson - April 18, 2016

In an April 14 ruling that was alternately described as a “sweeping win for unions” by labor groups and “a temporary setback” by the advocacy group that backed the case, the California Court of Appeals reversed the much-discussed and strongly-worded 2014 ruling in the Vergara v. California Teachers case, in which Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu found teacher tenure and other job protections for teachers (like “last-in, first-out” layoff policies) were unconstitutional.

Teachers unions immediately hailed the appellate court’s reversal of the 2014 ruling as a big win. Students Matter, the Silicon Valley-based advocacy group that backed the Vergara case, immediately indicated that the appellate court decision would be appealed to the California Supreme Court...

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Alexander Unhappy, Alleges: Already “Disturbing Evidence” that Education Department Is Ignoring the New Law

April 18, 2016

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said on April 12 that there is already “disturbing evidence” that the Education Department is ignoring the Ever Student Succeeds act that Congress passed in December and told federal Education Secretary John King he would use “every power of Congress to make sure the law is implemented the way we wrote it.”

Alexander told King that in a negotiated rulemaking session, “your department proposed a rule that would do exactly what the law says it shall not do. Not only is what you’re doing against the law, the way you’re trying to do it is against another provision in the law.”

Alexander (who was a principal sponsor of the Every Student Succeeds Act, and is chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) was chairing the second of six planned oversight hearings on the law passed last year to fix No Child Left Behind...

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Districts Advised on Handling Social Media Crises

April 18, 2016

With social media, misinformation travels at the speed of light, according to officials at Nebraska’s Lincoln Public Schools. In an April 11 session entitled, “Purple Penguins and Icebergs: The Slippery Slope of Social Media, Trolls, and Going Viral” at the Annual Conference of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) in Boston, they explained how their district became the focus of unwanted national publicity regarding accommodation of a transgender student.

It all began when a middle school teacher asked for training regarding transgender students because a student had identified as transgender. A trainer subsequently advised teachers that one thing they can do is avoid referring to “boys and girls.” Instead, they were told, just call them students. Or maybe refer to them by the school mascot, which in this case happened to be the Purple Penguins...

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Judge Orders Chino School Board Trustees to Pay $202K in Legal Fees in Case Involving Prayer during Board Meetings

April 18, 2016

Several trustees on the Chino Unified school board were ordered to pay legal fees in a case involving objections to prayers offered during school board meetings. In a decision filed on March 31, U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal of the Central District of California ordered the trustees to pay just over $200,000 in legal fees to the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation, which filed a lawsuit in 2014 objecting to prayer during Chino school board meetings.

According to an April 3 report in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin,

In their November 2014 suit against the district, lawyers for the Freedom From Religion Foundation argued that (school board trustee James) Na “often injects religion into his comments” at the end of meetings and (school board trustee Andrew) Cruz regularly closed meetings with a Bible reading, in addition to the prayers used to open meetings...

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U.S. Supreme Court Splits 4-4 on Closely Watched Friedrichs v. CTA Case, Leaving Status Quo Intact

April 4, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court split 4-4 in the closely-watched Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case on March 29 – effectively giving a victory to unions... at least, for the time being.

The Friedrichs v. CTA case, which began in 2013, involved a challenge by Rebecca Friedrichs and eight other California teachers who chose not to join unions, questioning whether workers must continue to pay for union activities like negotiating for better wages and benefits. Under California law, public employees who choose not to join unions are required to pay a “agency fee,” similar to members’ dues, that pay for collective bargaining activities (sometimes including lobbying activities) The legal effort brought by Friedrichs and the other plaintiffs was funded over a period of years by several politically conservative groups. The California Teachers Association and other unions vociferously opposed the Friedrichs lawsuit.

When the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in January, most court observers felt that the Friedrichs case was likely headed for a 5-4 ruling in favor of the plaintiffs (and against the unions)...

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ACSA Leaders Testify on Development of California’s New Accountability System

April 4, 2016

Nearly a dozen members of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), including superintendents from five school districts and ACSA's Executive Director Wes Smith, testified on March 10th at the State Board of Education (SBE) meeting in Sacramento on the development of the state’s new accountability and continuous improvement system and the success they are seeing with LCFF implementation and the opportunity afforded by the LCAP annual update process to review data and student growth through multiple indicators.

Members stressed that the evaluation rubrics must be a tool encouraging reflection, adjustment and continuous improvement at the local level – not a vessel for compliance or reporting. In addition, the key indicators that will be incorporated in the state accountability system must be substantiated with an in-depth analysis, not just assumptions...

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Despite Partisan Deadlock on Other Issues, Senate Votes to Approve King as Obama’s Education Secretary

March 21, 2016

Senate Republicans and President Obama are in the midst of a standoff regarding Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, and the attention of the nation’s media is focused on the turbulent presidential contest. But on Monday (March 14), the Senate quietly approved Obama’s nomination of Acting Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. as federal education secretary.

The Associated Press reported:

The Senate voted 49 to 40 on Monday (March 14) to confirm John B. King Jr. as the nation’s education secretary. Mr. King has served as acting secretary at the Education Department since Arne Duncan stepped down in December. As secretary, Mr. King will oversee the department as it puts in place a bipartisan education law passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in December. The measure revamps the widely criticized No Child Left Behind Act and substantially limits the federal government’s role in public schools...

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Court of Appeals Hears Arguments in Landmark Vergara Case, with Ruling Expected in June

March 7, 2016

The long-awaited appeal of the nationally-prominent 2014 Vergara v. California case moved forward on February 25, with both sides making arguments before the California Court of Appeals. A ruling is expected in June.

The case began in 2012, when the advocacy group Students Matter (founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch) filed a lawsuit challenging teacher tenure, layoff procedures, and other aspects of California education code. In 2014, following a two-month trial, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu ruled in in favor of the plaintiffs – a decision that was promptly appealed by union groups, Gov. Jerry Brown, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, and others. The case is being closely watched nationally, and major news organizations from outside California ran stories about the February 25 arguments in Los Angeles. The case could have far-reaching implications for public employees unions around the country.

Statements issued by the two sides following the arguments before the California Court of Appeals indicate how much is at stake, and the starkly different way that the two sides view the case...

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New School Accountability System Gradually Emerging

March 7, 2016

According to a late February posting by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), “the State Board of Education (SBE) continues the simultaneous task of developing a new statewide accountability system that is aligned with the new provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)”. With the enactment of ESSA, there has been some concern that LEAs would have to respond to two sets of requirements – state and federal.

“However, the SBE has strongly stated its intent for one cohesive system that encompassed both state and federal requirements, and has been clear that local and state priorities will take precedence over the new federal requirements.

“ACSA and other education management associations have reiterated our support for the Board’s continued efforts to develop an accountability system with responsibility focused at the local level and a support structure that fosters continuous improvement.”...

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Torlakson, State PTA Respond to Court Ordering Broad Release of Student Data in Morgan Hill Case

February 22, 2016

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and California State PTA President Justine Fischer released statements on February 17 in response to a court decision that could result in the release of student information by hundreds of California school districts, as far back as 2008. Some 10 million current and former students could be affected.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson reiterated his strong commitment to student privacy today, calling it a top priority of his administration. "We have fought vigorously to protect students' privacy rights and will continue that fight," he said.

As part of that commitment and to comply with a court order, Torlakson reminded parents, guardians, and some former students over 18 that they can object to the release of personally identifiable information to plaintiffs in a court case, Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association vs. California Department of Education...

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Unexpected Death of Justice Scalia Likely to Sway Outcome of Friedrichs v. CTA Case

February 22, 2016

The unexpected death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on February 13 may sway the outcome of the landmark Friederichs v. California Teachers Association case, which in January appeared to be headed for a likely 5-4 ruling against the teachers union.

The New York Times reported on Feb. 15:

“The clearest impact (of Justice Scalia’s passing) is likely to be in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, on the power of public unions. When the case was argued in January, it seemed clear that the court was headed toward a closely divided decision in which the conservative majority would rule that workers who chose not to join public unions could not be made to pay for the union’s collective bargaining work.”

“The likely outcome now is a 4-to-4 split that would leave in place a decision from the federal appeals court in California upholding the mandatory payments. That would be a major victory for the liberal justices and public unions.”...

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President Obama Announces His Intent to Nominate John B. King as Secretary of Education

February 22, 2016

On February 11, President Barack Obama indicated that he will nominate John B. King for the post of Secretary of Education, rather than leaving King in his current post of Acting Secretary. President Obama said, “Since joining the Department of Education, John has worked to build on the progress our country has made in expanding opportunity for all of our children. There is nobody better to continue leading our ongoing efforts to work toward preschool for all, prepare our kids so that they are ready for college and career, and make college more affordable. John knows from his own incredible life experience how education can transform a child’s future. I look forward to the Senate working in a bipartisan way to confirm John quickly.”

King currently serves as Acting Secretary of Education, a position he assumed in January 2016, following the resignation of longtime Education Secretary Arne Duncan in December. King joined the Department in 2015 and was delegated the duties and responsibilities of the Deputy Secretary, overseeing all preschool-through-12th-grade education policies, programs and strategic initiatives, as well as Department operations...

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Torlakson Appoints Division Directors for Government Affairs and School Facilities and Transportation

February 22, 2016

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on February 17 that he has appointed new Directors for the California Department of Education's (CDE) Government Affairs Division and School Facilities and Transportation Services Division.

Debra Brown, a veteran in education legislation and policy, will lead the Government Affairs Division and serve as the CDE's liaison with local, state, and federal elected officials and government agencies.

Juan Mireles, an expert in school facilities funding, will direct the School Facilities and Transportation Services Division.

"These are two top experts in their fields, and I look forward to the great work they will do for the CDE team," Torlakson said. "These Divisions provide outstanding service to the public, elected officials, and California schools."...

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Two Major Court Cases, Two Ballot Initiatives Could Have Major Implications for Education During 2016

January 25, 2016

A pair of major court cases – one being heard in Los Angeles, the other in the nation’s capital – and a pair of proposed statewide ballot measures – one already qualified for the November 8 ballot, the other getting ready to launch a petition drive – could have broad implications for California educators in years to come. Here’s a recap:

--On January 11, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case, which challenges the ability of public employee unions to collect mandatory fees from members. Lawyers backing the lawsuit argue that this longstanding practice is “the largest regime of compelled political speech in the nation,” and therefore violates the First Amendment. Unions respond that collective bargaining is not a political activity, and that the plaintiffs are benefitting from the union’s work, but don’t want to pay to support the benefits they receive. During the arguments heard by the court on January 11, five justices made statements that many observers feel were indications that those justices are inclined to rule in favor of the plaintiffs...

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Governor Reappoints Bruce Holaday, Feliza Ortiz-Licon and Nicolasa Sandoval to SBE

January 25, 2016

Gov. Jerry Brown has reappointed Bruce Holaday, Feliza Ortiz-Licon and Nicolasa Sandoval to the State Board of Education – all three were initially appointed during Gov. Brown’s first term.

Bruce Holaday, 63, of Oakland, has served on the SBE since 2012. Holaday has been at Wildlife Associations since 2014, where he was director of educational advancement from 2010 to 2014. He was executive director at Newpoint Tampa High School from 2009 to 2010 and at the Oakland Military Institute from 2004 to 2009. Holaday held several positions at Culver Academies from 1976 to 2004, including director of development, director of Culver Summer Camps and an English teacher. He earned a Master of Education degree from Indiana University. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Holaday is a Democrat.

Feliza Ortiz-Licon, 40, of Long Beach, has served on the SBE since 2015. Ortiz-Licon has been senior director of K-12 education at the National Council of La Raza since 2013, where she was regional director of education for California and the Far West from 2007 to 2013...

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With Duncan’s Return to Chicago, John King Becomes Obama’s Acting Secretary of Education

January 11, 2016

With Arne Duncan – just about the last remaining member of President Obama’s initial cabinet appointments – having returned to his home in Chicago as the year 2015 wrapped up, Duncan’s second in command – John King – is the lead Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.

It is still unclear whether King will function for the remaining year of the Obama Administration as Acting Secretary, or whether the president will formally propose King as Secretary of Education and seek a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate. King, for his part, seems to be satisfied with the role of Acting Secretary, and is perhaps reluctant to spend a portion of his year on the job going through the confirmation process in the midst of a highly polarized presidential campaign.

However, Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn, indicated this week that he hopes King will be formally nominated by President Obama. Alexander said “it's important that the agency is run by someone the Senate has confirmed to increase confidence in the department's efforts to implement the law.”...

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New CDE Division Directors to Help Implement New Academic Standards and New Funding System

January 11, 2016

On January 6, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today named Brent Malicote Director of the California Department of Education’s (CDE) new Standards Support Office and Jeff Breshears as Director of the Local Agency Systems Support Office.

Both appointments are key CDE leadership positions and reflect the department’s increasing emphasis on supporting local districts and schools, Torlakson said.

The Standards Support Office will provide increased access to the tools and resources necessary to implement the new, more rigorous California learning standards, which cover English-Language Arts, Math, Science, and English Language Development.

Malicote is a high-energy leader with extensive field experience in teaching and administration in California’s Central Valley. He most recently served as Principal of Pinewood Elementary School, which CDE honored as a California Distinguished School in 2014. He was named El Dorado County’s Elementary Principal of the Year for 2015...

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CDE Announces 97 Percent Participation Rate for Smarter Balanced Assessments

January 11, 2016

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on December 22 that California students reached a 97 percent participation rate in the 2014–15 Smarter Balanced assessments and the California Alternate Assessment field test, saying it was a strong sign of support for new, more rigorous standards in English language arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics.

The participation rate allowed California to meet the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which requires a 95 percent participation rate statewide.

Torlakson said the high participation rate is significant because almost all tests were taken on computers – not paper and pencil – and reflected the state's new, more rigorous California standards in ELA and mathematics, frequently referred to as Common Core...

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Settlement Reached with Illinois High School District to Remedy Transgender Discrimination

December 10, 2015

The U.S. Department of Education announced on December 3 that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Township High School District 211 based in Palatine, Illinois, after finding the district in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for discriminating against a transgender high school student by denying her access to the girls’ locker rooms.

The case marked the first time that the Department's Office for Civil Rights had found a school district in violation of civil rights laws over transgender issues.

"I commend the Board of Education of Township High School District 211 for taking steps necessary to protect civil rights as well as student privacy," said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. "We are grateful that the board and superintendent chose to come into full compliance with our nation’s civil rights laws. And, we look forward to partnering with the district to assure that the terms of this agreement are fully and effectively implemented."...

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Poll Finds American Public “Displaying Its Independent Streak” on Education Issues

November 30, 2015

The American public is displaying its independent streak. Critics of testing will take no comfort from the findings of the 2015 Education Next poll – but neither will supporters of the Common Core State Standards, school choice, merit pay, or tenure reform. The unions will not like the public’s view on their demands that nonmembers contribute financially to their activities. Teachers will be unhappy to hear that public enthusiasm for increasing teacher pay falls through the floor when people are told current salary levels and asked if they are willing to pay additional taxes for that purpose. The Obama administration will be equally unhappy to hear what both teachers and the public think about its proposals to require similar student suspension and expulsion rates across racial and ethnic groups.

These are among the many findings to emerge from the ninth annual Education Next survey, administered in May and June 2015 to a nationally representative sample of some 4,000 respondents, including oversamples of roughly 700 teachers, 700 African Americans, and 700 Hispanics (see methodology sidebar). The large number of survey respondents enabled us to ask alternative questions on the same topic in order to determine the sensitivity of opinion to new information and particular wording...

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Torlakson Appoints Tom Adams as Deputy Superintendent to Succeed Lupita Cortez Alcalá

November 30, 2015

On November 19, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced he is appointing Tom Adams, currently Division Director at the California Department of Education (CDE), as Deputy Superintendent of the Instruction and Learning Support Branch.

Effective December 1, Adams will succeed Lupita Cortez Alcalá, who will become Executive Director of the California Student Aid Commission.

Torlakson said the department is fortunate that Adams, who has 18 years of experience in a variety of roles at CDE, will serve as the new Deputy Superintendent.

"Tom is a proven leader with deep knowledge of policy, dedication to our students, and a record of accomplishment," said Torlakson. "Tom has played a pivotal role in improving education for our students by overseeing the adoption and implementation of the California Standards in English language arts/literacy and mathematics, also referred to as the Common Core. He has also provided local leadership in education by serving as an elected trustee on the Davis Joint Unified School District Board of Education."...

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Teachers Unions File Brief in High-Stakes Case Going Before U.S. Supreme Court

November 12, 2015

The National Education Association and the California Teachers Association, together with a number of unions, today filed the union respondents’ brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case backed by corporate special interests who are pushing their own agenda by asking the Court to overrule the sound law of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.

In their brief, the unions argue that the rule established by Abood is constitutional and a common-sense principle that supports the rights of workers to come together, speak up and get ahead. Where employees have chosen to elect a union to represent them, employers have a strong interest in ensuring that all employees contribute their fair share of the costs of that representation.

“Everyone who works should be able to make ends meet, have a say about their futures, and have the right to negotiate together for better wages and benefits that can sustain their family,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García...

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Many Districts Examining Policy on Transgender Students in Wake of Recent Federal Decision

November 12, 2015

In a widely-reported decision, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to an Illinois school district on November 2 that clarified the federal government’s stance on several issues relating to transgender students at school.

In a story published in the New York Times on November 2, reporters Mitch Smith and Monica Davey wrote:

Federal education authorities, staking out their firmest position yet on an increasingly contentious issue, found Monday that an Illinois school district violated anti-discrimination laws when it did not allow a transgender student who identifies as a girl and participates on a girls’ sports team to hange and shower in the girls’ locker room without restrictions.

Education officials said the decision was the first of its kind on the rights of transgender students, which are emerging as a new cultural battleground in public schools across the country...

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State Faces Shortfall of 1.1 Million College Graduates in 2030, Expanding Access to UC and CSU Suggested

October 29, 2015

California will fall about 1.1 million college graduates short of economic demand by 2030, if current trends persist. The number of highly educated workers from elsewhere is unlikely to be large enough to bridge this workforce skills gap. But the state and its higher education institutions can take several practical steps to close it.

These are the key findings of a report released on October 12 by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

The report projects that 38 percent of all jobs in California will require at least a bachelor’s degree in 2030. But only about 33 percent of workers will have these degrees – a small increase since 2013, when 32 percent of California workers had them. While the state is expected to experience declines in the share of high school dropouts and increases in the share of college graduates, these improvements will not make up for the large numbers of highly educated baby boomers retiring from the labor force...

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Urging Students to Apply to College, New York City Will Make SAT Free for High School Juniors

October 29, 2015

The New York Times reports that New York City public school system will offer the SAT college entrance exam free to students, who will be able to take the SAT during the regular school day. In an article on October 26, reporter Elizabeth A. Harris wrote:

“As part of a push to encourage more students to apply to college, New York City will begin offering the SAT free to all public school juniors, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced on Monday. The test will be given during the school day – not on a Saturday, as is now the common practice.”

“Education officials said that by removing barriers to entry – like the required fee and the very act of signing up – the hope is that students who might not otherwise have taken the test will do so.”...

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U.S. Dept. of Education Approves Waivers for Six CORE Districts in California

October 15, 2015

Building on the significant progress seen in America's schools over the last six years, the U.S. Department of Education announced on Sept. 25 that the six districts that comprise the California Office to Reform Education (CORE) have been approved to continue implementing a set of waivers of certain provisions of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for one year and are no longer designated as high risk status.

The CORE districts – Fresno Unified, Long Beach Unified, Los Angeles Unified, Oakland Unified, San Francisco Unified, and Santa Ana Unified – were first approved to implement these waivers in August 2013, in exchange for locally developed plans to prepare all students for college and career, focusing aid on the neediest students, and supporting effective teaching and leadership. In fall 2014, the CORE districts were designated high-risk because they had not met the conditions on their waivers and because of proposed changes to their waiver requests. Since then, the CORE districts have resolved issues related to teacher and principal evaluation and support systems, and addressed problems with their accountability system...

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Education Secretary Arne Duncan Resigns, Obama Nominates Deputy Secretary John King as Replacement

October 15, 2015

Arne Duncan, one of the longest-serving members of President Obama’s cabinet, announced on October 2 that he will step down in December as Secretary of Education. Obama indicated that he will nominate Deputy Secretary John B. King, Jr. – who previously served as commissioner of education in New York State – to succeed Duncan at the U.S. Department of Education.

Duncan indicated that he plans to move back to Chicago, where he grew up, and served as the head of Chicago Public Schools prior to joining the Obama Administration in 2009. The New York Times noted in an article that Duncan’s family moved from Washington, DC back to Chicago over the summer, prompting speculation that Duncan would step down and join his family soon. Many observers expect that Duncan will take on some new role as an advocate for an education reform group next year, once his transition from government service to private life is complete...

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PPIC Poll

Likely Voters Closely Divided on Temporary Extension of Proposition 30 — Most Support Cigarette Tax

October 1, 2015

Half of California’s likely voters favor extending Proposition 30’s temporary tax increases, which support K-14 education. But support declines when those in favor of an extension are asked about making the increases permanent. Support is considerably higher for raising taxes on the purchase of cigarettes, with a strong majority in favor.

These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released on September 30 by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), with funding from The James Irvine Foundation.

The survey began amid discussions about turning a number of tax proposals into citizens’ initiatives for the 2016 ballot. Two ballot measures (with petitions currently in circulation) have been proposed to extend aspects of Proposition 30, which temporarily raised taxes on sales and on high earners to fund schools and public safety realignment. One of the proposals would make tax increases permanent...

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Sen. Lamar Alexander:

“Where Does Dept. of Education Get Authority to Tell 100,000 Public Schools What to Do About Bullying?”

October 1, 2015

On Sept. 23, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) – the chairman of the Senate education committee – questioned the authority of the Education Department official in charge of enforcing civil rights to issue guidance on bullying that she views as binding for the nation’s 100,000 public schools.

“We’ve had a big debate on bullying in the United States Senate. We just passed in the Senate a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which got 81 votes…And the one overriding subject that we agreed on both sides of the aisle was that we don’t want a national school board, but we didn’t have any agreement on whether we should be telling 100,000 public schools what their discipline or bullying policy should be,” said Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today, joining a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee on regulatory affairs...

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Linda Darling-Hammond’s New Think Tank Taps Stanford Alumni and Faculty Expertise

By Clifton Parker and Jonathan Rabinovitz - Rep: September 17, 2015

Stanford education professor emerita Linda Darling-Hammond has a new project – and it comes in the form of a think tank.

Darling-Hammond, the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Emerita, aims to cultivate education policies nationwide with the recent launch of the Learning Policy Institute. With offices in Palo Alto and Washington, D.C., the institute will connect research and policy in innovative and collaborative ways, with an emphasis on turning knowledge into action.

“It is time to get serious about how to support and enable our education system to respond to the massive changes in learning that some other nations’ systems have been addressing more systemically, with much better results, over the last two decades,” Darling-Hammond wrote in the Huffington Post on Sept. 3. She will serve as president and CEO of the organization...

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Torlakson Announces Lawsuit Settlement That Will Add to CDE’s Efforts to Help English Learners

September 17, 2015

As part of the settlement of a lawsuit involving English learners, D.J., et al v. State of California, et al, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on September 10 that he is seeking funding from the Legislature and the Department of Finance for three positions within the California Department of Education (CDE) to ensure English learners are receiving quality instruction.

"Serving English learners, who make up nearly one-quarter of our public school students, is one of my top priorities," Torlakson said. "We are eager to carry out the terms of this settlement, including adding staff and providing additional guidance to districts, so together we can make sure English learners get the support they deserve."

The settlement, Torlakson said, describes several steps the CDE will take to ensure all English learners receive instruction...

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Poll Shows Voters Overestimate Hours Students Spend on State Testing, But Support Annual Testing for All Students

September 17, 2015

As Californians get their first look at new test results since 2013, a new poll released Tuesday shows California voters have mixed views on the Common Core State Standards, and their views shift with the way questions about the standards are posed.

Levels of support for the Common Core are generally higher – and levels of opposition are lower – in California than in the rest of the nation. The PACE/USC Rossier School of Education Poll shows a strong majority still know little or nothing about the new standards, however, and many voters are misinformed about the details. More than one in four California voters (26%) had not heard of the Common Core State Standards, the poll showed.

The PACE/USC Rossier Poll randomly asked voters several differently worded questions about Common Core support, reflecting the different questions included in other national and California polls. The results of the poll showed the wording of the question can dramatically affect responses...

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Poll: Sixty-Three Percent of California Voters Back Prop. 30 Extension in Support of Public Schools

By Merrill Balassone - Rep: September 3, 2015

As optimism about the state of California’s public schools continues to rise, a strong majority of California voters would back the reauthorization of Proposition 30 to channel additional money to public campuses, according to a new poll.

The PACE/USC Rossier School of Education Poll, released on August 27, shows 63 percent of voters are in favor of extending at least one provision of Prop. 30 – the tax increase on high incomes or the sales tax hike or both – that is set to expire at the end of 2016. Only 28 percent of voters said both fiscal provisions should be allowed to expire, the poll showed.

Approved by the voters in 2012, Prop. 30 temporarily increased the state sales tax by a quarter cent and the personal income tax rate on people earning more than $250,000 a year to fund public education and other government programs...

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Majority Believes Schools Put “Too Much Emphasis on Standardized Testing,” Poll Finds

September 3, 2015

The public believes there is too much emphasis on standardized testing in their local schools but are split almost evenly on whether parents should have the right to excuse their children from such testing, a new survey shows.

Sixty-four percent say there is "too much emphasis on testing" and 41% say parents should be able to opt their children out of standardized testing. A majority (54%) oppose having local teachers use the Common Core Standards to guide what they teach.

However, blacks and Hispanics are somewhat more likely than whites to say that results of standardized tests are very important to improve schools and to compare school quality. Blacks also are more likely than whites to say that parents should not be allowed to excuse their child from taking standardized tests...

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Civil Rights Groups Sue CDE for Refusal to Identify Number of Students Struggling to Learn English

September 3, 2015

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR) and Public Counsel filed suit on August 10 in Sacramento County Superior Court challenging the California Department of Education’s (CDE) refusal to disclose the number of long-term English learners in California public schools.

State law requires CDE to count how many long-term English learners are enrolled in each California public school and to report that number to local school districts. Twice this year, the San Francisco-based LCCR and Public Counsel requested the most recent reports for several Bay Area and Southern California school districts, including the nation’s second-largest school district, Los Angeles Unified School District. On the first occasion, CDE refused to provide the information. CDE simply ignored the second request. Both actions violate state law. California’s Public Records Act requires CDE to provide this information to the public upon request...

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Lease-Leaseback Bill Dies in Committee, California Supreme Court Denies Petition to Review Fresno Case

September 3, 2015

There were two developments during late August regarding the use of “lease-leaseback” contracts.

At the State Capitol, a bill supported by contractors who are interested in continuing lease-leaseback contracts died in committee. On August 25, the Fresno Bee reported that:

A late-blooming bill aimed at protecting school construction contractors from financial losses if their “lease-leaseback” deals are voided by the courts appears to have died just a week after being introduced.

Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, spurned pleas by lobbyists for the contractors to hear the measure, Assembly Bill 975...

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Federal Decision Limits California’s Local Control Over Programs to Help Low-Income Students

August 20, 2015

A U.S. Department of Education decision denying California a waiver that has been given to 43 states and eight large districts in California reduces the access of academically struggling students to high-quality programs and prevents districts from designing programs that best suit their students’ needs, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said on August 12.

"California has led the way in giving districts the opportunity to make their own decisions about how best to use state and local resources to meet their local needs," he said. "Unfortunately, this decision goes in the other direction and retains policies that significantly limit local control and decision-making, and reduce student access to high-quality extended-day instruction."

California requested a four-year waiver of the provisions of Section 1116 (e) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) regarding supplemental educational services. Some districts are required to provide these services using 20 percent of Title I federal funds, which are allocated based on the number of students eligible for free or reduced-priced lunches...

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Poll Finds High Levels of Support for Testing, Little Sympathy for the Opt-Out Movement

August 20, 2015

On August 17, Education Next and the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard Kennedy School released the ninth annual Education Next public opinion poll on education policies. The 2015 poll finds continuing high levels of support for educational testing and little sympathy for the opt-out movement. Backers outnumber opponents of Common Core State Standards (CCSS), school choice, merit pay and teacher tenure reform, but support for these policies declined modestly from 2014. By a wide margin, survey respondents oppose requirements to balance discipline rates across racial and ethnic groups, and a plurality of the public opposes requirements that teachers pay fees to cover collective bargaining costs even if they do not join the teachers union.

The poll gathers answers from a nationally representative, stratified sample of adults aged 18 and older, as well as nationally representative cross-sections of teachers, African-Americans and Hispanics, for a total sample size of 4,083. The poll was conducted in May and June 2015...

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Governor Appoints Rancho Palos Verdes Teen to SBE

August 20, 2015

Michael McFarland, of Rancho Palos Verdes, has been appointed as the student representative to the California State Board of Education (SBE) effective August 1, 2015. McFarland, 17, is a student at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School. He currently serves as the student board member of the California State Parent Teacher Association, as a member of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District Board of Education, and as the California Association of Student Council’s Governmental Affairs Director. He has served the past year as a California State Youth Ambassador in affiliation with the Young Center for Academic and Cultural Enrichment.

McFarland has also served the past two years as both the Commissioner of Community Service and Fundraising and the Historian of the Associated Student Body for Palos Verdes Peninsula High School...

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California State PTA Names Sherry Skelly Griffith as New Executive Director

August 6, 2015

Sherry Skelly Griffith has been hired to serve as executive director for California’s largest child-advocacy organization, the California State PTA.

Skelly Griffith brings a wealth of experience and talent to PTA and its more than 800,000 California members working to positively impact the lives of the state’s 9 million children and their families.

“We are thrilled to have Sherry join our California State PTA team,” said California State PTA President Justine Fischer. “Her passion for public education, her deep understanding of public-policy issues and processes, and her proven track record advocating successfully to improve the lives of children and youths will be a great asset to our association.”...

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Judge Sides with Parent Trigger Petition Effort to Turn Anaheim Elementary Campus into a Charter School

July 23, 2015

On July 16, an Orange County Superior Court Judge ruled in favor of a parent group – and against the Anaheim City School District – in a case involving a parent trigger petition aimed at converting Anaheim’s Palm Lane Elementary into a charter school.

In an article in the Orange County Register on July 17, staff writer Rebecca Kheel wrote:

A parent group’s petition to take over their elementary school and turn it into a charter school was done properly and can move forward, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled.

“When I received the news, I’m crying for a little time,” said Cecilia Ochoa, a parent of two Palm Lane Elementary School students and one of the lead petitioners in what is believed to the first use of the so-called Parent Trigger Law in Orange County. “I’m so very happy, and all my community is happy too.”...

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MALDEF Seeks By-District Elections in Fullerton District after Study of Demographic, Electoral Data

July 23, 2015

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) sent a letter on July 17 to the Fullerton Joint Union High School District (in Orange County), demanding that it change its at-large elections system to a district-based system. The Fullerton district currently elects its Board of Trustees using an at-large method that MALDEF contends has denied Latino residents the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. MALDEF demands the system be changed to a district-based system.

“At-large elections in the context of racially polarized voting are not only a threat to voting rights, but also to the success of California’s school funding system – the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) – which depends upon vigorous input and oversight by the communities most affected by the ongoing education gap in the state,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. “As a result, remedying California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA) violations in school board elections is of heightened importance.”...

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Torlakson Names New Division Directors at CDE

July 23, 2015

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on July 20 that he has selected new directors to lead the California Department of Education’s (CDE) Analysis, Measurement, and Accountability Reporting Division (AMARD) and its Charter Schools Division.

“I’m grateful to be able to appoint two proven leaders to head divisions that each play a critical role in helping the California Department of Education carry out its goal of providing a world-class education to all of California’s 6.2 million students,” said Torlakson.

Cindy Kazanis, who has worked for CDE for 12 years, will direct the AMARD, which develops and analyzes statewide education data for state and federal accountability reports, DataQuest, School Accountability Report Cards, and the Local Control Funding Formula...

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Vergara v. California Appeal Moving Forward, Ruling Still Months Away

July 9, 2015

The appeal of the much-discussed Vergara v. California case moved forward during the past few weeks, with attorneys for the nine student plaintiffs filing their appeal brief on June 24.

The Vergara case was brought by the advocacy group Students Matter in 2012, and was based largely on civil rights law, alleging that several California statutes violated the California Constitution by retaining some grossly ineffective teachers and thus denying equal protection to students assigned to these teachers. Further, according to the complaint, these statutes had disparate impact on poor and minority students. In June 2014 after a two-month trial, Judge Rolf M. Treu of the California Superior Court issued a preliminary ruling finding that all of the statutes challenged by the plaintiff students were unconstitutional. Judge Treu’s ruling was finalized in August 2014, and subsequently appealed by state government. The California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, and other labor groups are fighting the initial Vergara ruling as well...

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Governor Signs Vaccine Mandate Bill, Opponents Say They Will Fight for Repeal

July 9, 2015

With little fanfare, Governor Jerry Brown signed the much-debated vaccine mandate bill (SB 277, authored by Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica) on June 30.

Opponents of the bill quickly announced a petition drive to put a proposition before California voters in November 2016, asking them to repeal the legislation. Opponents also announced recall efforts targeting several legislators who supported SB 277. And a court effort challenging the new law is considered likely as well.

Gov. Brown issued a signing statement that said:

“SB 277 has occasioned widespread interest and controversy – with both proponents and opponents expressing their positions with eloquence and sincerity. After carefully reviewing the materials and argument that have been presented, I have decided to sign this bill.”...

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Supreme Court Will Review Friedrichs v. CTA Case, Challenging Compulsory Union Dues

July 9, 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court indicated on June 30 that it will review the Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association case, which challenges the constitutionality of compulsory union dues. This means that the case will be briefed and argued before the Supreme Court this fall, with a decision due by June 30, 2016. The outcome could have far reaching implication for public sector employees in California and throughout the nation.

The main plaintiff is Rebecca Friedrichs, a teacher in Anaheim, who opposes paying teacher association dues that are mandatory in California. State law requires teachers employed in most public schools to contribute financially to a local teachers union – even if they aren’t a member – in order to support the union’s work toward providing protection for all employees...

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CTA Gets New Leadership Team

July 9, 2015

A new leadership team takes office this month at the California Teachers Association, as Pittsburg elementary teacher Eric C. Heins begins a two-year term as 55th president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association. In addition, CSU Northridge professor Theresa Montaño becomes CTA vice-president, and Los Angeles elementary teacher David Goldberg takes the reigns as CTA Secretary-Treasurer. Montaño and Goldberg have both served recent terms on the CTA Board, and Heins has just completed two terms as CTA vice-president.

A 24-year teaching veteran, Heins has taught kindergarten through fifth grade, including music in the Pittsburg Unified School District, and is a member of the Pittsburg Education Association. As Vice President, Heins chaired the CTA Teacher Evaluation Workgroup, which developed evaluation guidelines focusing on strengthening the knowledge, skills and practices of teachers to improve student learning. Heins has a master’s degree in language and literacy education from the University of California at Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree from Chapman College...

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Torlakson Announces Pair of Chief Deputies

July 9, 2015

On June 25, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that Glen Price, a public education expert, and Michelle Zumot, a veteran administrator, will serve as his co-chief deputies of the California Department of Education (CDE).

Zumot has been the Assistant Chief Deputy, while Price has most recently served as Interim Chief of Staff of CDE.

Torlakson said the two work well together and have different strengths that complement each other. Their duties split naturally, he said. Glen Price will take the lead on policy and program issues, while Michelle Zumot will head the operational side.

Michelle Zumot has worked for CDE for 12 years in a variety of administrative posts. She has been instrumental in supporting a variety of CDE organizational change efforts and also represents the agency on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the California State Teachers' Retirement System Board of Directors...

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State Auditor Looking Into How School Districts Use Mental Health Funding

June 25, 2015

The California State Auditor is looking into how school districts are using mental health funding and whether they are meeting their obligation to provide mental health services to students.

The audit was requested by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) and was approved by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee in April. The estimated release date for the California State Auditor’s report is January 2016.

“Californians need to know whether changes made to the delivery of mental health services at schools are effective,’’ said Sen. Beall, who serves as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Mental Health as well as the Mental Health Caucus. “Overall, about 600,000 children in California have a need for mental health services. Access to services is crucial to a student’s academic performance.’’...

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“Right Start Commission” Launched to Develop Early Childhood Roadmap

June 11, 2015

On May 28, the advocacy group Common Sense Kids Action announced the creation of the Right Start Commission – a team of high-profile California policymakers, community leaders, and business leaders tasked with developing a plan to modernize California’s early childhood services. The plan will serve as a blueprint for providing universal, high-quality access to early learning and support systems for children from birth to age five. The Commission will examine both the public sector’s role in providing early childhood services and the private sector’s responsibility to ensure a right start for the children of company employees. Based on the Commission’s recommendations, Common Sense Kids Action intends to create a public policy roadmap for state leaders to follow in order to make California a leader in early childhood development and opportunity.

“Every child deserves a fair start in life and the only way we can ensure that happens is to provide all kids with the care, support and quality learning experiences they need to be successful from day one,” said Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer...

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Study of New School Accountability Plans Shows Districts Not Focused on Needs of English Learners

May 28, 2015

A new report that reviewed the Local Control Accountability Plans of 29 key school districts throughout California, and the impact those LCAPs are having on English Learner students, was released on May 21 by Californians Together.

The report, titled "Falling Short on the Promise to English Learners, A New Report on Year One District Local Control Accountability Plans," found that LCAPs tend to be characterized by woefully inadequate specificity and weak attention to how schools are meeting the various needs of English Learners. In addition, the study, which was conducted in collaboration with the Center for Equity for English Learners at Loyola Marymount University, found that districts tended to not identify effective, research-based practices for working with underserved populations...

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Lawsuit Maintains Students Suffering Trauma at School Should Get Special Services

May 28, 2015

The Los Angeles Times reports that a class action lawsuits against the Compton Unified School District maintains that students suffering from “complex trauma” due to violence at school qualify as disabled, and therefore should be eligible for special services at school.

In an article on May 18, LA Times reporter Teresa Watanabe wrote:

In a groundbreaking effort to address a key underlying cause of poor academic performance, students who have suffered from violence and other trauma are suing the Compton Unified School District for allegedly failing to address their problems and provide an appropriate education, according to a class-action lawsuit filed (in mid-May)...

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New Data Shows Decline in School-based Bullying

May 28, 2015

New data, released in mid-May, indicate the first significant decrease in school-based bullying since the federal government began collecting that data in 2005, suggesting that efforts at the federal, state and local levels to prevent bullying may be paying off. According to new data from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the reported prevalence of bullying among students ages 12 to 18 dropped to 22 percent after remaining stubbornly around 28 percent for the past decade.

"As schools become safer, students are better able to thrive academically and socially," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. "The Department, along with our federal partners and others, has been deeply involved in the fight against bullying in our nation's schools"...

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Governor Appoints Next Student Representative to State Board of Education

May 28, 2015

Michael McFarland, 17, of Rancho Palos Verdes (Los Angeles County), has been appointed to the California State Board of Education effective August 1, 2015. McFarland is a student at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School. He was office secretary and policy editor at MMX Healthcare from 2013 to 2014. McFarland is a student board member of the California State Parent Teacher Association and a member of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District Board of Education. He is commissioner of community service and fundraising at the Associated Student Body for Palos Verdes Peninsula High School and captain of the school’s Technology Student Association Tests of Engineering Aptitude Mathematics and Science Team, founder and president of its Reach Out and Read Club and president of its Science Bowl Team...

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SBE Postpones Action on Waiver-Related Item, Approves Contract for Testing Services with ETS

By Jeff Hudson - May 7, 2015

During this week’s meeting of the State Board of Education in Sacramento, the SBE decided to postpone action on a proposed amendment to California’s Consolidated State Application Accountability Workbook, which could impact the waiver from certain provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law that California is seeking from the U.S. Department of Education.

Currently, California is in the midst of a massive transition from the state’s now-retired paper-based STAR testing system to the new California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), an on-line testing system that is rooted in the Common Core academic standards, using tests developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). However, the first batch of statewide results from the new CAASPP tests is not yet available...

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Measure Would Make It Illegal for Vendors to Sell Any Type of Vaping Devices to Minors

May 7, 2015

On May 4, The California Assembly passed Assembly Bill 216, authored by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) to take a stand against new smoking technologies meant to entice children. Measure passed with strong bi-partisan support 77-0.

AB 216 would ban stores and smoke shops from selling any vaping or electronic cigarette device to anyone under the age of 18 years of age.

“Unlike candy cigarettes, that became socially unacceptable, these products are truly dangerous for children and act as a gateway to future tobacco use.” Garcia said. “These devices are hooking a new generation on nicotine and are a gateway to smoking traditional cigarettes and reversing previous successes in reducing nicotine use among minors”...

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Torlakson Appoints Keric Ashley as Deputy Superintendent

May 7, 2015

On May 5, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson named Keric Ashley as Deputy Superintendent for the District, School, and Innovation Branch of the California Department of Education (CDE).

“Keric Ashley has been an outstanding leader in the CDE’s massive undertaking to launch and operate a new era in online testing that provides more accurate and timely information about student progress,” Torlakson said. “These tests will help improve teaching and learning throughout the state.”

Torlakson said Keric’s extensive background and experience in education make him ideal for the job. “I am so glad to have someone with Keric’s track record of success on my team,” he said...

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Most Public School Parents Unfamiliar With New Online Tests, According to PPIC Survey

April 23, 2015

As most California schools administer new online standardized tests this month, most public school parents say they have heard nothing about them, according to a statewide survey by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released on April 22.

A majority (55%) say they have heard nothing at all about the Smarter Balanced Assessment System, which replaces paper-based tests. The new tests are based on the Common Core math and English standards. About a third of public school parents (36%) have heard a little about the tests, and just 8 percent say they have heard a lot. Latino public school parents (54%) are much more likely than white parents (32%) to say they have heard about the tests.

While concerns have been raised about whether all schools have enough computers, bandwidth, and technology staff to effectively administer the online tests, most public school parents say they are very confident (29%) or somewhat confident (42%) that their local schools do...

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Many California Voters Dislike Tenure, Seniority-Based Layoffs of Public School Teachers, According to Poll

April 23, 2015

Nearly a year after a landmark court case invalidated California’s tenure system for public school K-12 teachers, more than one-third of voters say they believe these teachers should not be granted tenure at all, according to the results of the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll (released on April 11). But data also show voters most trust teachers to improve the state’s public schools, consider them underpaid and back measures to support and improve their performance in the classroom.

When asked if and after how long public school teachers should be given tenure, 38 percent said they shouldn’t be given tenure – which comes with strong job security and makes it more difficult to fire poor-performing teachers. Another 35 percent said tenure should not be granted until a teacher has been on the job for at least 4 to 10 years, the poll showed...

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New Poll Shows Strong Support in California for Common Core and Its Approach

April 23, 2015

In a poll released on April 20 by Children Now, California voters sent a clear message that they want schools to prepare students for a competitive job market by teaching them critical thinking and problem-solving skills (93 percent indicated it is “important” and 67 percent said it is “extremely important”), and 85 percent agree with raising education standards so U.S. students can be more competitive with other countries. Moreover, nine out of ten voters also support measuring students on reading and writing skills across all subjects, including math and science, with 57 percent expressing that it is very important to do so.

In addition to demonstrating strong support for these – and other – components of the Common Core State Standards, more than two thirds (67 percent) favor the use of the updated standards in California schools even when connected to the Common Core brand. That support was echoed by those who currently have children in K-12 public schools (67 percent) as well as those employed in the education field (82 percent)...

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Poll Finds Californians Split on Whether Testing Has Been a Boon or Bust for Education

April 23, 2015

As Congress debates the role of standardized testing in a reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, a new poll (released on April 12) shows Californians are split over whether they believe testing has harmed or improved education in California.

Forty-seven percent of voters agreed with the statement that standardized testing hurts education in California by pressuring teachers to teach to the test and fails to account for differences in cultural and economic backgrounds and learning styles, according to results from the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll. In contrast, 46 percent said that standardized testing improves education by providing teachers with information, allowing parents to see their children’s progress, and holding schools accountable for student progress, the poll showed...

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Governor Appoints Two to State Board of Education

April 23, 2015

On April 10, Governor Jerry Brown appointed two new members to the State Board of Education.

—Feliza Ortiz-Licon, 39, of Long Beach, has been senior director of K-16 education at the National Council of La Raza since 2013, where she was regional director of education for California and the Far West from 2007 to 2013. She was director of college access services at the Fulfillment Fund from 2006 to 2007, director of policy for Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education member David Tokofsky from 2003 to 2006.

—Ting Lan Sun, 50, of Sacramento, has been executive director at the Natomas Charter School in Sacramento since 2012, where she was director of educational programs from 2006 to 2012, 2000 to 2003 and 1993 to 1997. She was a senior consultant at Cambridge Education from 2007 to 2009, vice president of leadership and quality at the California Charter Schools Association from 2003 to 2006...

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New Lawsuit Backed by StudentsFirst Challenges Teachers Unions’ Ability to Collect Dues

April 9, 2015

Another high-stakes legal confrontation between teachers unions and education reform advocacy groups got underway on April 3, as a lawsuit was filed on behalf of four California teachers. The new lawsuit is being backed by the Sacramento-based organization StudentsFirst, founded in 2010 by Michelle Rhee, former school system chancellor in Washington, DC. The lawsuit filed on April 3 challenges the ability of unions to collect dues from members on several grounds. At stake are tens of millions of dollars in funding that the unions have traditionally relied on for their political and advocacy work.

The case is Bain v. California Teachers Association, 15-cv-02465, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

An announcement on April 3 from StudentsFirst framed the lawsuit in these terms:

The plaintiffs are California teachers who are members of their national, state and local unions...

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CSBA Urges Court to Use Fairness Principles in Awarding Attorneys’ Fees in Special Ed Litigation

April 9, 2015

The National School Boards Association joined the California School Boards Association and its Education Legal Alliance on March 25 in filing a “friend of the court” (amicus) brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of the school district in the case of K.G. v. Irvine Unified Sch. Dist.

At issue in the case is whether an attorney representing a student with disabilities may recover legal fees under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) from a school district when the fees were incurred during litigation in which the legal positions of the student and school district were not adverse. The Ninth Circuit’s decision has the potential to affect all school districts in the nine-state circuit – Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington – in IDEA proceedings in which the attorney achieves a technical victory against the school district but no meaningful benefit for the student or parents...

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PPIC Report Examines Low-Income Students and School Meal Programs in California

By Caroline Danielson, Senior Fellow, Public Policy Institute of California

Rep: March 26, 2015

(Editor’s Note: This month, the Public Policy Institute of California released a report looking at factors linked to variation in student enrollment and participation in free or reduced-price meal programs at schools. A summary of the report follows, along with a link to the full report.)

School nutrition programs help improve nutrition among vulnerable children. In so doing, they help build a better future for these children and the state. Now that California is implementing the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), there is additional reason to make sure all students who are eligible for free or low-cost meals enroll in these programs. Along with English Learners and foster youth, low-income students – in other words, students who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals – are targeted for additional funds under the LCFF. This renewed focus on enrollment could also prompt further consideration of participation in school nutrition programs...

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California Debuts Ads to Counter E-Cigarettes

March 26, 2015

Twenty-five years after launching the first anti-smoking advertisements in the state, the California Department of Public Health (CDP) premiered a series of television, digital, and outdoor ads on March 23, in a new campaign called “Wake Up,” as part of its educational effort to inform the public about the dangers of e-cigarettes.

“California has been a world leader in tobacco use prevention and cessation since 1990, with one of the lowest youth and adult smoking rates in the nation. The aggressive marketing and escalating use of e-cigarettes threatens to erode that progress,” said Dr. Karen Smith, newly appointed CDPH director and state health officer.

CDPH recently released a health advisory highlighting areas of concern regarding e-cigarettes, including the sharp rise in e-cigarette use among California teens and young adults...

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SBE Approves Suspension of API for 2014-15; New Accountability System Could Be in Place by Fall 2016

March 12, 2015

On Wednesday (March 11), the State Board of Education voted unanimously to suspend the Academic Performance Index (API) for the 2014-15 school year as the state develops a more comprehensive accountability system based on multiple measures rather than a single index.

“One of my top priorities is developing an accountability system that meets California’s needs by looking at a broad range of measures defining student and school success, rather than relying on just one test,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “This will give us a complete picture rather than a narrow view.”...

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Opinion

What Demographic Group Gained the Most from California’s Academic Performance Index?

March 12, 2015

(Editor’s Note: On March 6, the Los Angeles Daily News published the following editorial, reflecting on the mixed success of California’s Academic Performance Index, and the shape of the new school evaluation system that is currently being crafted in Sacramento.)

Q: To which California demographic group has the Academic Performance Index score, known as the API, ranking all of the state’s schools, been of the most benefit since its introduction in 1999?

A: Realtors.

You know the pitch: “Folks, are you kidding me, a house on this block, we’re talking Stanford early admission virtually guaranteed! Richard Henry Dana Middle School? Check it out: a 956 on the API, it’s like you’re getting little Einsteins just for walking in the door!”...

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State Board of Education Recognizes Carl Cohn, Richard Zeiger, and the late John Mockler

March 12, 2015

The March meeting of the State Board of Education – which began on Wednesday morning (March 11) – opened with tributes to the late John Mockler – who was the primary architect of Proposition 98, approved by California voters in 1988 – as well as recognition of outgoing SBE member Carl Cohn and outgoing Chief Deputy Superintendent Richard Zeiger, both of whom announced plans to retire in January.

Several members of the SBE offered personal recollections of Mockler, who at various points in his career served as a legislative aide, a consultant to several Assembly committees, deputy chief of staff to Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, a senior staffer under State Superintendent of Public Instruction Wilson Riles, and secretary of education under Gov. Gray Davis...

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Reimagining the College Experience: Q&A with Stanford Professors Mitchell Stevens and Michael Kirst

By Brooke Donald

Rep: February 26, 2015

In "Remaking College: The Changing Ecology of Higher Education,"(link is external) co-editors Mitchell Stevens, associate professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education, and Michael Kirst, Stanford professor emeritus (and president of the State Board of Education), argue that Americans need to rethink their understanding of learning after high school. The dream of the four-year residential campus is not a realizable one for many, they say, and "it may not even be a good idea."

The book challenges policymakers and others to consider a different model for higher education. Maybe college isn't a four- to six-year endeavor to be done in your early 20s; perhaps it's something you move in and out of your whole life. Maybe it doesn't even take place on a campus but through a series of online courses. And maybe you don't always get a degree but a certificate, proving excellence in a particular craft...

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Obama Discusses Education during Visit to Palo Alto

February 26, 2015

In his weekly address on February 14, the President laid out his plan to ensure more children graduate from school fully prepared for college and a career. Our elementary and secondary schools are doing better, as demonstrated by the news this past week that our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high, but there is still more that can be done to ensure every child receives a quality education. That’s why the President wants to replace No Child Left Behind with a new law that addresses the overuse of standardized tests, makes a real investment in preschool, and gives every kid a fair shot at success. He reminded everyone that when educating our kids, the future of our nation, we shouldn’t accept anything less than the best.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, February 14, 2015...

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More Movement in the Nation’s Capital on Possible Bipartisan Overhaul of No Child Left Behind

February 12, 2015

There was more movement in the nation’s capital last week on the topic of renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which would involve an overhaul of the widely criticized No Child Left Behind legislation from 2001.

On February 6, U.S. Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) released a statement indicating that they will be cooperating in an effort to draw up legislation to “fix” No Child Left Behind. In a joint statement, Alexander and Murray said “We’ve agreed to move forward to develop a bipartisan chairman’s mark to fix No Child Left Behind. Our staffs will begin working today with each other and with the staffs of other senators on the committee. We know our constituents expect us to fix this broken law and improve education for students, families, and communities across the country—and we expect to succeed.”...

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NSBA Advocates for Local Governance in Proposed Regs for Teacher Prep Programs

February 12, 2015

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has called on U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to include local governance and flexibility for school districts in proposed federal teacher preparation accountability requirements.

These proposed rules are directed at states and postsecondary education teacher preparation programs. However, any teacher accountability system will have profound implications for school districts. Local districts must be considered before any final action is taken.

No one in education will benefit if the federal government imposes regulations that overreach into local governance, negatively impact district operations, or otherwise create barriers for school districts to train and employ effective teachers...

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Bye-Bye, API... Hello, Emerging New Accountability System

By Jeff Hudson - February 12, 2015

For some months, the Association of California School Administrators has been urging the State Board of Education to defer the next Academic Performance Index (API) ranking for a second year, rather than base this year’s ranking on the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing data, to ensure that testing data from the new online testing regime is “valid and reliable.” (See article from the January 12 edition EdBrief.)

Then last week, a state panel known as the Public School Accountability Act Advisory Committee called for replacement of the API with a new system that would be aligned with the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) for funding K-12 education, and the closely related Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), which is developed by local school districts and used to determine if the district is using LCFF funds effectively to reach identified goals for academic achievement...

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LCAPs Should “Emphasize Clear, Strategic Plans Over Detailed, Comprehensive Plans,” According to LAO

January 29, 2015

 

Editor’s Note: On January 20, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) issued a report offering advice to legislators – and local school districts – regarding the new state-mandated Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs), which school districts are required to prepare under California’s new Local Control Funding Formula for K-12 education. The executive summary from the LAO’s report is reprinted below, with a link to the complete document.

Executive Summary

New System of School Funding, Support, and Intervention Recently Established. The 2013-14 Budget Act and associated legislation created a new school funding formula – the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The LCFF provides districts with base funding tied to four grade spans; supplemental funding for English learner, low-income, and foster youth (EL/LI) students; and concentration funding for districts with relatively high proportions of EL/LI students. The legislation also created a new system of planning and support...

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Stanford Research Suggests New Agency Could Play Critical Role in Improving California Public Schools

By Jonathan Rabinovitz - Rep: January 29, 2015

The success of sweeping changes in California’s education system may depend on how well a new state agency shoulders the mission of helping struggling schools and school districts, according to a report, released Jan. 20, by Stanford Graduate School of Education policy experts.

The agency, the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE), was established as one element in comprehensive school finance legislation, passed in 2013, that aims to channel more of the state’s education funds to the students with the greatest needs. This measure also provides local school districts with vastly more control over their spending of state money.

As part of this shift in California’s education landscape, the state is leaving the old model of school accountability...

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Gov. Brown Sworn In Again, Earns Favorable Comments for State of the State Address

January 12, 2015

Gov. Jerry Brown was sworn in for an unprecedented fourth term on January 5, and touched on K-12 education during his State of the State speech, delivered in Sacramento. Among his remarks:

Educating the next generation is fundamental to our collective well-being. An issue that has plagued our schools for decades is the enormous barrier facing children from low-income families. When my father was governor, he sought to remedy the wide inequities among different school districts by calling for equalization of unding. His efforts were not successful.

Now – decades later – we have finally created a much fairer system of school funding, called the Local Control Funding Formula...

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CALSA Welcomes David Verdugo as Executive Director

January 12, 2015

The California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA) has a new executive director: Dr. David J. Verdugo.

“I’m ecstatic that he is going to be our Executive Director with all of his experience and skills,” commented CALSA President-Elect Alejandro Hogan, following the Verdugo’s selection.

Verdugo has served diverse communities in a variety of teaching, administrative and leadership posts for over 40 years, and he has been a member, representative, guest speaker or professional resource for a number of state and national organizations, including the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), California School Boards Association (CSBA), American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS)...

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California Voters Believe High Quality Preschool Makes a Difference in Child’s Later Success

By Mark DiCamillo, Director, The Field Poll - December 11, 2014

California registered voters overwhelmingly believe that a high quality preschool program makes a difference in a student's later success, both in school and in life.

According to a recent Field Poll completed in partnership with EdSource, 61% of registered voters consider a high quality preschool experience very important to a child’s later success in life, while another 22% say it is somewhat important.

The poll shows that state support for such programs continues to be a priority for Californians. A majority of the state’s registered voters (58%) believes it is very important for the state to further expand preschool programs so that they serve all low-income 4 year olds across the state...

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Federal Department of Education Extends NCLB Flexibility

November 19, 2014

On November 13, the U.S. Department of Education issued new guidance extending flexibility under the No Child Left Behind act.

As the DoE noted in their announcement:

The last three years have seen a historic shift in the relationship between the federal government and states, with more than 40 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico receiving flexibility from the prescriptive, top-down requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This flexibility has allowed states and districts to develop creative solutions tailored to their individual cultures, with major benefits for all students, regardless of background. This is a shift away from simple compliance and toward creativity with high expectations...

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SBE Approves Final Spending Regulations for LCFF, and Revised Template for LCAP

November 19, 2014

The California State Board of Education last week approved final spending regulations for the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and a revised template for Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP), strengthening parent and community involvement in budget decisions and expanding local accountability measures to improve student achievement.

Last week’s vote marks a milestone in the formal rulemaking process required of the State Board of Education and finalizes numerous revisions and improvements suggested by educators, parents, students, lawmakers, education groups and advocacy organizations since the LCFF became law in 2013. Thousands of public comments about the regulations and hours of public testimony before the Board led to the development of these final regulations and revised template...

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For Women and Girls, Common Core Standards Represent a Step Toward Greater Equity

November 13, 2014

 

(Editor’s note: This week, the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the American Association of University Women released the following “factsheet” examining gender equality in education, in light of the new Common Core academic standards.)

Women and girls continue to benefit from dramatically increased educational opportunities. Due in large part to the success of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, more than half of the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees awarded by U.S. colleges today are earned by women. Yet despite this progress, large gender-based disparities and inequities in education and employment persist. In particular, girls of color and girls from low-income backgrounds underperform academically compared with their white, higher-income peers...

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Closing Achievement Gap Will Produce “Enormous Payoffs” in Economic Benefits, New Study Finds

November 13, 2014 - By Robert Lynch and Patrick Oakford

 

(Editor’s note: On Nov. 10, the Center for American Progress released a report, “The Economic Benefits of Closing Educational Achievement Gaps.” The following article by the report’s authors summarizes many of their findings.)

Our nation is currently experiencing growing levels of income and wealth inequality, which are contributing to longstanding racial and ethnic gaps in education outcomes and other areas. These large gaps, in combination with the significant demographic changes already underway, are threatening the economic future of our country. Thus, closing racial and ethnic gaps is not only key to fulfilling the potential of people of color; it is also crucial to the well-being of our nation. This report quantifies the economic benefits of closing one of the most harmful racial and ethnic gaps: the educational achievement gap that exists between black and Hispanic children and native-born white children...

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Torlakson Prevails in Hard Fought Battle for State Superintendent of Public Instruction

November 13, 2014

Incumbent State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson prevailed over challenger Marshall Tuck in the November 4 election. Torlakson’s margin of victory statewide was not large – 52.2 percent for Torlakson, and 47.8 percent for Tuck. But at the same time, the outcome was not quite as close as some political observers had predicted.

The campaign proved to be the most expensive contest ever seen for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, which is usually considered a “down ballot” race that plays second fiddle to the race for California Governor or one of California’s seats in the U.S. Senate...

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Field Poll Finds Torlakson, Tuck Tied at 28 Percent Each, with 44 Percent of Voters Undecided, as Election Nears

October 30, 2014

A Field Poll released on Thursday (October 30) placed State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and challenger Marshall Tuck in a statistical tie, with each receiving support from 28 percent of those polled. The poll also found 44 percent of likely voters were still undecided, with less than a week remaining before Election Day (November 4).

The Field Poll also found that Gov. Jerry Brown holds a 20 point lead over Neel Kashkari, his Republican opponent. The poll also found that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and other Democratic nominees for statewide offices hold comfortable, if somewhat smaller, leads...

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“Practical” Guide for Effective Pre-K-3 Principal Leadership Recommends Student-Centered, Approach

October 16, 2014

To support principals in creating school conditions that support early learners’ needs, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) has developed an updated, practical guide: Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities: Competencies for Effective Principal Practice. The practical resource sets forth the skills that principals leading schools serving children from age 3 to age 8 – typically Pre-K-3 – must have to ensure the academic, social, emotional and physical well-being and success of all young children.

Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities represents a new vision for school leadership from a child-centered focus by applying the latest research and knowledge on child development and early childhood education to set expectations for effective principal practice...

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“Why I Teach”

Bay Area Social Studies Teacher Honored by the U.S. Department of Education for Hispanic Heritage Month

October 16, 2014

(Editor’s Note: The following bio and interview were originally published by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics at http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/hispanic-initiative/2014/09/hispanic-heritage-month-teacher-profile-mariciano-gutierrez/)

A first generation college student, Marciano Gutierrez MA ’06 acquired a strong educational background by earning a B.A. in History, Summa Cum Laude, from California State University in Fresno with a certificate in nonprofit leadership. Soon after, Marciano was named a National Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholar and was awarded a full scholarship to Stanford University. At Stanford, Marciano earned a MA in Education with a professional preliminary teaching credential in Social Studies with English Learner Authorization.

Marciano has put his extensive training to effective use as a social studies teacher at Alta Vista High School in Mountain View, CA...

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Torlakson, Tuck Running Neck-and-Neck in Race for State Superintendent, With Many Voters Undecided

By Jeff Hudson - October 2, 2014

The November runoff for State Superintendent of Public Instruction is shaping up as quite a contest, with a recent poll finding incumbent Tom Torlakson and challenger Marshall Tuck running neck-and-neck, with a large percentage of likely voters still undecided.

A recent Field Poll, released on September 9, found that among “likely voters,” some 31 percent favor Tuck, 28 percent favor Torlakson, and “a huge 41 percent (are) undecided,” according to a press release.

The poll also found that among “likely voters,” 40 percent have a favorable impression of Torlakson, while 14 percent have an unfavorable impression (with 46 percent expressing no opinion)...

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Dept. of Education Sends New Guidance to Ensure All Students Have Equal Access to Educational Resources

October 2, 2014

All students – regardless of race, color, national origin or zip code – deserve a high-quality education that includes resources such as academic and extracurricular programs, strong teaching, technology and instructional materials, and safe school facilities. On Oct. 1, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced guidance, in the form of a Dear Colleague letter to states, school districts and schools to ensure that students have equal access to such educational resources so that they all have an equal opportunity to succeed in school, careers and in life. The guidance, issued by the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), provides detailed and concrete information to educators on the standards set in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964...

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Broader Research Agenda Needed to Address Growing Inequality in Education, Scholars Say

By Andrew Myers - October 2, 2014

When studying social inequality, scholars have not done enough to examine the many influences that shape life chances and well-being in the United States.

This is one conclusion in a new report on the state of academic research on inequality. The report, called “Inequality Matters,” was written by Professors Prudence Carter and Sean Reardon at the Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), and done in collaboration with the William T. Grant Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

Carter and Reardon review more than 40 years of research on inequality, including inequality in income, health, education and political power...

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Census Bureau Sees Dip in Child Poverty Rate Nationally, But Figures for California Still High

September 18, 2014

The U.S. Census Bureau released a report on September 16 indicating that in 2013, the poverty rate for children under 18 declined for the first time in several years.

The report found that the poverty rate for children under 18 declined from 21.8 percent in 2012 to 19.9 percent in 2013. The number of children in poverty also declined over the period, from 16.1 million to 14.7 million. This was the first time since 2000 that the child poverty rate declined.

Among the figures for California:

  1. In 2013, 5.68 million Californians had incomes below the poverty line. The poverty line varies by family size. The 2013 poverty line was $23,624 for a family of four with two children...

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School Superintendents: Vital or Irrelevant?

September 18, 2014

The Brookings Institution released a report on September 3 that examined the extent to superintendents play an important role in students’ academic performance – and the report drew a quick response from the National School Boards Association.

According to the Brookings Intitution’s website:

In recent years, research has confirmed that teachers, principals, and school districts have meaningful effects on students’ academic achievement. But what about the highly visible person in charge of the school district? As the highest ranking official in a district, the superintendent receives a lot of credit when things go well, and just as much blame when they don’t. But there is almost no quantitative research that addresses the impact of superintendents on student learning outcomes...

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PDK/Gallup Poll Finds Public Sees Need for Change in How Teachers Are Prepared

September 18, 2014

The annual PDK/Gallup Poll on educational issues, released on Sept. 16, finds that the American public has concluded the nation must demand more of its future teachers and those who prepare them, a new survey shows.

By margins ranging from 60-to-40 percent up to 80-to-20 percent, the public believes college entrance requirements for would-be teachers should be more rigorous; that practice teaching should last a year or even two, and that teacher candidates should be required to pass a type of national "bar exam" before being allowed into the profession...

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Vergara Ruling Finalized, State Files Appeal

September 4, 2014

As expected, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu finalized his preliminary ruling on August 28 in the much-discussed Vergara v. California lawsuit. Judge Treu’s decision found five state laws dealing with teacher tenure and teacher hiring practices to be unconstitutional.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson promptly indicated that he will as California Attorney General Kamala Harris to appeal Judge Treu’s decision – and on Friday (Aug. 29), California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed an appeal, acting on behalf of Gov. Jerry Brown...

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LAO Recommends Changes in Responsibilities, Staffing and Reporting Requirements at CDE

September 4, 2014

(Editor’s Note: On August 28, the Legislative Analyst’s Office released a review of the California Department of Education, containing recommendations for substantial changes in the way the CDE is structured, and the way the agency operates. Below we are reprinting portions of the LAO’s review. Click on the link at the end of this story to read the entire report.)

The core responsibility of the California Department of Education (CDE) is to administer federal and state education programs. Our review found the department currently is adequately positioned to fulfill this core mission. We also found, however, that the scope of CDE’s responsibilities – and the associated need for staff and funding – change frequently based on shifting state and federal policies. In order to maintain the department's capacity to meet its responsibilities, we recommend the Legislature ensure that additional responsibilities placed on CDE in the future are paired with additional resources. Similarly, should the Legislature notably reduce CDE’s responsibilities, we recommend it make a conforming reduction to associated CDE positions and funding...

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Obama’s Education Secretary Takes Heavy Criticism at Teachers Union Conventions

July 21, 2014

Arne Duncan – President Obama’s Secretary of Education – came in for pointed criticism at national conventions held by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers this month.

Duncan has been viewed as an antagonistic figure by many educators since he was appointed by Obama as Secretary of Education in 2009. But the ill will toward Duncan appears to be reaching new heights this year.

Reporter Kimberly Hefling of Associated Press reported on July 7 that:

The nation's largest teachers' union wants Education Secretary Arne Duncan to quit...

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U.S. Dept. of Education Announces New Accountability Framework for State Special Education Programs

July 7, 2014

To improve the educational outcomes of America’s 6.5 million children and youth with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education announced on June 24 a major shift in the way it oversees the effectiveness of states’ special education programs.

Until now, the Department’s primary focus was to determine whether states were meeting procedural requirements such as timelines for evaluations, due process hearings and transitioning children into preschool services. While these compliance indicators remain important to children and families, under the new framework known as Results-Driven Accountability (RDA), the Department will also include educational results and outcomes for students with disabilities...

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Support for Common Core May Be Weakening

USC Poll: California Voters Dislike Existing Tenure, Layoff Rules for Public School Teachers

July 7, 2014

A strong majority of California voters oppose the state’s tenure and layoff policies for public school teachers, according to a new poll released on June 26 – just days after the landmark Vergara court case invalidated both statutes as unconstitutional.

The PACE/USC Rossier School of Education Poll shows two-thirds of voters (68%) agree that the state should do away with “Last in, First Out,” a policy that requires the newest K-12 teachers be laid off first, regardless of merit. Just 17 percent said California should continue to conduct teacher layoffs in order of seniority, according to the poll...

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Study Examines How High-Achieving Districts Are Recalibrating School Leadership

By Lee Alvoid - Rep: July 7, 2014

The principal has historically been portrayed in television and film as decidedly unheroic. From the hated Mr. Woodman on the 1970s television sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter” to the mean-spirited and incompetent Ed Rooney in the film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the principal has been cast as inept at best and villainous at worst. While the creators of such characters certainly relied heavily upon comedic license in crafting such caricatures, there was nonetheless a kernel of truth in the stereotype upon which these depictions were based. In the public mind, principals were often thought of as mere school-building managers, individuals who were more interested in wielding power and enforcing compliance than in the loftier concerns of teaching and learning...

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Decision in Vergara Lawsuit Continues to Reverberate

June 19, 2014

Last week’s court decision in the Vergara lawsuit – in with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu sound several laws relating to teacher tenure, teacher layoffs and related labor laws to be unconstitutional – drew further comment in the days following the ruling.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson issued a short statement saying “All children deserve great teachers. Attracting, training, and nurturing talented and dedicated educators are among the most important tasks facing every school district, tasks that require the right mix of tools, resources, and expertise. Today’s ruling may inadvertently make this critical work even more challenging than it already is.”...

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Brown Appoints Student Representative to SBE

June 19, 2014

Kenton Shimozaki, 17, of Stockton, has been appointed to the California State Board of Education effective July 31, 2014. Shimozaki has been a student at Lincoln High School since 2011 and has served as student member of the Lincoln Unified School District Board of Trustees since 2014. He is president of the Lincoln High School Interact Club, where he has held multiple positions since 2011, including secretary in 2013. Shimozaki has been secretary of the Lincoln High School, School Site Council since 2011 and is a visiting committee member of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. He is a member of the Lincoln High School varsity tennis team and the cross country team, where he was sophomore team captain...

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Torlakson, Tuck Advance to November Runoff

June 11, 2014

As California election officials continue to tally late ballots – including hundreds of thousands of “vote by mail” ballots that were turned in on election day (June 3), the results show that incumbent State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson came close to avoiding a November runoff and winning a second term. Torlakson received 46.9 percent of the vote statewide, but he would have needed a majority of over 50 percent to win outright in the June contest.

Torlakson will face challenger Marshall Tuck of Los Angeles, who collected 28.9 percent of the statewide vote...

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State Superintendent Contest Gets Nasty, with Negative Campaign Ads and FPPC Complaint

May 29, 2014

The contest between the two most prominent candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction – incumbent Tom Torlakson and challenger Marshall Tuck – has developed a somewhat bitter edge as the campaign entered its final weeks, as Torlakson (and groups that support his campaign, including the California Teachers Association) aired a series of hard-hitting advertisements in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area media markets, prompting Tuck to file a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).

The Tuck campaign issued a press release denouncing the Torlakson campaign’s first television ad (which aired in late May) as “full of lies and distortions...

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Likely Voters Would Rather Pay Down State’s Debt than Restore Funding for Social Services

May 29, 2014

California likely voters would rather use the projected state budget surplus to pay down debt and build up the reserve, than restore some funding for social service programs that were cut in recent years. These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released on May 21 by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), with funding from The James Irvine Foundation.

With the state projected to have a surplus of several billion dollars over the next several years, 57 percent of likely voters prefer to pay down the debt and build the reserve, compared to 39 percent who favor restoring some social service funding. Californians overall are divided on this question (46% pay debt and build reserve, 48% restore funding for services)...

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Report Suggests Networking among Autonomous Campuses Can Be Productive Management Strategy

By Maureen Kelleher - May 29, 2014

School districts across the country are shifting away from their traditional management paradigm – a central office that directs its schools through uniform mandates and policies – toward a new vision where district leaders support autonomous schools while holding them accountable for student performance. The advent of new governance mechanisms between districts and schools that have come with the rise of charter schools, contract schools, and various systems that allow district-managed schools greater freedom of action in hiring, budgeting, and instructional planning has transformed the command-and-control relationships that were long the hallmark of public school management. As a consequence, school district leaders increasingly recognize that greater school autonomy requires rethinking their models of district-level management and support...

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CORE Districts File for NCLB Waiver Extension

May 15, 2014

Seven districts that participate in the California Office to Reform Education (CORE) announced on May 2 the submission of a joint request to the U.S. Department of Education to extend a waiver of federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) rules and approval of the School Quality Improvement System for federal school accountability purposes beyond the 2014-15 school year. CORE is a collaborative partnership of ten school districts working together to improve student learning and close achievement gaps. The U.S. Department of Education granted the original one-year waiver to eight* CORE districts last August. The seven districts requesting extension of the waiver are: Fresno Unified, Long Beach Unified, Los Angeles Unified, Oakland Unified, San Francisco Unified, Sanger Unified, and Santa Ana Unified...

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Duncan Issues Guidance on Equal Student Access to Public Schools, Regardless of Immigration Status

May 15, 2014

Federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder announced updated guidance on May 8 to assist public elementary and secondary schools to ensure enrollment processes are consistent with the law and fulfill their obligation to provide all children – no matter their background – equal access to an education.

In 2011, the Departments of Justice and Education issued guidance to help schools understand their responsibilities under the Supreme Court's decision in Plyler v. Doe and federal civil rights laws to provide all children with equal access to an education regardless of their or their parents' immigration status...

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Survey Finds Support for Common Core Standards, Schism Between Republican Activists and Rest of Party

May 15, 2014

There is broad dissatisfaction among the American public with the state of education, and by an overwhelming margin, voters across party lines prefer adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) over the status quo, according to recently-released research on voter sentiment conducted by Republican pollster John McLaughlin. That finding, and numerous others uncovered by the survey, challenges a prevailing political assumption among conservative activists: that Common-Core bashing is a winner with conservative Republicans.

“Based on the relentless drumbeat of opposition coming from the political right, a Republican candidate could be forgiven for assuming conservatives don’t support Common Core Standards,” said McLaughlin...

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Former SBE President Ted Mitchell Confirmed as Under Secretary of U.S. Dept. of Education

May 15, 2014

Ted Mitchell, who served as president of California’s State Board of Education from 2008 to 2010 under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 8 as Under Secretary of Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Mitchell, who replaces Dr. Martha Kanter, has also served as CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public education for those students most at risk, since 2005.

Mitchell has long been a prominent figure in education both in K12 and higher education. Prior to taking the helm at NewSchools in 2005, he was president of Occidental College in California. Mitchell was the vice chancellor and dean of the School of Education and Information Studies at the UCLA, and professor and chair of the Department of Education at Dartmouth College...

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PPIC Poll Findings

Californians Back Common Core and LCFF, but Worry about Implementation

May 1, 2014

Most Californians favor two historic changes under way in K–12 education: implementation of new English and math standards and a new funding formula that gives school districts increased flexibility over spending and provides extra money for disadvantaged students.

At the same time, most Californians are concerned about whether teachers are prepared to implement the new standards, called the Common Core State Standards. And many residents lack confidence that local districts will make wise use of the money allotted to them in the new Local Control Funding Formula.

These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released on April 23 by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC)...

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Field Poll

Majority of California Voters Support Expanding Pre-School to All Four-Year-Olds

May 1, 2014 - By Mark DiCamillo and Mervyn Field

Most voters in California believe state government should be doing more to provide young children opportunities to attend pre-school and feel it's very important to make publicly supported pre-school available to all of the state's four-year-olds, regardless of their parents' income.

Voters support by a greater than two-to-one margin (60% to 25%) the state's recently created transitional kindergarten program, which provides an optional extra year of kindergarten to four-year-olds who turn five between September and December.

In addition, by a five to three margin (57% to 34%), voters believe it would be worth the estimated $1.4 billion cost to expand the transitional kindergarten program...

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Sac City Unified Opts Out of CORE Waiver Group

April 17, 2014

In mid-2013, seven California school districts – known as the CORE group (California Office to Reform Education) – received a one-year No Child Left Behind waiver from the U.S. Department of Education, the first time the federal government had granted such a waiver to a consortium of districts (rather than a state). The CORE consortium represented more than 1 million students in school districts in Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Sanger and Santa Ana – a combined enrollment bigger than the enrollment in some states.

However, the Sacramento City Unified district has now decided not to seek a renewal of the CORE waiver...

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New Scorecard on Children’s Progress Shows Troubling Obstacles to Reaching Key Milestones

April 3, 2014

America’s future prosperity depends on our ability to prepare all children to achieve their full potential in life. Amid rapid demographic changes, a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, released on April 1, shows there is much ground to cover to ensure that all kids – especially children of color – are positioned to thrive.

The KIDS COUNT policy report, Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, unveils the new Race for Results index, which compares how children are progressing on key milestones across racial and ethnic groups at the national and state level...

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Civil Rights Study Reveals Troubling Racial Disparities

Broad Federal Survey of Public Schools Cites Unequal Access to Pre-School, Disparity in Suspension Rates

April 3, 2014

On March 12, The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released the first comprehensive look at civil rights data from every public school in the country in nearly 15 years.

The Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) from the 2011-12 school year was announced by U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at J.O. Wilson Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

This is the first time since 2000 that the Department has compiled data from all 97,000 of the nation's public schools and its 16,500 school districts – representing 49 million students...

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Students of Color Also At Risk

High-Achieving Disadvantaged Students Often Fall Behind As They Progress Through High School

April 3, 2014

Many black and Latino students and students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds who enter high school as top academic performers lose important ground as they push toward graduation day. When compared to their high-achieving white or more advantaged peers, these students finish high school, on average, with lower grades, lower AP exam pass rates, and lower SAT/ACT scores, according to a report released by The Education Trust.

Falling out of the Lead” is the latest report in Ed Trust’s Shattering Expectations series, which focuses on gaps at the high end of achievement...

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SBE Puts Academic Performance Index on Hiatus for Two Years, As New Online Tests Phase In

March 21, 2014

With California’s state government having discarded almost all of the old system of paper-based STAR tests – which formed the basis of California’s Academic Performance Index – and the federal government having granted California a one-year waiver covering portions of No Child Left Behind testing requirements, the State Board of Education (SBE) took the logical next step on March 13 and put the Academic Performance Index (API) on hiatus for the next two years.

Think of it as the other shoe dropping. Given events that have already transpired, the SBE didn’t really have any alternative...

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CDE Releases Revised Guidelines Helping Parents Identify and Report Child Abuse

March 21, 2014

Parents and guardians have a new and updated tool in their efforts to keep their children safe, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on March 5 as he released revised "Child Abuse Reporting Procedures for Parents and Guardians."

Torlakson explained in a letter to school officials that California Education Code Section 48987 requires the California Department of Education (CDE) to adopt guidelines for parents and guardians to follow if they want to file a complaint against a person for allegedly abusing their child at school. The guidelines first define child abuse as negligent treatment, willful injury or harm, sexual abuse, assault, and/or exploitation. Child abuse does not include a fight between two minors, or injury caused by an adult or peace officer who is trying to stop a disturbance...

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CSBA Voices Support for President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative

March 6, 2014

Responding to President Obama’s announcement on February 27 of the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to improve opportunities for boys and young men of color, California School Boards Association Executive Director & CEO Vernon M. Billy offered his praise and encouraged the initiative’s supporters to view California schools as a key partner in the effort.

“The ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative by President Obama is an important step in making a significant investment in the future of America,” said Billy. “This effort, linking key foundations, businesses and communities, is a great first step to ensure that the promise of our most important resource – our children – is realized in every community in our nation...

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Legal Appeal Planned

Initiative Attempting to Repeal New Law on Transgender Students Fails to Qualify for Ballot

March 6, 2014

A proposed ballot proposition aimed at repealing California’s new law covering transgender students in public schools did not gather enough petition signatures to qualify for the November ballot, according to California’s Secretary of State. But the organizers of the ballot initiative have indicated that they will pursue an appeal of signatures that were disqualified.

The state legislation in question – AB 1266, authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) was approved by the California Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brown last year. The new law requires school districts to let transgender students participate in school programs and use school facilities based on their gender identity...

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Court Rules School Acted Properly Asking Students Not to Wear American Flag T-Shirts on Cinco de Mayo

March 6, 2014

A California school that stopped students from wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo didn't violate their constitutional rights, an appeals court ruled on February 27.

The case relates to an incident on May 5, 2010, when the principal of Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill (Santa Clara County), asked a group of students wearing American flag T-shirts to turn their shirts inside out or take them off.

The students refused, according to the appeals court's summary of the case, and later brought a civil rights suit against the school and two administrators, arguing that their rights to freedom of expression, equal protection and due process had been violated...

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Field Poll Finds Growing Concern Regarding Kids’ Unhealthy Eating Habits, Lack of Physical Activity

By Mark DiCamillo and Mervin Field, Field Research Corporation - February 20, 2014

When The Field Poll first began tracking public perceptions of the health risks facing the state's children for The California Endowment (TCE) ten years ago, two concerns were cited more frequently than all others – unhealthy eating or a lack of physical activity, mentioned by 53%, and illegal drug use (49%).

However, according to the latest TCE-Field survey (released on Feb. 12) the proportion of Californians citing unhealthy eating or a lack of physical activity among kids' top two health risks has grown over the past ten years to 59%, and now far outranks the next highest ranking concern, illegal drug use (43%) by a considerable margin. Next most frequently mentioned is the threat of violence to children cited by 31%...

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Leadership

Additional Strategies for Dealing with Conflict in the Workplace

By John Almond - February 10, 2014

(Second in a series)

Conflict is a natural part of day to day business and is experienced in every workplace, including schools. The natural give and take between people can be a healthy way to create “constructive discontent” and discover new approaches to challenges. On the other hand, problems can arise due to the way in which we deal with these workplace conflicts.

The following tips/strategies are merely suggestions in order to deal with conflicts in ways that resolve issues while maintaining positive relationships. Naturally, strategies vary to some extent due to the need to clearly understand the issues and the personalities involved.

Have a positive attitude...

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Gov. Brown Touts Virtues of Local Control Funding Formula in State of the State Speech

February 10, 2014

Gov. Jerry Brown likes to cover a lot of topics in his annual State of the State address. And this year’s speech – delivered at the State Capitol on January 22 – was no exception.

The Governor (who as a young man studied at a Catholic seminary) referenced the Bible – specifically the Book of Genesis – to reinforce his proposal to create a “rainy day fund,” which would set aside money when there is a budget surplus, to be used in later years when the economy stalls and state revenues decline. Brown said, “We must follow the ancient advice… that Joseph gave to the Pharaoh: Put away your surplus during the years of great plenty so you will be ready for the lean years which are sure to follow.”...

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Obama Renews Call for Pre-K Programs, High Speed Broadband in State of the Union Address

February 10, 2014

President Barack Obama focused primarily on the problem of income inequality and his drive to raise the minimum wage for American workers during his 2014 State of the Union address on January 28.

But Obama did discuss education as well. He did not roll out any major new proposals; for the most part, he issued a renewed call for programs he proposed in last year’s State of the Union address, or earlier in his administration – proposals that, by and large, have either been ignored, or only partially approved by Congress...

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Large Crowd, Many Speakers Expected

SBE Expected to Adopt LCFF and LCAP Regulations and Template on January 16

January 8, 2014

California’s State Board of Education (SBE) will meet on January 15 and 16 in Sacramento – and the session on Thursday, January 16 will be devoted entirely to discussing the details of the revised version of regulations and procedures relating to the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) – which together comprise a major overhaul of state funding and state accountability requirements for California school districts.

In its agenda for the January meeting (released on Saturday, Jan. 4), the SBE indicated that a great deal of public comment from numerous speakers is anticipated...

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Fewer Suspensions, Expulsions Emphasized

Feds Release School Discipline Guidance Package, Seeking More Positive School Climate

January 8, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education (ED), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ),  released a school discipline guidance package on Wedneday (Jan. 8) that will assist states, districts and schools in developing practices and strategies to enhance school climate, and ensure those policies and practices comply with federal law. Even though incidents of school violence have decreased overall, too many schools are still struggling to create positive, safe environments. Schools can improve safety by making sure that climates are welcoming and that responses to misbehavior are fair, non-discriminatory and effective. Each year, significant numbers of students miss class due to suspensions and expulsions — even for minor infractions of school rules — and students of color and with disabilities are disproportionately impacted...

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Judge Allows City College of San Francisco to Keep Accreditation While Trial Proceeds

January 8, 2014

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow issued a preliminary injunction on January 2, blocking the scheduled July 31, 2014 revocation of accreditation of City College of San Francisco – a ruling that will remain in effect until a full trial is held sometime in 2014 on San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s challenge to the revocation decision by the regional branch of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (based in the Marin County community of Novato).

In his 53-page decision, Judge Karnow wrote that the impact of an immediate loss of accreditation on City College students, teachers and others “would be catastrophic...

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Leadership

Dealing with Conflict in the Workplace

By John Almond - December 17, 2013

(First in a series)

Conflict in the workplace can occur for many reasons, but many of the main reasons for conflict pertain to the fact that people often have very different ideas and ways of approaching their job, and their colleagues take exception to those ideas.

Each of us has learned over the years how to handle conflict. For some of us, resolving conflict means knowing how to effectively communicate our desires and our needs in order to better understand the problem and how it relates to others. For other individuals, it may be that we learned to handle conflict by being aggressive and unwilling to compromise, which makes it difficult to come to any reasonable solution...

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CTA Fighting Lawsuit over Union Dues, Facing Possible Ballot Proposition on Teacher Discipline/Dismissal

December 17, 2013

The California Teachers Association is fighting a lawsuit challenging the union’s ability to collect mandatory dues from members, and is also being targeted by a petition drive to qualify a statewide ballot proposition that would make a number of changes in the way teachers can be disciplined and fired – changes that the CTA has opposed strenuously in the California Legislature.

On December 5, Judge Josephine Staton of the U.S. District Court, Central District of California (based in Santa Ana) vacated a motion for a preliminary injunction in the case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, in which ten teachers are challenging the requirement that they pay union dues...

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Leadership

Practical Tips for Making Every Day Count

By John Almond - December 5, 2013

There are many leaders in education who really step to the forefront when they are faced with critical situations. That should come as no surprise, since dealing with difficult situations is a large part of the role of leadership.

Great leaders, however, try to make everyday count even when there is no compelling crisis or emergency. During those times when there is just a lot of daily or even weekly “stuff” to get done, it’s very easy for leaders to pass up opportunities to make a real difference.

There are ways, however, that you can take advantage of every day while you are, for the most part, dealing with maintenance like activities...

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Governor Brown Reappoints Five Members to Teacher Credentialing Commission

December 5, 2013

On November 26, Gov. Jerry Brown reappointed five members to new terms on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Erick Casallas, 33, of Bakersfield, has been reappointed to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, where he has served since 2011. Casallas has been a teacher at Emerson Middle School in Bakersfield since 2006. He was a teacher at Terrace Elementary School in Delano from 2005 to 2006 and at Ford Boulevard Elementary School in Los Angeles from 2002 to 2005, where he served as a Teach for America corps member. Casallas was Kern County teacher of the year in 2011 and Emerson Middle School teacher of the year in 2008. This position requires Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Casallas is a Democrat...

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Leadership

Additional Strategies to Establish Yourself as the Principal

By John Almond - November 14, 2013

(Last in a series)

In this last of a short series of articles, I will share a few additional thoughts on establishing yourself as the principal and leader of the school. These strategies/tips are not intended to be all inclusive, but they are definitely worthy of consideration as you attempt to improve the overall quality of education at your site and keep your school on a path of continuous improvement.

Recognize and respect those who came before you

When I first became a principal, I quickly realized that, regardless of how tumultuous staff members’ relationships had been with the previous principal, he or she becomes untouchable once a new principal is appointed. It is what a colleague of mine refers to as revisionist history, remembering things as they never were...

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SBE Hears Complaints Regarding First Draft of LCFF Regulations – As Well As Some Support

By Jeff Hudson - November 8, 2013

The State Board of Education heard a great deal of public opinion regarding the California Department of Education’s first draft of proposed regulations for the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) during Thursday’s SBE meeting in Sacramento.

Upwards of 180 people offered remarks in a discussion that began at 8 a.m., and continued until after 2 p.m. Much of the comment came from Black and Latino parents and students from up and down the state, who again and again expressed fear that the draft regulations would give districts too much flexibility in spending supplemental LCFF funds, and not require enough parental participation in requiring districts to prove that LCFF funds would be spent in ways that best serve the needs of students from low-income households, foster children, and students who are English Learners...

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Leadership

Tips for First-Year Principals, and Experienced Principals Moving to a New School

By John Almond - October 17, 2013

(First in a series)

While this article is particularly aimed at first-year principals, I also hope that it is of some benefit to veteran principals who may have been reassigned or chose to move to a new school. In either case, when you are first appointed, the logical question is: Where do I begin in order to move the school forward? As we all know, maintaining the status quo is simply not acceptable in today’s world. All principals are basically required to make certain that their school is on a path of continuous improvement.

While schools have changed dramatically over the years, continuous improvement still requires the cooperation and commitment of faculty members, students, parents, and the community at large...

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Leadership

Character Traits of a Great Educational Leader

By John Almond - October 3, 2013

(Fourth in a series)

In my last article, I attempted to focus on common characteristics of great leaders in general. Within the field of education, all of those common characteristics are certainly applicable, and, in addition, there are other character traits that are vitally important. The following are a few of the more important characteristics that a great educational leader should possess and are traits that they should be able to apply in a variety of situations.

  1. A good educational leader, in my opinion, needs a solid understanding of oneself and should also possess a relatively high degree of self confidence. When a person believes in himself/herself, he or she can do and accomplish many things that may seem to be out of reach...

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Estimated $1.4 Billion in Lost Funds

Attorney General Harris Releases Report on California Elementary School Truancy

October 3, 2013

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris on Monday released a report on truancy crisis California elementary schools, which found that, last year alone, 1 million elementary school students were truant and 250,000 elementary school students missed 18 or more school days at a cost of $1.4 billion in lost funds to California school districts.

“The California Constitution guarantees every child the right to an education, yet we are failing our youngest children, as early as kindergarten,” Attorney General Harris said. “These are children as young as five years old who are out of school, falling behind, and too many of them never catch up. This crisis is not only crippling for our economy, it is a basic threat to public safety...

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Leadership

Common Characteristics of Great Leaders

By John Almond - September 19, 2013

(Third in a series)

Educational reformers and support providers continually study effective schools in an attempt to identify those characteristics that most often foster student success. While the findings of said researchers range from teacher expectations to curricular alignment, most agree that strong effective leadership is essential for school success. School leaders are responsible for organizing and inspiring a team of people to put forth their best effort, so that all stakeholders can reach their potential.

The logical question is: What are some of the common characteristics of great leaders in any organization? Here are a few for your consideration...

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Miller Outlines New School Accountability System Being Developed Under CORE Waiver

By Jeff Hudson - September 19, 2013

Rick Miller, executive director of the CORE group that in August received a No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver from the U.S. Department of Education, gave a talk about the CORE group’s new accountability system before a curious audience of educators at Davis High School (in Davis) on Monday night. The event was sponsored by the UC Davis School of Education and the Yolo County School Boards Association.

The ten districts covered by the CORE waiver – Los Angeles, Long Beach, Fresno, Santa Ana, San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland, Clovis, Sanger and Garden Grove – represent a combined enrollment some 1.1 million students, making the CORE group larger than K-12 enrollment in a number of states. The CORE districts are now in the process of fleshing out the details of a new accountability system that Miller said will differ in several significant ways from existing NCLB methodology...

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Torlakson Appoints Three Division Directors at California Department of Education

September 19, 2013

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has promoted two veteran California Department of Education (CDE) experts and hired an experienced administrator to guide assessments, career technical education, and child development activities for the agency. 

Torlakson appointed Diane Hernandez as Director of the Assessment Development and Administration Division and Russell Weikle as Director of the Career and College Transition Division. Debra McMannis was appointed Director of the Child Development Division

"With the many changes underway to the landscape of education in California, I'm pleased to have such dedicated, experienced experts to call on,” Torlakson said...

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Leadership

Why Assertive Communication Makes Sense

By John Almond - August 29, 2013

(Second in a series)

As I mentioned in my first article on this topic, I believe that being assertive is a core communication skill. Being assertive basically means that you express yourself effectively and stand up for your own point of view, while also respecting the rights and beliefs of others. Being assertive can also help boost your self-esteem and earn the respect of those individuals with whom you interact. To carry it a step further, assertive behavior can also help with stress management, especially if you are one of those people who tends to take on too many responsibilities.

For me, assertive communication simply makes sense. Because the kind of assertiveness I am describing is based on mutual respect, it is an effective and diplomatic communication style...

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Leadership

How Do You Deal With Problems?

By John Almond - August 15, 2013

(First in a series)

As a public school administrator, dealing with problems/issues is a way of life. There is hardly a day that goes by where you don’t have to deal with one type of problem or another, and how you deal with those situations says a lot about you as a person and has a tremendous impact on how you are viewed as a leader.

A major aspect of problem solving is communication, and I firmly believe that being assertive is a core communication skill. Some people are naturally assertive, but, if you are not one of them, you can certainly learn to be more assertive...

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Common Core Sessions Provide Valuable Insight As Districts Prepare to Implement New Standards

September 5, 2013

Total School Solutions is presenting several professional development events relating to the new Common Core academic standards.

There will be two sessions geared toward “Preparing Your School for the Common Core: A Principal’s Approach.” This presentation is intended for middle school and high school administrators who wish to prepare their staffs for the transition to the Common Core. The presenter will address how to make policies and resources from the district level come alive at the site. The focus will be on improving creativity, communication, critical thinking and collaboration...

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New Student Member Joins SBE

September 5, 2013

Jesse Zhang, 16, of Rancho Palos Verdes, has been appointed to the California State Board of Education by Gov. Jerry Grown. Zhang is a student at the California Academy of Math and Science (CAMS) and has been an intern for the Port of Long Beach, Department of Finance since 2013. He has been vice president of the Junior State of America’s chapter at CAMS and a member of the National Honor Society and the California Scholarship Federation since 2012. Zhang has held multiple positions on the CAMS student council since 2011, including sophomore class president, commissioner of athletics, and commissioner of beautification. Zhang was a volunteer adult exhibit interpreter at the Aquarium of the Pacific from 2011 to 2012...

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Leadership

Characteristics of Outstanding Leaders

By John Almond - July 25, 2013

In today’s public schools, all administrators are expected to be instructional leaders. In addition, however, administrators also play the role of being a boss. One of the key functions of being a public school administrator is dealing with personnel issues, and, as we all know, personnel issues occur on a regular basis.

Being a boss is often very difficult. People in general don’t naturally wish to have one, and not everyone aspires to be one. Most people, however, are willing to follow a good leader, and all organizations, including school districts, live and die on the quality of the leaders who guide them...

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Science Standards Return for Approval in September

SBE Discusses Next Generation Science Standards, LCFF Phase-In, and Changes to GED

By Jeff Hudson - July 11, 2013

The State Board of Education (SBE) discussed the proposed Next Generation Science Standards, reviewed the upcoming process of developing regulations and templates for the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), and discussed authorization of an alternative test for use in granting high school equivalency certificates during Wednesday’s SBE meeting in Sacramento.

Next Generation Science Standards

The SBE heard a lengthy staff presentation on the proposed Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) on Wednesday, followed by a virtual love fest of favorable public comment from business leaders, educators and others in support of the new standards...

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Leadership

Behaviors You Should Try to Avoid – Every Day

By John Almond - July 11, 2013

(Fourth in a series)

In my previous article, I shared a few thoughts on specific behaviors to avoid during your workday. Some of those behaviors not only damage your productivity, they can also be harmful to your personal well being. While being a public school administrator is an extremely demanding and stressful job, you certainly don’t want to make matters worse!

Here are a few additional behaviors that you may also want to put on your “not to-do” list:

  1. Don’t allow yourself to be constantly distracted or interrupted while you are working on a specific task. You don’t need to know the instant you get an email, text message, or anything else that pops up on your phone or computer...

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Commission Recommends Terminating Accreditation for City College of San Francisco

July 11, 2013

On July 3, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) voted to terminate accreditation of City College of San Francisco (CCSF), effective July 31, 2014. The action follows a one-year period in which CCSF “was on Show Cause and required to correct deficiencies found by a 2012 accreditation team,” according to an ACCJC statement.

The decision could affect the education of some 80,000 students who attend classes at CCSF, as well as additional thousands of students who will be high school seniors in the coming academic year in the San Francisco area, who may hesitate to enroll in CCSF as a result. CCSF is one of the biggest community colleges in the state in terms of enrollment...

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Stanford Commencement Speaker Urges Ed School Grads to Expect Controversy, Keep an Open Mind

By Amy Yuen - Rep: July 11, 2013

"Do something really difficult: Go into education."

Those were the words that Hans Weiler, professor emeritus of education, offered at the start of his commencement address June 16 for the Stanford Graduate School of Education. He was repeating advice that another colleague had given to a young student many years back, and Weiler's talk underscored how education remains "a difficult enterprise" that takes "both smarts and guts."

"Our societies have a way of unloading their problems on education and of expecting education to solve them – from unemployment to obesity and from citizenship to crime," Weiler told the future professors, policymakers, school administrators, entrepreneurs and teachers...

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Leadership

Additional Steps to Improve Presentation Skills

By John Almond - June 20, 2013

(Third in a series)

In this last of a series of articles pertaining to improving presentation skills, I will offer a few additional tips as well as provide a general summary of key points to consider as you plan your next presentation or public speaking engagement.

In preparing for any speaking engagement or presentation, it is very important that you pay attention to your body language. If you are unaware of it, your body language will give your audience subtle clues about your mental state. If you are nervous or if you don’t believe in what you’re saying, the audience will probably become very aware...

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Latest PPIC Poll Finds Majorities Favor Brown’s Revised Budget, School Funding Plan

June 6, 2013

Most Californians support Governor Jerry Brown’s revised budget proposal, and they overwhelmingly favor his spending plan for public schools. These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released on May 29 by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), with funding from The James Irvine Foundation.

When read a brief description of the overall budget proposal, solid majorities of Californians (61%) and likely voters (60%) favor the plan, which includes increased spending for K–12 education and modest increases to higher education, health and human services, and corrections...

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Leadership

Steps to Improve Your Presentation Skills

By John Almond - May 23, 2013

(Second in a series)

In my last article, I discussed the importance of presentation skills when you are serving as a leader within the field of education. In many instances, your presentation skills are just as important as the information that you are presenting. I also pointed out that, from my perspective, the great thing about public speaking is that it is a skill that can be learned.

Researching your audience, structuring your presentation, and planning your opening carefully, are three tips or strategies that I previously mentioned. In addition, there are several other points to consider as you are preparing for a speaking engagement, and a few of them are as follows...

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It’s Official: State Won’t Seek NCLB Waivers, but Nine Districts in CORE Group Will Propose Their Own Plan

May 23, 2013

The news didn’t exactly come as a surprise, but it’s worth a mention nonetheless. The federal Department of Education announced in a press release on Monday that “California has notified the Department that the state does not plan to request waivers” from aspects of No Child Left Behind, otherwise known as ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) flexibility for the next school year. California will instead spend the coming year focusing on implementing the new Common Core state standards. The announcement added that “The (federal) Department will continue its consideration of a separate request for waivers from the CORE (California Office to Reform Education) districts in California.”...

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Conservative Columnist Calls Worries Over Common Core “Mostly a Projection of Baseless Political Fears

May 23, 2013

During the past week, Indiana’s state legislature and governor “paused” implementation of the new Common Core academic standards. This follows a period of months in which conservative political figures in several other states expressed skepticism and regret about Common Core adoption, and the Republic National Committee has backed away from support of the Common Core standards as well.

Michael Gerson, one of the Washington Post’s self-proclaimed “right-leaning” op-ed columnists (and President George W. Bush’s chief speech writer from 2001 through 2006), entered the fray on Monday with column headlined “GOP fear of Common Core education standards unfounded.”...

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Leadership

The Importance of Presentation Skills

By John Almond - May 9, 2013

(First in a series)

Whether talking in an administrative cabinet meeting or presenting in front of an audience, we all have to speak in public from time to time. We can do this task well, or we can do it poorly, and the outcome strongly affects how we are viewed as a leader. For that reason, public speaking often causes a great deal of anxiety and concern. The good news is that, with thorough preparation and practice, you can overcome your anxiety and nervousness and perform very well.

Even if you don’t need to make regular presentations in front of a group, there are many situations where solid public speaking skills can help you advance your career and create opportunities...

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SBE Discusses Transition to Common Core Standards and Computer-Based Assessments

Jeff Hudson - May 9, 2013

The State Board of Education spent much of Wednesday’s meeting discussing aspects of the changes in current state assessments of students’ academic performance as the new Common Core standards are implemented, and California continues the transition from paper-and-pencil tests to computer-based tests (CBTs).

On Wednesday morning, the SBE heard a presentation by Joe Willhoft, executive director of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, of which California is a member. Willhoft mentioned early on that “all the states that do all-computer testing are in Smarter Balanced” and that based on experience in other states, “it typically takes a few years to do the transition” from paper to computer-based testing...

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Education Secretary Duncan Speaks at Stanford, Discussing Preschool, Online Ed and Diversity

By Brooke Donald - May 9, 2013

Arne Duncan, the Obama Administration’s Secretary of Education, says one of the big challenges to effective school reform is the lack of diversity among teachers.

"I hate that the nation's teachers don't reflect the diversity of the nation's children," Duncan told reporters gathered at Stanford on May 2 at the Education Writers Association seminar.

Duncan said only 14 percent of teachers are people of color compared with 40 percent of students.

"How we embrace diversity, how we embrace the community, how we make sure this hard work reflects who we are as a nation is hugely, hugely important," Duncan said in response to a question...

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Leadership

Interpersonal Skills Become Even More Important as You Advance in Your Career

By John Almond - April 25, 2013

(Fourth in a series)

As you advance in your career as a public school administrator, interpersonal skills become even more important. For example, as you move from a site level position to a district level job, the number of stakeholders with whom you interact typically rises dramatically. As a result, such goals as relationship building and communication become even more difficult to accomplish, and yet these interpersonal skills often determine your success as a leader.

Several techniques that help build trust and relationships revolve around communication. You have to continually communicate your progress toward reaching the district’s goals and objectives and point out how the efforts of all employees are improving results...

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ACLU Sues State over “Widespread Denial of Instruction” to English Learner Students

April 25, 2013

The ACLU of California (ACLU), the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), and the law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP filed a civil rights lawsuit on Wednesday, acting on behalf of public school students, parents, and educators against the State of California and state education officials related to the denial of language instruction to tens of thousands of English Learner (EL) students across California, in violation of federal and state law.  The lawsuit seeks to compel the State to take action in response to widespread admissions by school districts, published on the California Department of Education (CDE) website, that they are failing to provide any EL services to eligible EL students.  The suit is the first of its kind in California, where one out of every four students has been identified as an English Learner...

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District Seeking Conditions Similar to 2011 Decision

West Contra Costa Trustees Hoping That SBE Will See Value in Bond Waiver Request

Jeff Hudson - April 25, 2013

(Second of Two Parts)

Over the past decade, the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD), which includes the Bay Area communities of Richmond, San Pablo, Hercules, Pinole, El Cerrito, El Sobrante and Kensington, has established a remarkable track record for securing voter approval of local school facilities bonds and parcel tax measures. (See part one of this article from the March 28 edition of EdBrief).

West Contra Costa voters have approved multiple ballot measures put forward by the school district, allowing the district to modernize existing facilities and/or replace aging buildings, as well as strengthen and improve academic programs. West Contra Costa’s record is all the more noteworthy because the district serves a number of communities that were hit harder than most by the recession that began in 2008, pushing down local property values...

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Study of “State of the State” Speeches Finds Education Is High Priority among Nation’s Governors

April 25, 2013

In six of the last nine years, a company known as Public Opinion Strategies has analyzed every State of the State speech for policy proposals. Overall, there were 581 policy proposals this year – 371 from Republican Governors and 196 from Democratic Governors, with the remainder from an Independent.

The first document is a summary that breaks down the percentage of proposals by issue area, both overall and by party. There are also word clusters. Key points:

  1. This year, the governors are focused on education (25% of the proposals) and the economy (18%), with health care (10%) and taxes (9%) the second tier focus...

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Congratulations to Dr. Wesley Smith

April 25, 2013

Wesley Smith, Ed.D., Superintendent of Morgan Hill Unified School District, has been selected as the new executive director of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA). He has been an active ACSA member for 13 years and has extensive experience in California public education, including service as a teacher, principal, professor, assistant superintendent and superintendent.

“The greatest priority for me is to have ACSA be the champion for public education that we need,” Smith told EdBrief in a phone call from the nation’s capital, where he is talking with legislators and administration officials about the renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)...

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West Contra Costa Has Gone to Voters Repeatedly for Bonds, Parcel Taxes – And Usually, Voters Say Yes

Jeff Hudson - March 28, 2013

(First of Two Parts)

The conventional political wisdom is that it is easier to pass a school facilities bond in a district that is an affluent suburb in a coastal county, or a university town. The same goes for school parcel tax measures. And most political observers would tell you that it’s harder to pass a facilities bond or a parcel tax in a district where property values fell.

But the conventional political wisdom doesn’t seem to account for events in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, which includes the Bay Area communities of Richmond, San Pablo, Hercules, Pinole, El Cerrito, El Sobrante and Kensington. Over the past 15 years, voters in West Contra Costa have approved multiple school facilities bond measures in local elections...

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Leadership

Interpersonal Competencies and How to Build Them through Experience, External Feedback

By John Almond - April 11, 2013

(Third in a series)

Another critical interpersonal competency to master is recognizing the interests of others. Quality leaders are often able to take a win/lose situation and craft a win/win solution or, at the very least, a tolerable outcome. In order to achieve this type of outcome, you must know the needs and perspectives of the other parties. Only at that point can you hope to create buy-in and get people behind your agenda rather than attempting to control them. We all know that the approach of trying to control them often results in alienating your followers...

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Visiting Group of American School Board Members Finds Lessons in Finland’s Schools

April 11, 2013

Three members of the National School Boards Association’s board of directors saw the well-regarded education system in Finland on a recent academic trip. And while the two countries have major differences, there are some important lessons school boards can take away from the Scandinavian schools, said NSBA President C. Ed Massey.

Massey joined a group of researchers and educators from Northern Kentucky University for a guided tour of Finnish schools, where they saw classrooms from early education to postsecondary and career training...

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Leadership

Critical Interpersonal Skills for All Leaders

By John Almond - March 28, 2013

(Second in a series)

We have all heard it before, but it certainly warrants repeating. Research points out that around ninety percent of executive failures are attributable to a lack of interpersonal skills. Within public education, administrators are expected to develop a positive work environment, recruit and retain high quality staff, build trust and establish positive relationships, and develop a culture and climate capable of coping with change. For me, the message is clear; if you are going to excel as a public school administrator, developing and mastering the interpersonal skills is a must...

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USC Dornsife/LA Times Poll:

California Voters Not Inclined to Lower Threshold for School Parcel Taxes to 55 Percent

March 28, 2013

Just months after the passage of Proposition 30, a temporary tax measure on the state’s wealthiest citizens, voters are reticent to lower the threshold by which future local tax measures could be approved, according to results of the latest USC Dornsife/LA Times poll, released on March 23.

When asked if they were in favor of lowering the votes required to pass a parcel tax for school funding (from two-thirds to 55 percent), 41 percent of voters said they were in favor and 49 percent were opposed...

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Leadership

Interpersonal Skills for Educational Leadership

By John Almond - March 14, 2013

(First in a series)

Interpersonal skills are utilized by everyone on a daily basis to communicate and interact with other individuals and groups of people. These skills include communication in all of its forms and perhaps, most importantly, the ability to listen and truly understand others. Problem solving, decision making, and personal stress management also qualify as interpersonal skills. These interpersonal or people skills are universally sought out by employers in every profession. In education, people skills are particularly important because of the nature of our work. After all, we work with people all day long...

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Educator Dissatisfaction at an All-time High

NEA President says Latest “Survey of the American Teacher” Results Should be a Wake-up Call

February 28, 2013

Teacher job satisfaction has plummeted to its lowest level in 25 years, from 62 percent in 2008 to 39 percent in 2012 – a total of 23 points, according to the annual Metlife Survey of the American Teacher, released on February 21. Teachers reporting low levels of job satisfaction were more likely to be working in schools with shrinking budgets, few professional development opportunities, and little time allotted for teacher collaboration.

“This news is disappointing but sadly, there are no surprises in these survey results. Teacher job satisfaction will continue to free fall as long as school budgets are slashed,” said National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel...

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Leadership

Practices Employed by Effective School Boards

By John Almond - February 28, 2013

(Third in a series)

One very important practice utilized by effective school boards is to engage in ongoing evaluation of the administration as well as self-evaluation. Land (2002) pointed to the need for school boards to engage in evaluations to guide their activities, hold staff at the district level accountable, and hold themselves accountable for their own overall performance as well as the district’s performance.

According to Land’s review (2002) of the literature, school boards most often formally evaluate the superintendent but are far less likely to engage in self-evaluation. Land noted that school board members generally view their election or re-election as validation of their positive performance...

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In Memoriam

Arlene C. Ackerman

February 14, 2013

Educators around the nation are mourning the passage of Arlene C. Ackerman, who served as superintendent of schools in Washington, D.C., in San Francisco and in Philadelphia. She died Feb. 2 in Albuquerque, where she had lived for the past year. She was 66, and had been treated for pancreatic cancer.

Ackerman came to Washington in 1997 as an assistant to schools chief executive Julius W. Becton Jr., at a time when much of the district’s government and finances were overseen by the federally mandated D.C. Financial Control Board...

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Leadership

Strategies Employed by Effective School Boards

By John Almond - February 14, 2013

(Second in a series)

Developing and maintaining positive relationships is extremely important in any line of work. Within schools, the relationships that school board members establish with the superintendent, as well as with the community and each other, are vital in achieving successful schools (Land, 2002). Each of these relationships should be built on respect, trust, confidence, support, and open communication.

Greater public support for school board and district initiatives can be achieved when open communication is maintained between the board and the community and when the community is invited to help set goals and action strategies for strategic plans...

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State of the Union Address

Obama Calls for States, Federal Government to Launch Universal Preschool Program

February 14, 2013

President Barack Obama touched on several education-related topics in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

Perhaps the point of greatest interest for educators in K-12 schools was the president’s call for states and the federal government to create a universal preschool program, open to all of the nation’s children. The president said:

Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road.  But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program.  Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for a private preschool...

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Leadership

The Importance of Board Leadership in Supporting Student Achievement

By John Almond - January 31, 2013

(First in a series)

As we all know, leadership is crucial for effective, lasting school improvement. Although research has established that strong, competent principals are vital for high performing schools (Hallinger, 2003), attention is also being focused on the importance of district leadership, including school boards, and their contributions to school improvement.

The role of school boards has changed over time as the structure of public education has changed. The earliest school boards were appointed by city or county officials and given responsibility for managing local schools...

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Stapf Walters Tabbed as Governor’s Education Policy Advisor, Executive Director of SBE

January 18, 2013

Having named two new members to the State Board of Education on Monday, Governor Jerry Brown continued to reshape the state’s education policy team on Tuesday.

Karen Stapf Walters, 55, of Sacramento, was appointed as education policy advisor to the Governor, and nominated as executive director of the California State Board of Education. She has worked at the Association of California School Administrators as interim executive director since 2012, assistant executive director of governmental relations since 2003 and was an advocate from 1999 to 2003. Stapf Walters was director of the Education Seminar Programs for the Institute for Fiduciary Education from 1996 to 1998...

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Leadership

Strategies for Dealing with Angry Employees

By John Almond - January 18, 2013

(Sixth in a series)

In my previous article, I attempted to focus on anger/conflict situations with employees that are directed at you as the leader. While these situations are never pleasant, the fact remains that they do occur from time to time, and the way in which you as the leader/administrator deal with these types of situations has far reaching effects in terms of maintaining a positive climate for all employees.

The following strategies are offered as food for thought when you are faced with the necessity of having to deal with an angry employee...

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Governor Appoints Sue Burr, Nicolasa Sandoval to SBE

January 18, 2013

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. appointed two new members to the State Board of Education on Monday, and also reappointed one of the currently-serving SBE members to a new term.

Monday’s appointments leaves the SBE with only one vacant seat, formerly held by SBE member James Ramos. Ramos was appointed by Gov. Brown in January 2011 – at the time, Ramos was the first SBE member from a Native American background. But Ramos stepped down recently because he was elected to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, and could not serve on that board as well as the SBE...

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LAO Issues Report on Special Education in California

January 10, 2013

(Editor’s note: On January 3, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office issued a lengthy report examining special education in California’s schools. The report is intended as “a high–level review of special education laws, services, delivery models, funding formulas, and outcomes.” The report also notes that “In almost all of these areas, special education is characterized by the complex interplay of policies and practices at the federal, state, and local levels.” The report also observes that the federal government has never fully funded the special education services that federal law mandates – a finding that will not come as a surprise to the financial officer in California school districts. Below, we reprint the Executive Summary of the LAO’s findings. At the end of this article is a link to the complete report.)...

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Rhee, Zeiger Tangle Over Newly Issued Report

January 10, 2013

Two high-profile players in education circles in Sacramento – Michelle Rhee, the often controversial founder of the StudentsFirst advocacy group, and Richard Zeiger, California’s Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction – engaged in a bit of political jousting this week over the harsh rating that California received in the 2013 State Policy Report Card issued by StudentsFirst on Monday. California was one of twelve states that got an F rating from StudentsFirst – no state got an A or a B, and only two states managed a B-. Other states got C or D ratings of various kinds.

The StudentsFirst report offered this summary description of California...

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Leadership

Strategies for Coping with Angry Employees

By John Almond - December 13, 2012

(Fifth in a series)

As a public school administrator, it is sometimes necessary to deal with individuals who are just plain angry about something. While angry employees are not pleasant individuals to engage in conversation, it is possible for a skilled leader to turn things around and actually capitalize on angry energy.

Anger is a force that can move an organization forward to improve, or it can be a force that dramatically hinders the organization’s ability to fulfill its purpose on an everyday basis. In our case, we want employees coming to work for the purpose of educating children, and angry employees are not going to be focused on working with kids...

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Court Decision Strikes Down Aspects of School Parcel Tax Charging Properties at Different Rates

By Jeff Hudson - December 13, 2012

A state court of appeals issued a decision last week striking down portions of a voter-approved school parcel tax in the Alameda Unified School District in Alameda County.

The 37-page decision released on December 6  could have implications for other California school districts that currently have voter approved parcel taxes, or have parcel tax elections pending in coming months.

A three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal unanimously struck down portions of the parcel tax authorized under Measure H (approved by voters in 2008) that imposed different tax rates upon residential parcels and commercial/industrial parcels – reversing an earlier decision by a lower court, which had upheld the Alameda Unified parcel tax...

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LAUSD Wins Court Case Involving Ratio for Allocation of Classrooms to Charter Schools

December 13, 2012

On Dec. 7, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Los Angeles Unified School District won a key legal battle with charter schools in early December when an appeals court struck down a ruling that could have opened up vast numbers of classrooms for charters, while also creating potential hardships for traditional neighborhood schools.

According to the article by education reporter Howard Bloom:

“The decision means that charter schools will continue to receive space in much the same way as traditional schools: If the Los Angeles Unified School District puts 26 students in a classroom, then charters will be allotted rooms based on the same ratio...

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Leadership

More Strategies for Dealing with Difficult People

By John Almond - November 29, 2012

(Fourth in a series)

In my previous article, I attempted to point out some of the frustrations that administrators often feel when they find themselves dealing with difficult people. In the early stages of my career, I must admit that it really used to bother me when I encountered such situations.

Over the years, however, I realized that these people are everywhere, and, if you intend to make school administration your career, it only makes sense to develop strategies that you can utilize when you deal with such people.

Here are a few additional tips or strategies that may prove helpful when you know that you are going to encounter a difficult individual...

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Veteran Pollster Assesses the Growing Political Might of California's Ethnic Voters

By Mark DiCamillo, Director, The Field Poll (Republished Nov 29, 2012)

The 2012 elections may prove to be a turning point in California politics – one that has been many years in the making – as the political might of the expanding ethnic voter population fully exerted itself in this year's statewide elections.

According to the network exit poll, Latinos, Asian Americans and African Americans collectively made up about 40 percent of the state's voters in this election, roughly equivalent to their share of the state's overall registered voter population. This means that turnout among the state's ethnic voters was about equal to the turnout of their white non-Hispanic counterparts, a first in California election politics...

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Unlocking Academic Potential of Students of Color Key to Future of American Economy, New Report Finds

November 29, 2012

As students of color and diverse ethnicities rapidly become the leading population of public school systems in numerous states, closing educational achievement gaps and providing a quality education to all students can secure the nation’s future economic prosperity, according to a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education. Noting that two-thirds of the U.S. economy is driven by consumer spending, the report, Inseparable Imperatives: Equity in Education and the Future of the American Economy, argues that raising individuals’ education levels will boost their purchasing power and increase the national economy.

“Historically, the country’s moral failure to provide all children with an adequate and equal education did not incur a noticeable economic cost,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia...

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Duncan Pokes Fun at Secretary of State Rumor, Hints He Might Stay as Secretary of Education

November 29, 2012

Federal education secretary Arne Duncan was quick to poke fun at a suggestion this week by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that Duncan might make an excellent choice to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

When asked about Friedman’s suggestion during an address to the Foundation for Excellence in Education conference in Washington, D.C., Duncan flatly rejected the idea, joking that his odds of becoming an exotic dancer are higher than those of becoming secretary of state.

"Last week The Onion (a satirical newspaper) said I was going to become a male stripper," Duncan said, according to a report in the Washington Times. "The Onion is probably more accurate than Tom Friedman."...

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Exit Poll Finds College Students, Young Parents with Kids in School Put Prop. 30 Over the Top

November 15, 2012

Exit polls conducted on Election Day concluded that voters under 30 helped 74-year-old Gov. Jerry Brown win passage for his Proposition 30, which will raise the statewide sales tax for four years and income taxes on high earners for seven years.

College students and the parents of school-age children had the most at stake with the initiative. If Prop. 30 had failed, Brown and state lawmakers were poised to cut $6 billion from K-12 schools and higher education.

Faced with the prospect of more tuition hikes, students rallied for Proposition 30 on social networking sites and breathed new life into the Democratic governor's plan to stabilize state finances, according to the poll results...

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Leadership

Hints for Dealing with Difficult People

By John Almond - November 15, 2012

(Third in a series)

If you have been a public school administrator for any length of time, you have probably dealt with your share of difficult people. I’m referring to those individuals that frustrate you beyond belief because they never seem to have a good word to say about anything. As a superintendent, I used to say (as a joke) that I would like to trade a particular individual for a future draft pick and a fungo to be named later!

There are many reasons that cause us to classify people as being difficult, but, within schools, a few of the more common reasons are as follows...

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Two Minutes on Mentoring

Mentoring Summit Well Attended, Thoughtful Presentations Spur Energetic Discussions

November 15, 2012 - Kenneth Magdaleno

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone
who will never be able to repay you.” – John Wooden

Well, it’s been several weeks since the Center for Leadership, Equity, and Research (CLEAR) held its first ever Mentoring Summit on October 19 at California State University Fresno.

And we are still enjoying the after effects of a wonderful and informative gathering. Beginning with a very diverse group of attendee’s, great workshops, a fantastic and thought-provoking message by our keynote speaker, author Victor Villasenor . . . the day was a huge success..

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Proposition 30 Wins with Nearly 54 Percent, Proposition 38 Bombs, Proposition 32 Rejected

November 8, 2012

Many educators were in a generally good mood on Wednesday morning, as California voters clearly favored one statewide ballot measure to fund public schools – but soundly rejected a competing alternative measure in Tuesday’s election. The outcome provides clarity, at least (though many educators had actually voted for both Prop. 30 and Prop. 38). The state’s voters also turned back a proposition that would have curtailed efforts by teachers unions and education stakeholder groups. Here are statements in response to the election results from several prominent leaders...

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Leadership

Having Tough Conversations with Employees

By John Almond - November 1, 2012

(Second in a series)

In my previous article, I offered a few suggestions when you are faced with the need to have a difficult conversation with an employee. While there are certainly no silver bullets, it is critical for such conversations to be planned carefully. In most situations, the goal is to correct a problem and develop a plan for improvement. Whether the employee is disengaged, unhappy, or underperforming, having an honest conversation for which you are properly prepared can certainly help the cause.

Here are a few additional suggestions for having those tough conversations:

  1. Anticipate a possible display of emotions...

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Brown Decries "Orwellian Propaganda" Coming from Proposition 30 Opponents

November 1, 2012

Speaking on the campaign trail in Southern California on October 23, Gov. Jerry Brown charged that his opponents are using "Orwellian propaganda" to drag Proposition 30 to defeat.

While on a four-city tour, Brown said the tax hikes in his ballot measure are needed to protect schools and put the state on stable economic footing.

"I've been cutting and slashing and hacking," Brown told reporters at a San Diego elementary school. "I don't think we should cut anymore."...

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Op-Ed Piece Raps Proposals to Rate Teachers by Name, Prompting National Discussion

By Jeff Hudson - October 18, 2012

The New York Times stirred up some national discussion this week by publishing an Op-Ed piece by Deborah Kenny, the founder of a charter school network in Harlem, who suggested that “having the government evaluate individual teachers is a terrible idea that undermines principals and is demeaning to teachers.”

Posted online on Sunday (Oct. 14), and printed in the national print edition on Monday (Oct. 15) under the provocative headline “Want to Ruin Teaching? Give Ratings,” Kenny argued that...

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Leadership

Having Difficult Conversations with Employees

By John Almond - October 18, 2012

(First in a series)

Having a high performing, effective staff is the goal of every public school administrator. However, we all know that not every new hire turns out to be the best fit for the district or the employee. If you have been a public school administrator for any length of time, you have most likely dealt with an unhappy or underperforming employee. When a situation of that nature occurs, an honest conversation for which you are properly prepared can effectively bring issues to light, set a course for improvement, and clearly communicate the follow-up action...

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Movie, Media Coverage Prompt National Discussion

Researchers Weigh In on the Parent Trigger

October 18, 2012

With a boost from Hollywood and a strong advocacy push from a cohort of think tanks, the “parent trigger” burst onto the media’s radar at the national level during the past six weeks. These “parent trigger” policies, which are now in place in several states (including California) authorize parent referenda that would turn neighborhood schools over to private charter school operators or would otherwise force drastic changes to the governance of these schools. The parent trigger approach is being touted as a way to empower parents in dealing with troubled local schools and in guiding their children’s education...

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Brown Hits Campaign Trail to Bolster Prop. 30; Munger Unleashes (then Pulls) Negative TV Ad

By Jeff Hudson - October 18, 2012

Gov. Jerry Brown took to the campaign trail this week in an effort to bolster support for Proposition 30, his November 6 ballot measure that would fund education and public safety through a temporary sales tax increase and temporary income taxes on households earning over $250,000 per year.

But even as the Governor entered the fray, lawyer/activist Molly Munger (the main proponent of a competing measure, Proposition 38) unleased a stinging television advertisement attacking Prop. 30...

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National School Boards Action Center Calls on Obama and Romney to Focus on Public Education

October 4, 2012

In anticipation of the current season of presidential candidates’ debates, the National School Boards Action Center (NSBAC), a new 501(c)(4) organization founded by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), has released a report on Monday, “An Election Year Message to President Obama and Governor Romney,” which highlights the expectations and priorities needed for presidential leadership on education and specific action steps to prepare our students for success in college and careers.

Also, the report compares the presidential candidates’ positions on K-12 education policies. The in-depth analysis finds that President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney agree on holding public schools to high standards...

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Brice Harris Named 15th Chancellor of the California Community Colleges

October 4, 2012

The California Community Colleges Board of Governors has announced the unanimous selection of former Los Rios Community College District Chancellor Brice W. Harris as the 15th chancellor to lead the 112-college system, the largest system of higher education in the country.

“Brice Harris is the right person at the right time to lead the California Community Colleges,” said Scott Himelstein, president of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. “I’ve known and worked with him for many years, and he is widely respected within the college system. He has the vision and leadership skills needed to navigate these tough fiscal times and keep us focused on improving student success,” Himelstein said...

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Inglewood High Alumnus Appointed as State Administrator for Inglewood Unified

October 4, 2012

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has appointed Kent Taylor — himself a graduate of Inglewood High School — as State Administrator over the financially troubled Inglewood Unified School District.

“My top priority is to keep Inglewood’s schools open and serving its students, while returning the district to fiscal solvency, and ultimately, local control,” Torlakson said. “Kent Taylor is the right choice for this tough, but critically important, job. He has deep roots in the Inglewood community, and a proven track record as a leader and sound fiscal manager.”...

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Latest Field Poll Shows Prop. 30 Holding at 51 Percent Support, Prop. 38 Lagging at 41 Percent

By Mark DiCamillo and Mervin Field - September 20, 2012

A new survey conducted jointly by The Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley and The Field Poll finds the Governor Jerry Brown backed initiative, Proposition 30, continuing to lead but with support marginally lower than in early July and the proportion undecided increasing. Currently 51% of likely voters are intending to vote Yes, 36% are voting No and 13% are undecided.

Proposition 38, a competing income tax increase proposal sponsored by civil rights attorney Molly Munger trails, with 41% of likely voters lining up on the Yes side and 44% on the No side. Another 15% are undecided...

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Leadership

Maintaining High Staff Morale through Everyday Encouragement, Personalization

By John Almond - September 20, 2012

(Eighth in a series)

In this last of a series of articles regarding the importance of maintaining high staff morale, I will to focus on the concept of personalization. Although principals most often, as they should, believe that personalization means personalizing the environment for students, principals also need to take into account the adults in the building. As pointed out by Michael Fullan in his book, “The Six Secrets of Change,” the logical question is: “What am I doing as the school leader to build a culture of appreciation and recognition for my staff?” Although Fullan explains that the secret is larger than just caring for employees, showing appreciation on a regular basis is a good place to start...

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Stronger Partnership with Underserved Communities Urged

Retiring CSU Chancellor Charles Reed Calls For Year-Round Classes in Public University System

September 20, 2012

In a September 11 op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, retiring Chancellor Charles Reed of the California State University system called for the state to adopt major changes to guide public education in coming decades. Reed wrote that:

California's public higher education system, once the envy of the world, is struggling. To survive in a way that continues to fulfill its mission, we need to break the mold on how it operates.

State budget cuts have stripped our universities to the bone. And the promise of nearly free, accessible higher education has all but disappeared as cuts have forced tuition increases...

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Leadership

Healthy School Environment and High Level of Teacher Morale Go Hand-in-Hand

By John Almond - September 6, 2012

(Seventh in a series)

Researchers generally agree that high teacher morale y has a positive effect on pupil attitudes and learning. Raising the level of teacher morale not only makes teaching more enjoyable for teachers, but also makes learning more pleasant for the students.

Morale and achievement are also related. As far back as 1972, Ellenberg found that, “where morale was high, schools showed an increase in student achievement.” While times have certainly changed, researchers still agree that carrying and displaying a positive attitude will yield positive results...

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Brown Appoints New Student Member to SBE; Two Additional SBE Seats Remain Unfilled

September 6, 2012

Josephine Kao, 17, of Roseville, has been appointed to the State Board of Education as the SBE’s student representative.

Kao is a student at Mira Loma High School and has been a guest services associate at Skatetown Roseville since 2011. She is a member of the Nestle Very Best in Youth Foundation Board, a commissioner on the Placer County Youth Commission and a member of the National Society of High School Scholars. Kao was declared champion for the Central Valley Spelling Bee by the Sacramento Bee in 2009...

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Leadership

Healthy School Environment and High Level of Teacher Morale Go Hand-in-Hand

By John Almond - August 23, 2012

(Sixth in a series)

In this day and age, both teachers and administrators are being stretched to the limit. Expectations placed upon them seem to be expanding exponentially. For teachers in particular, their role encompasses not only teaching specific content standards, but, often times, functioning as frontline social workers as well. In addition to being expected to deal with a variety of broader social problems that find their way into the classroom, many other pressures plague teachers. A few of these pressures are: inadequate supplies, large classes, disruptive students, public criticism, limited assistance, increased duties, and relatively low salaries that, in most districts, have not been increased in a number of years...

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Poll Finds Deep Partisan Split on Education Issues, Including Charter Schools, Vouchers, Immigrants

August 23, 2012

Americans have a number of conflicting viewpoints in their preferences for investing in schools, going head-to-head on issues like paying for the education of the children of illegal immigrants, according to the 2012 annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, released this week.

There are clear partisan divides over whether children of illegal immigrants should receive free public education, school lunches, and other benefits, with 65 percent of Democrats versus 21 percent of Republicans favoring it...

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Two Minutes on Mentoring

Summer Offers Time for Reading, and Even Relaxation

By Dr. Kenneth Magdaleno - August 9, 2012

Being on vacation has been an interesting experience for me this year. Although we have stayed in Fresno and faced the 100-degree-plus temperature (supposed to be 106 degrees today), I have actually found time to relax a bit. People who know me are aware that I do not relax easily; it is sometimes more stressful to attempt to relax than continuing to work. However, this year has been different. Completing small projects around the house, watching movies, going to the gym regularly, and now reading a book (or three) have allowed me time to reflect on the various “activities” I’m involved in throughout the year and how they could not be possible without others who have also committed to “changing the world” one person at a time...

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Biden Defends Obama Education Policy, Criticizes Romney in Speech to Michigan Teachers

August 9, 2012

The Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns are squaring off on education issues – especially in hotly contested Midwestern states where the race is thought to be close.  Reporter David Jesse of the Detroit Free Press covered events in Michigan last weekend.

Jesse covered Vice President Joe Biden’s speech to a convention of teachers in Detroit, which (as you might expect) defended the Obama Administration’s education policy, and criticized the positions of presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney...

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CDE Acknowledges Some Students Used Their Phones to Photograph STAR Test Questions Last Spring

SBE Discusses Possible Changes to STAR Tests and School Accountability Report Card

By Jeff Hudson - July 19, 2012

Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Zeiger acknowledged during Wednesday’s meeting of the State Board of Education (SBE) that the California Department of Education (CDE) has been looking into recent reports that hundreds of California students used their mobile phones to take pictures that included STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) testing documents during last spring’s round of state-mandated assessments.

Zeiger told the SBE that the CDE had learned of 442 episodes in which students took pictures with their phones, “mostly of the front page (of the testing book)...

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Brown Taps Bruce Holaday as New SBE Member

July 19, 2012

On July 6, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Bruce Holaday, 59, of Oakland, as a member of the State Board of Education.

Holaday has been director of educational advancement at Wildlife Associates since 2010. He was director of Newpoint Tampa High School from 2009 to 2010 and director of the Oakland Military Institute (a college prep academy founded by Jerry Brown in 2001, when he was serving as Mayor of Oakland) from 2004 to 2009...

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Leadership

Building Trust among Your Teachers

By John Almond - July 19, 2012

(Fifth in a series)

In my last two articles, I focused on suggestions in terms of what principals and other administrators can do to build trust and establish relationships.

I would like to point out, however, that the responsibility for building trust among teachers falls on the shoulders of both principals and teachers.

Principals can and should take an active role in creating the necessary conditions for teacher relationships that are both collegial and congenial (Sergiovanni, 1992)...

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Leadership

Suggestions for Building Trust

By John Almond - June 28, 2012

(Fourth in a series)

In my previous article, I attempted to point out that improving the level of trust between administrators and teachers in any given school requires a concerted effort, and, while all parties play a significant role, the major burden falls upon the principal to set the tone for building that trust.

Here are a few additional suggestions that many researchers and practitioners believe are necessary for building trust and establishing those all important relationships...

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Government Releases Plan to Help Disadvantaged Students Access College Through Savings Accounts

June 28, 2012

The U.S. Department of Education announced on May 31 that it will further help thousands of disadvantaged students access higher education through investing in college savings accounts. The College Savings Account Research Demonstration Project will commit $8.7 million of federal GEAR UP funds to support college savings accounts for students participating in the GEAR UP program, which is designed to increase the college readiness of low-income middle school and high school students.

The project will provide about 10,000 high school students with savings accounts as well as counseling to develop smart financial habits...

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Leadership

Laying a Foundation for Building Trust

By John Almond - June 14, 2012

(Third in a series)

Improving the level of trust between administrators and teachers in any given school really depends, to a high degree, upon individual circumstances. For example, school size, stability, history, and existing relationships among faculty and administrators all play a part in determining a proper course of action in order to increase the level of trust. Listed below are some general suggestions from researchers and practitioners for laying a foundation for building that trust.

Personal integrity: First and foremost, highly regarded principals consistently demonstrate honesty and commitment to follow through in all interactions with faculty, support staff, parents, and students...

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Leadership

The Key Components of Trust

By John Almond - May 31, 2012

(Second in a series)

In general terms, trust relationships involve risk, reliability, vulnerability, and expectation (Hoy and Tschannen-Moran, 2003).  If there is nothing at stake, or, if one party does not require anything of the other party, trust is not an issue. In school settings, however, there is always a high degree of risk coupled with expectations. Staff and students alike are constantly put in positions in which they are expected to perform certain duties, but, at the same time, their well-being depends upon others fulfilling certain obligations...

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Leadership

The Importance of Building Trust

By John Almond - May 10, 2012

(First in a series)

In examining the literature on school reform, words like trust, respect, and collegiality appear time and time again. While it seems to be generally assumed that trust is a key criterion for successful school improvement efforts, it is actually difficult to find concrete research on the matter.

Part of the problem, undoubtedly, is the vague nature of the word trust. Although most of us can easily identify relationships in which trust is or is not present, clearly defining precisely what trust entails is harder to do...

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New Field Poll Results

Brown's Initiative Holds Narrow Majority Among Voters; Munger Initiative Drawing Less Support

By Mark DiCamillo and Mervin Field, The Field Poll - June 14, 2012

While there is greater overall support for Governor Jerry Brown's tax increase initiative than for a competing measure sponsored by political activist Molly Munger, many voters currently have similar voting preferences toward both measures, according to a new Field Poll released on June 9.

The Governor's proposal is currently favored by a 52% to 35% margin statewide. It calls for increasing state personal income taxes on persons making over $250 thousand dollars for seven years and raising the state sales tax by one-quarter cent for four years...

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Candidate Mitt Romney Outlines Education Policy He Would Pursue as President

May 31, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivered a speech in Boston on May 23 that outlined the education policy he would pursue if elected.  Romney criticized President Obama’s preference for increased spending over “genuine reform,” and emphasized the unproductive role that teachers’ unions have played for decades.

“I believe the President must be troubled by the lack of progress since he took office.  Most likely, he would have liked to do more,” said Romney...

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SBE Initiates Review of Assessment System, Approves California's NCLB Waiver Request

By Jeff Hudson - May 10, 2012

Assessing academic progress – for individual pupils as well as schools – was a major topic of discussion for the State Board of Education on Wednesday, as the trustees considered several items relating to the topic.

The SBE heard a preliminary report on the first two meetings of the AB 250 Work Group, which is charged with considering possible changes to the Statewide Pupil Assessment System – with recommendations to go to the Legislature by November 2012...

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Tuition Increases, State's Economy Are Factors

PPIC Study Finds UC, CSU Enrollment Rates Fall 20 Percent for State's High School Grads

May 10, 2012

The share of California high school graduates enrolling in the state's public colleges and universities has declined significantly over the past five years, despite increasing demand for higher education. This is the conclusion of a new report by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) examining the impact of declining state support on enrollment at the University of California (UC), the California State University (CSU), and community college systems.

Enrollment rates at UC and CSU have fallen by one-fifth, from about 22 percent of all California high school graduates in 2007 to less than 18 percent in 2010...

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Leadership

Monitor Two Areas for Key Performance Indicators That Signal Rising Student Achievement

By John Almond - April 19, 2012

(Fifth in a series)

In this last of a series of articles, I will focus on two other performance areas to effectively promote student achievement as well as summarize key indicators that demonstrate effective principal leadership.

Performance Area: Implementing and monitoring the school improvement plan

Even clearly stated curricular goals will lose their potential to drive the efforts of a school if no effort is made to collect and analyze accurate information about student achievement that is reflective of those goals...

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Principals' Impact is Strongest in Low Performing Schools, NSBA Report Concludes

April 19, 2012

A new report finds that school principals have an effect estimated to be second only to teachers, with their biggest impact found in high-poverty, high-minority schools.

The National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education’s, “The Principal Perspective,” report, released April 10, looks at the impact a principal actually has on a school and what qualities make an effective principal...

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Leadership

Use an Array of Skills to Promote Achievement

By John Almond - April 4, 2012

(Fourth in a series)

In my most recent article, I pointed out a few of the more common themes in the area of performance indicators that researchers have identified as necessary for a principal to effectively lead a school in improving student achievement. While these performance areas are not the total answer to successfully turn around a low performing school, they are common in most of the research pertaining to continuous school improvement...

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LAUSD Puts Parcel Tax Measure on November Ballot; Arcadia, Davis Voters Approve School Parcel Taxes

By Jeff Hudson - March 22, 2012

Voters in the mammoth Los Angeles will be asked to approve a school parcel tax in November. Meanwhile, two much smaller school districts in comparatively affluent communities approved school parcel taxes earlier this month in vote-by-mail elections.

School parcel taxes require a two-thirds majority for approval, and “conventional wisdom” holds that it is easier to achieve a two-thirds majority in a smaller district (under 20,000 students), because voters in smaller districts tend to identify more closely with their local school system...

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Leadership

Promoting Student Achievement

By John Almond - March 8, 2012

(Third in a series)

In my last article, I attempted to focus on the principal’s role in terms of setting direction for the school in order to promote student achievement. In addition to setting direction, the research also points out that developing people and redesigning the organization as needed are the other key elements for leaders to significantly improve student learning in their schools.

A great deal of the focus in education literature regarding the principal’s role in developing staff members has been on instructional leadership, which emphasizes the need to provide guidance in order to improve teachers’ classroom practices...

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SBE Discusses State-Defined NCLB Waiver, Postpones Action to Give CDE More Time to Develop Application

By Jeff Hudson - March 8, 2012

At Wednesday’s meeting in Sacramento, the State Board of Education heard an update on the proposed “state-defined waiver” that the California Department of Education (CDE) is preparing as an alternative response to the federal Department of Education’s waiver proposal offering relief from some of the sanctions of No Child Left Behind legislation, as outlined by a federal spokesman in January.

While it was clear that the SBE will likely propose a state-defined waiver at some future date, the SBE members also felt the still-developing state response – assembled over the past seven weeks – needs a bit more work before it is formally sent to Obama Administration authorities...

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Federal Report Examines Civil Rights Issues

New Data Highlights Educational Inequities around Teacher Experience, Discipline and High School Rigor

March 8, 2012

A report released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) finds that minority students across America face harsher discipline, have less access to rigorous high school curricula, and are more often taught by lower-paid and less experienced teachers.

In an event at Howard University (in Washington, DC) attended by civil rights and education reform groups, federal education officials released new data from a national survey of more than 72,000 schools serving 85% of the nation’s students. The self-reported data, Part II of the 2009-10 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), covers a range of issues including college and career readiness, discipline, school finance, and student retention...

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Leadership

The School Principal Plays an Important Role in Promoting Student Achievement

By John Almond - March 1, 2012

(Second in a series)

District and school leadership has been the focus of intense study in recent years as researchers try to define the qualities of effective leadership as well as the impact of leadership on the operation of schools, including student achievement.

In one particular study, the authors of How Leadership Influences Student learning made two important claims.  First, “leadership is second only to classroom instruction among all school related factors that contribute to what students learn at school.” Second, “leadership effects are usually largest where and when they are needed most.”...

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Gates Opposes Public Ranking of Teacher Effectiveness, Calls for Multiple Measures for Evaluating Performance

By Jeff Hudson - February 23, 2012

Bill Gates caught a number of teachers union activists by surprise on Thursday, announcing that he feels publicly disclosing teachers’ individual performance assessments is “a big mistake.”

Gates – who rose to prominence as the leader of Microsoft (and was ranked for a time as the world’s wealthiest individual – has more recently become a major source of financing for several “education reform” groups that promote the implementation of teacher evaluation systems that use student testing data as a measure of teacher effectiveness. Gates has channeled millions of dollars to these groups through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation...

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Two Minutes on Mentoring

Taking the Time to Make a Difference for Others

By Ken Magdaleno - February 23, 2012

As we approach the last week of February, I would like to remind all of you that January was National Mentoring Month. And for me, personally, it was an opportunity to see mentoring in action in many different forms and formats.

As I’ve often stated in these “Two Minutes on Mentoring” pieces, mentoring is about those people who have taken the time to make a difference for others. As such, I’d like to suggest that for all of you who have been mentored over the years, that this is an opportunity to do one, or all, of the following in recognition of the value of mentoring...

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Two Minutes on Mentoring

Developing Leadership in the Latino Community

By Ken Magdaleno - January 26, 2012

It’s amazing to me that 2011 has come and gone so quickly. It was a year of many changes and challenges which, in retrospect, was a very good thing. Change happens and one can choose to see it as a roadblock or as an opportunity… we at CLEAR have definitely seen the future as bursting with opportunity.

In giving thought to this version of “Two Minutes on Mentoring,” I was taken back to 2001 when the subject of mentoring first came to mind as an area of research and action. It was a time when the inequity of the lack of Latino leadership in the educational system of the State of California first became clear to me...

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SBE Hears Details of NCLB Waiver Offer, Will Make Decision in March

By Jeff Hudson - January 12, 2012

The State Board of Education heard details of a waiver deal covering portions of the oft-criticized No Child Left Behind legislation on Wednesday — and the details came from an authoritative source. Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Michael Yudin came to Sacramento and made a presentation to the SBE on Wednesday.

“Our effort here is about releasing the pressure valve of NCLB,” Yudin told the SBE. “There are almost 3,890 schools in California that are in improvement status. We need to remove that barrier. We’re taking the pressure off.”...

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Leadership

The Role of Professional Learning Communities in Student Achievement

By John Almond - January 12, 2012

(First article in a series)

In a never ending desire to promote higher student achievement, the establishment of professional learning communities has become a goal for most public school administrators. A professional learning community exists in a school when teachers and administrators continuously seek and share new learning opportunities in order to increase their professional effectiveness.

Professional learning communities are based on the belief that student learning is greatly improved when it is undertaken in a collaborative environment. Such an environment exists when educators can test their ideas, challenge each others’ assumptions, and process new information together...

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Leadership

Strategies, Actions to Boost School Connectedness

By John Almond - December 15, 2011

(Sixth in a series)

In this last of a series of articles, some key factors and specific strategies that can help strengthen school connectedness for students are identified.

These key factors include: adult support, belonging to a positive peer group, commitment to education, and a positive school environment. School staff members are important adults in every student’s life. The time, interest, attention, and emotional support that they give students can engage them in school and learning.

Specific strategies and actions that schools can take to influence student connectedness are as follows...

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U.S. Education Department Releases Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies

December 15, 2011

On Dec. 6, the U.S. Department of Education released Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies, a new report summarizing current approaches in the 46 states with anti-bullying laws and the 41 states that have created anti-bullying policies as models for schools.

The report shows the prevalence of state efforts to combat bullying over the last several years. From 1999 to 2010, more than 120 bills were enacted by state legislatures from across the country to either introduce or amend statutes that address bullying and related behaviors in schools. Twenty-one new bills were enacted in 2010 and eight additional bills were signed into law through April 30, 2011...

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New Federal Effort Aims to Support Diversity, Reduces Racial Isolation in Education

December 15, 2011

On December 2, the federal Departments of Justice and Education released two new guidance documents — one for school districts and one for colleges and universities — detailing the flexibility that the Supreme Court has provided to educational institutions to promote diversity and, in the case of elementary and secondary schools, reduce racial isolation among students within the confines of the law.

The guidance makes clear that educators may permissibly consider the race of students in carefully constructed plans to promote diversity or, in K-12 education, to reduce racial isolation. It recognizes the learning benefits to students when campuses and schools include students of diverse backgrounds...

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Poll Finds Large Majority of Californians Feel Higher Education System Heading in Wrong Direction

December 1, 2011

Most Californians say the state’s public higher education system is headed in the wrong direction, according to a statewide survey released on Nov. 16 by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). With the possibility of more cuts to the state’s public colleges and universities looming, most residents say affordability and the state budget situation — rather than educational quality — are big problems.

Just 28 percent of Californians say the public higher education system is headed in the right direction, while 62 percent see it headed in the wrong direction — a view shared across political parties and regions of the state...

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California PTA Survey Shows Funding, Complete Curriculum, Health and Safety are Top Concerns

December 1, 2011

Adequate funding for education is the most important policy issue that parents and families want the state to address, according to a survey released in November that was conducted by the California State PTA.

The survey showed that 98.6 percent of respondents think adequate state funding is important or extremely important.

The survey measured the importance PTA volunteers place on 33 different legislative and policy issues related to PTA’s major focus areas: education, health, safety and parent involvement...

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Leadership

Teachers Make the Difference in Improving Student Connectedness

By John Almond - November 17, 2011

(Fifth in a series)

While there are many strategies or actions to improve school connectedness for students, research points to the fact that teachers have the opportunity and the ability to have the greatest impact in this area. In this fifth of a series of articles, the focus is on specific strategies that teachers can employ to promote student connectedness where students in general feel valued and supported.

  1. Establish high academic expectations. While basically all teachers will say that they have high expectations, great teachers use a challenging curriculum supported by multiple strategies to assess students including projects and presentations to go along with written examinations. In essence, they involve students as educators as well as learners...

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U.S. Department of Education Proposes Dedicated Office for Early Learning to Oversee Some RTTT Grants

November 10, 2011

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Education announced a proposal to create an Office of Early Learning, tasked with overseeing the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grants and coordinating early learning programs across the Department.

“Effective early learning programs are essential to prepare our children for success in school and beyond,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “A dedicated early learning office will institutionalize, elevate and coordinate federal support for high-quality early learning, while enhancing support for state efforts to build high-performing early education systems.”...

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Leadership

Actions to Improve School Connectedness

By John Almond - November 3, 2011

(Fourth in a series)

In any organization, there is no substitute for capable, motivational leadership, and schools are no exception. School administrators and teachers set the tone, provide behavioral examples, and establish a climate of trust or mistrust.

In this fourth of a series of articles, I will attempt to focus on specific actions or strategies that leaders can implement to improve school connectedness for students.

  1. Be committed to collaborative leadership as opposed to authoritarian leadership. Where students are concerned, I would suggest that a process be established to negotiate rule...

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Two Minutes on Mentoring

As the Saying Goes, "Now is the Time"

By Ken Magdaleno - October 20, 2011

If now is not the time for mentoring…I don’t know when the time will be.

Each evening, I have occasion to watch as newscasters speak of a world seemingly spinning faster and faster. Communication occurs at a moment’s notice. From one side of the world to the other…we are connected. Leaders are expected to make decisions “now” and to have the answer “yesterday.” The social judgment capabilities that leaders and mentors are expected to possess, as I wrote of last month, include extraordinary levels of moral reasoning, social competence, and wisdom (Covey, 1997); all as important now as ever...

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McFarland Unified Making Headway As Elementary Schools Post Gains on Academic Performance Index

By Jeff Hudson - October 6, 2011

For Superintendent Gabriel McCurtis of the McFarland Unified School district in the southern San Joaquin Valley, the progress of his district’s two elementary schools will hopefully open the way for improved academic performance at the district’s middle school and high school in the near future.

McFarland’s two elementary schools have posted significant gains in California’s Academic Performance Index during the past four years and topped their API goals for this year. Kern Avenue Elementary now has an API of 767, up 63 points from four years ago...

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Leadership

School Climate and Environment Affects Student Connectedness, Relationships with Teachers

By John Almond - October 6, 2011

(Third in a series)

The relationships that students develop with teachers, administrators, and other support staff do not develop in a vacuum. Schools are responsible for providing students with a safe environment in which to develop academically, emotionally, and behaviorally. One element of the school environment is the school climate, which, at its most positive, includes a strong emphasis on academic achievement, positive relationships among students and teachers, respect for all members of the school community, fair and consistent discipline policies, attention to safety issues, and family and community involvement...

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Two Minutes on Mentoring

Ethics of Mentoring Trace Back Thousands of Years

By Ken Magdaleno - September 29, 2011

Mentoring has been, is, and always will be an important part of my life. I continue to have the opportunity to meet with protégés on a regular basis and am richly rewarded by the knowledge and experiences they share with me. This “mentoring” has a history and structure that I would like to share with you.

Since ancient times, mentors have been described as socially capable and knowledgeable individuals who develop protégés by sharing their wisdom (Covey, 1997)...

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Leadership

Individuals Make the Difference for Kids

By John Almond - September 22, 2011

(Second article in a series)

In the first article of this series, reference was made to the importance of school connectedness for students to be successful. There is no doubt that relationships between and among students and school staff members play a critical role in students feeling connected to their school.

By the time students arrive at the high school level, research indicates that as many as forty to sixty percent are chronically disengaged from school. That disturbing number does not even include the young people that have already dropped out...

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Leadership

Connecting With Kids Builds Relationships

By John Almond - September 8, 2011

In order to build relationships with kids, it is paramount that students feel connected to school. Connectedness occurs when students believe that adults in the school care about their learning and about them as individuals. Critical elements for feeling connected include high academic rigor and expectations coupled with support for learning, positive adult-student interaction, and physical and emotional safety.

Increasing the number of students connected to school is likely to improve critical accountability measures...

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SBE Finalizes Parent Trigger Regulations, Requests SIG Grant Waiver, Hears Update on Common Core Issues

By Jeff Hudson - September 8, 2011

Wednesday’s meeting of the State Board of Education featured an update on the California Department of Education’s (CDE’s) implementation of the recently-adopted Common Core curriculum standards, as well as the anticipated formal adoption of Parent Empowerment/Parent Trigger regulations (discussed at the July SBE meeting), and discussion of School Improvement Grants (SIG) as well as several items relating to charter schools.

Tom Adams and Rachel Perry, the CDE’s directors, presented the update...

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Leadership

Experienced Leaders Know Trust Must be Earned

By John Almond - August 25, 2011

(Fourth in a series)

In this last of a series of articles on building trust and establishing relationships, a few additional strategies will be shared that may prove useful to you as a leader and a role model in “setting the tone”. Those few additional strategies or techniques are the following:

  1. Visit classrooms regularly. How many times have you heard teachers lament that their administrator doesn’t remember what it is like to be in the classroom? Spending time in classrooms will definitely demonstrate that you care about the children and the instructional program...

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"Deliberative Poll" Yields Intriguing Results

Despite Low Opinion of Legislature, Many Voters Support Longer Terms, More Representatives

August 25, 2011

Californians want more oversight over elected officials, a clear and strong initiative process, and more power for local governments, according to the results of California's first-ever deliberative poll, organizers of which agree can – and should – guide efforts to fix state government.

More than 400 people – a scientifically selected random sample – came to Torrance in June for the What's Next California? deliberative poll.

“Ordinary polls provide a momentary snapshot of the public's impressions of sound bites and headlines,” said Stanford University's James Fishkin...

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Torlakson Seeks Relief from NCLB Sanctions, Asks Federal Support for State Accountability Systems

August 25, 2011

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson sent a letter this week calling on U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to provide state schools with immediate relief from the flawed policies of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

“Relief is needed immediately before more schools suffer for another school year under inappropriate labels and ineffective interventions,” Torlakson wrote in a letter to Duncan, which was dated Tuesday, and released to the press on Thursday morning...

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Torlakson Announces New Director to Head State Special Schools and Services Division

August 25, 2011

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson last Thursday announced that Scott D. Kerby has been selected as Director of the California Department of Education's State Special Schools and Services Division.

“I am pleased that Scott is coming on board as our director of State Special Schools, bringing with him more than 30 years of teaching and administrative experience,” said Torlakson. “Scott has already spent several years at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside so he is well-situated to understand and support the culture, issues, and structure of these vital communities.”...

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Poll Shows Higher Confidence in Teachers, Despite Negative View of Roles Played by Governors, Unions

August 18, 2011

Despite low opinions of the nation’s schools, Americans rate their public school teachers more highly now than they have in the past, according to the 2011 annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, released on Wednesday. More than 70 percent of Americans say they have trust and confidence in the men and women who are teaching in public schools. Sixty-nine percent of Americans give public school teachers in their community a letter grade of an A or B, compared to only 50 percent in 1984...

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New Census Data, California Voting Rights Act Prompt School Districts to Examine How They Elect Trustees

August 18, 2011

Two years ago, in August 2009, EdBrief carried a story about lawsuits being brought against several school districts by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.  The LRCC argued that these school districts were in violation of the California Voting Rights Act of 2002, and needed to switch to electing school board trustees by district, rather than on an “at-large” basis.

The issue continues to be timely. Many government agencies – including school districts – are proceeding with their once-a-decade redrafting of boundaries of districts represented by elected office holders...

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Leadership

Develop Leadership Qualities That Promote Trust

By John Almond - August 11, 2011

(Third in a series)

In this third of a series of articles, the attempt is to provide additional strategies/practices that promote trust and build positive relationships. As previously mentioned, creating a school culture that promotes academic success for all students, requires school leaders to develop and nurture relationships among all stakeholders.

The following suggestions are simply food for thought as you attempt to establish yourself as an instructional leader who produces results...

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Major Shortfall of College Educated Workers Seen by 2025

Torlakson Releases Transition Advisory Team Report, With Focus on Effective Teaching, Student Support

August 11, 2011

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on Tuesday released A Blueprint for Great Schools, a report by his 59-member Transition Advisory Team calling for California to foster excellence in teaching, provide community support for families, and retool schools to make more students competitive in college and the workforce.

The 31-page report was prepared by Torlakson’s Transition Advisory Team, composed of leading teachers, parents, school employees and administrators as well as community, labor, and business leaders...

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Congressional Inaction Triggers Policy Shift

Administration Announces Waiver Process, Offering States Some Relief from Key NCLB Provisions

August 11, 2011

With the new school year already underway in some districts, and no Congressional action to date to reform the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, the Obama administration announced plans on Monday to provide a process for states to seek relief from key provisions of the law, provided that they are willing to embrace education reform.

Melody Barnes, Director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House, and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan jointly announced the President's directive in the White House briefing room...

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Two Minutes on Mentoring

Successful Mentoring Involves Guiding (Not Telling), and Thoughtful Two-Way Communication

By Ken Magdaleno - August 4, 2011

“Try to remember that mentoring is a process of becoming, not an unimpeded march to perfection. The odds of success increase tremendously when we understand that mutual discovery, not exclusive answers, leads to potential. The best mentors spark the discovery.”

The above quote, taken from the work of author Walter C. Wright, Jr., speaks to that which I have found to be extremely important for mentors to remember. As a mentor it is not your role to tell protégés what to do, but rather to guide them to the answer that the protégé quite often already knows, but may not completely understand or have the confidence to implement...

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Harvard Survey Finds Public, Teachers Increasingly Divided on Issues Including Vouchers, Merit Pay

August 4, 2011

The fifth annual survey conducted by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) and Education Next on a wide range of education issues, which was released on Wednesday, reveals that the opinions of the public have remained largely unchanged since one year ago, despite controversies in Wisconsin, Indiana and many other states. However, teacher opposition to many reforms has increased, placing them more at odds with views of the general public.

An article, “The Public Weighs In on School Reform,” interpreting this year’s results by William Howell, Martin West, and Paul Peterson, will appear in the Fall 2011 issue of Education Next, and is currently available at www.educationnext.org...

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Deadline for Responses is August 8

SBE Opens Public Comment on Latest Parent Trigger Regulations

July 28, 2011

Last Friday, the California Department of Education opened the third comment period, relating to the third version of Parent Empowerment/Parent Trigger regulations.

The proposed regulations were discussed at the July 13-14 meeting of the State Board of Education, and given a green light by the SBE in a unanimous vote at that time. The regulations can be reviewed by clicking here...

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Leadership

Leadership Qualities That Promote Trust

By John Almond - July 21, 2011

(Second in a series)

In the first article in this series, it was pointed out that building trust and establishing relationships doesn’t “just happen.” Relationships take time to create, and the cornerstone of all relationships and communication is trust.

In order for trust to develop among all stakeholders, the case could be made that it is the leader’s responsibility to develop a plan that will allow for a collaborative work environment to exist and trust to develop. Without trust, the level of communication will be seriously compromised. Often times, it is said that a plan failed when, in reality, the key contributing factor to the failed communication was that there was no actual plan...

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Researchers Conclude Stronger Principal Evaluation Processes Can Lead to Better Schools

July 21, 2011

Principal evaluation processes hold great promise for strengthening the capacity of principals and, by doing so, improve schools, but the current research raises questions about the consistency, fairness, and value of current principal evaluation practices, according to two national education researchers who recently completed a scan of current research on the topic and announced their results in a panel presentation last week.

Improved principal evaluation systems are “long overdue” because “school principals have a strong effect on student achievement,” according to Designing Principal Evaluations Systems: Research to Guide Decision-Making...

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Several CEOs Announce New Investments

President Obama Meets with Business Leaders, Urging Investments to Ensure a Competitive Workforce

July 21, 2011

President Barack Obama hosted an education roundtable on Monday with business and political leaders, including America’s Promise Alliance Chair Alma Powell and Founding Chair General Colin Powell, to discuss building upon strong industry-led partnerships that are working to transform the American education system. Other corporate partners in attendance include representatives from the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Coalition for Student Achievement, the Business-Higher Education Forum, and the United Way...

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SBE Approves Parent Trigger Regulations for Comment, Discusses SIG Funds, and Common Core Standards

By Jeff Hudson - July 14, 2011

Regulations relating to California’s Parent Trigger law, questions that have arisen regarding School Improvement Grants (SIG) and a discussion of Common Core Curriculum issues were on the agenda during this week’s State Board of Education meeting in Sacramento.

Parent Trigger

During action on Wednesday, the State Board of Education (SBE) unanimously approved proposed regulations for implementing the Parent Empowerment Act, which will now go out for a 15-day public comment period and legal review, and then come back on the SBE’s agenda in September for formal approval...

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Leadership

Building Trust, Establishing Relationships Are Critical Keys to Success for School Administrators

By John Almond - July 7, 2011

(First in a series)

For the past few years, I have had the privilege of “coaching” over forty new and aspiring administrators, and I have often been asked to express what I consider to be the most important factor in determining one’s success as a public school administrator.

Without a doubt, I believe that the ability to earn trust and establish relationships is far and away the most important element.

In creating a school culture that promotes academic success for all students, school leaders need to develop and nurture relationships among all stakeholders...

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Many Educators Wary of ESEA "Flexibility" Proposals; ACSA Advises Districts to "Proceed With Caution"

June 29, 2011

The Obama Administration has indicated it plans to provide flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act if Congress fails to reauthorize the bill prior to the August recess, but exactly what this means for schools is still uncertain.

As reported in EdBrief earlier this month, U.S. Secretary for Education Arne Duncan said that providing some form of flexibility will help support reform efforts under way at the state and local level, as the law in its current form “is creating a slow-motion train wreck for children, parents and teachers.”...

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Leadership

Resistance to Change Thrives When the Change Process Moves Too Slowly

By John Almond - June 23, 2011

(Part Six in a series)

In general, resisters to change rely on a strategy of slowing down the change process as much as possible.

In fact, resisters don’t want to move slowly; they don’t want to move at all. Typically, their behavior is carefully calculated so that the change process will stall and lose momentum.

Normally resisters tend to urge caution about the risks of rapid change. They will condemn rapid movement toward implementation as reckless and irresponsible...

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Superintendent Uses Yo-Yos, Technology, Nutrition and the Arts to Promote Student Progress in Central Valley

By Jeff Hudson - June 23, 2011

As Superintendent of the Fresno County Office of Education, Larry Powell serves nearly 200,000 students – they come from all sorts of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, and they are enrolled in 34 districts as small as Big Creek Elementary (a one-school district with an average daily attendance of about 40 students, located at the 5,000-foot level in the southern Sierra Nevada) to Fresno Unified (the fourth largest in the state, with about 76,000 students).

“We’e got a very large Hispanic population, over 50 percent,” Powell told EdBrief in a recent interview...

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Supreme Court Upholds Law Allowing Undocumented High School Graduates to Pay In-State College Tuition

By Jeff Hudson - June 9, 2011

In a decision that has implications for thousands of California high school students, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to a California Supreme Court decision last fall that allowed California colleges and universities to grant in-state tuition to students with undocumented immigration status who graduated from California high schools.

The case involves a state law (AB 540) that was approved in 2002, which allowed undocumented students who had attended high school for three years in California to attend the University of California, California State University, and community college systems while paying in-state tuition...

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Leadership

Gaining an Understanding of Resistance to Change

By John Almond - June 2, 2011

(Fifth in the series)

In my previous article, I attempted to clearly point out that communication is the crucial element in keeping an initiative for change moving forward.

Communication alone, however, is not going to diminish the level of resistance. You must also attempt to understand the reasoning behind why people are being resistant.

The first step is probably to recognize that resistance comes in many forms or categories. There are those who are loud, outspoken, and are very visible in their opposition to change...

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Justice Sotomayor Swears In President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

June 2, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Court's first Hispanic justice, swore in more than a dozen newly appointed members of the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics at an official ceremony held last Friday at the Smithsonian Institution. The Commissioners are tasked with advising President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to help improve academic excellence and opportunities for Hispanic students across the country.

The Commissioners will work closely with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics to meet President Obama's goals for the nation to have the best-educated workforce in the world by 2020...

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Budget Cuts Trigger Crisis, Petition Drive Launched

National School Boards Association Calls on Duncan to Provide Relief from Regulatory Requirements of NCLB

May 26, 2011

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to provide relief from a heavy load of regulatory requirements stemming from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB), reporting mandates from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), and other federal programs to alleviate undue pressure on the nation’s schools.

“While ARRA and the Education Jobs Funds have helped, school districts have not seen a great deal of this fiscal relief,” said Anne L. Bryant, Executive Director of NSBA, on Tuesday...

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Two Minutes on Mentoring

Successful Mentoring Is About "Others," Not "Me"

By Dr. Kenneth R. Magdaleno – May 12, 2011

“A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” ~ Unknown

At its core, mentoring is about “others.” And in a society where the focus in so often on “me,” it’s refreshing to be around people who first think about others.

I have the good fortune to be around people like this on a regular occasion. A good mentor naturally thinks of others...

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Torlakson Cites Crowded Classrooms, Shorter School Year

CELDT Results Show Modest Decline in Percentage of English Learners at ‘Advanced,’ ‘Early Advanced’ Stage

May 12, 2011

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on Tuesday released the results of the 2010-11 California English Language Development Test (CELDT) that shows a modest decline in the percentage of English-learner students at the advanced and early advanced performance levels this year over last, but still higher than in the 2006–07 school year.

“These results demonstrate that the valiant efforts of teachers and school administrators to help our students become fluent in English are being undermined by budget cuts that are crowding classes and shortening the school year,” Torlakson said...

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Leadership

Facing Challenges As You Invoke Change at School

By John Almond - May 12, 2011

(Fourth in the series)

Change and dealing with resistance often produces some rather distasteful side effects. In this fourth of a series of articles, we will focus on the predictability of problems that arise when instituting change in a district or school, and how to deal with such problems.

I’m sure that we can all agree that the intent of instituting a change is to fix a problem. But before you get very far in the process, you often have to deal with the problems that arise as a result of your proposed solutions...

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Brown Visits PTA Convention, Pitches Plan for State Ballot Measure to Prevent Further Cuts to Education

May 5, 2011

Governor Jerry Brown spoke at the 112th Annual California State PTA Convention last Thursday in Long Beach, giving a 20-minute speech that included another pitch for a statewide election to give voters a choice on extending certain sales and income taxes, rather than impose an “all-cuts” budget that would mean further reductions in funding for education.

"Schools are the future, and you are the voice of those schools, so we've got to hear from you. You have the credibility," Brown told the PTA convention delegates...

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SBE Names Sue Burr as Executive Director

May 5, 2011

Sue Burr was appointed last week by the State Board of Education to serve as the executive director of the board. In addition to her responsibilities as executive director, Burr will also advise Governor Brown on education policy, legislation and budget matters, student college readiness, teacher credentialing, early childhood education issues and school construction.

Burr has served as the executive director of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) since 2006, after serving as the association’s governmental relations director from 2003 to 2006...

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Leadership

Additional Strategies to Deal with Resistance

By John Almond - April 28, 2011

(Third in the series)

In this article, I will continue to focus on strategies to effectively deal with resistance to change. As we all know, change has been a constant in public education for many years, and there is no doubt in my mind that change will continue to occur as we constantly must strive to raise the level of student achievement.

In dealing with resistance, you can’t expect people to be enthusiastic fans of change if they can’t begin to figure out how it is going to affect them. We can call it pure selfishness or possibly self-preservation, but people want to know: What’s going to happen to me?...

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Deadlock in Sacramento Leads to New Effort

ACSA, CTA Pushing "State of Emergency" Campaign Urging Prompt Legislative Action on State Budget

April 21, 2011

The Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), the California Teachers Association (CTA) and other education, labor and community groups are mounting a “State of Emergency” campaign to focus attention to the need for lawmakers to pass revenue extensions proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The campaign is currently holding events in different parts of the state, and will culminate in a series of events during the second week of May.

Many school districts are financially stymied by the current stalemate in Sacramento where negotiations over the state budget have been deadlocked for weeks...

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Remarks at San Francisco Conference

Rice: Local Districts Can Provide Education Solutions

April 14, 2011

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged school board members to see the potential in every one of their students during her speech at the National School Boards Association’s 71st Annual Conference, held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Rice shared her thoughts on the future of education and its importance to the country, particularly to the military and national defense.

“The crisis in K-12 schools, I think, is our greatest national security problem,” she said. “If we do not educate our kids, what holds us together as a people is in jeopardy.”...

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Conference Calls for Reauthorization of ESEA, Replacement of "Flawed Requirements" of NCLB

April 14, 2011

The Delegate Assembly of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) adopted resolutions over the weekend calling for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the need for targeted federal investments in public education to promote student achievement and fully fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

The Delegate Assembly, representing the more than 90,000 school board members in the country and composed of elected leaders of state school boards associations, met in San Francisco over the past weekend...

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Leadership

Strategies When Dealing with Resistance

By John Almond - April 7, 2011

(Second in the series)

In my last article, I attempted to focus on the most common side effect of instituting change within any organization, and that side effect is dealing with resistance.

In this article, I will attempt to provide strategies to deal with resisters, while clearly recognizing that there are no silver bullets.

Education is the first step in helping everyone to understand the need for some form of change. Your explanation needs to be extremely clear and, hopefully, shows how your district measures up or ranks against the performance benchmarks of other districts...

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New Program Aims to Prevent Campus Sexual Assault

April 7, 2011

On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden and federal Secretary of Education Arne Duncan introduced comprehensive guidance to help schools, colleges and universities better understand their obligations under federal civil rights laws to prevent and respond to the problem of campus sexual assault. The new guidance, announced at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire, makes clear the legal obligations under Title IX of any school, college or university receiving federal funds to respond promptly and effectively to sexual violence. The guidance also provides practical examples to aid educators in ensuring the safety of their students...

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Vernon Billy to Lead CSBA as New Executive

April 7, 2011

The California School Boards Association (CSBA) announced this week the appointment of Vernon Billy as the organization’s new executive director.

“I am ready to begin working on behalf of CSBA’s membership,” said Billy. “It is a privilege to lead CSBA at a time when I know our members need the association’s services and support more than ever. Within the next 90 days, I will work collaboratively with the board and staff to review the organization’s fiscal and governance structure in order to build on our current strengths and assure our members that we are operating in the most efficient manner possible.”...

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Court Ruling Means School Districts Left on Their Own to Provide Mental Health Services

April 1, 2011

The California School Boards Association (CSBA) will ask the California Supreme Court to review a February District Court ruling in Los Angeles, which found that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had the authority to veto funding and suspend a mandate for counties to provide mental health services to students.

The elimination of such funding in the 2010-11 budget for mental health services under Assembly Bill 3632, originally enacted in 1984, relieves counties of their responsibility to cover such costs – and thus leaves it up to Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) and Special Education Local Planning Areas (SELPAs) to care for the mental health needs of their students – largely at the expense of school districts’ shrinking general funds...

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Obama: Too Much Testing Can Make Education Boring

April 1, 2011

President Barack Obama suggested on Monday that students should take fewer standardized tests, and school performance should be measured in other ways than just exam results. Too much testing makes education boring for kids, he said.

“Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools,” the president told students and parents at a town hall meeting hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C....

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USA Today Story Blasts DC School System, Michelle Rhee Over High Rate of Erasures on Standardized Tests

By Jeff Hudson - April 1, 2011

In a long article published Monday, USA Today cast doubt on the much touted improvement of test scores in the Washington DC public school system under former Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Under the headline “When standardized test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real?” reporters Jack Gillum and Marisol Bello wrote that in the course of their examination of documents and data secured under D.C.'s Freedom of Information Act, they found that for the past three school years most classrooms at the Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus “had extraordinarily high numbers of erasures on standardized tests. The consistent pattern was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones.”...

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Charter Renewal Regulations Released for Comment, Parent Empowerment Regulations Being Developed

March 24, 2011

The California School Boards Association (CSBA) is advising members that while proposed charter renewal regulations could bring needed clarity to the process for renewing school charters, the regulations circulating for comment through March 28 also include a tight timeline that could pose problems for charter authorizers.

“If a governing board fails to make written factual findings as to why the charter school is not renewed within 60 days of a charter school’s submission of a complete petition for renewal, the renewal petition shall be deemed approved,” according to the draft regulations...

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Leadership

Hints on How to Deal With Resistance to Change

By John Almond - March 17, 2011

(First in a series)

In many of the articles that I have written for EdBrief, I have attempted to share some thoughts in regard to leadership styles for various situations, as well as leadership characteristics in general.

Even great leaders who are highly skilled, however, often encounter difficulty, particularly when they are attempting to institute change within the organization. In fact, resistance is probably the most common side effect of change...

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Nearly 19,000 Teachers Pink Slipped

March 17, 2011

Some 18,886 K-12 educators have been pink slipped across the state as of early this week, leaders of the Education Coalition said on Tuesday at a news conference in San Bruno with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

March 15 is the annual deadline for school districts to issue preliminary pink slips for educators, and reports on the number of pink slips issued by school districts were still dribbling into Sacramento...

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SBE Extends Emergency Regulations on Parent Trigger

By Jeff Hudson - March 10, 2011

The State Board of Education (SBE) moved on Wednesday to readopt and extend the existing emergency regulations relating to Parent Trigger/Parent Empowerment legislation – regulations that were hastily approved late last year by a previous panel of SBE members stacked with Schwarzenegger appointees.  The SBE also scheduled a special meeting on April 21 to discuss permanent regulations to implement the law.

“We value the obvious importance of parent involvement in education, and we understand the urgency of this situation,” said SBE President Michael Kirst...

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Obama Kicks Off Month-Long "Education Focus" with Events in Miami, Washington and Boston

March 10, 2011

President Barack Obama initiated a month of events focusing on education with an appearance last Friday at Miami Central Senior High School.  The campus was selected for a Presidential visit because Miami Central has received more than $750,000 in federal School Improvement Grants, implemented various reforms, and experienced a 40-point increase in writing achievement, a 60-point increase in math, and an almost doubling of its previous graduation rate.

It was something of a bipartisan outing, as Obama was joined by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush – a Republican, and the brother of former President George W. Bush, and the son of forme President George H. Bush. Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan was present as well...

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2010 Census Figures Confirm That Majority of California's School-Age Residents are Latino

March 10, 2011

The U.S. Census Bureau confirmed on Tuesday what the California Department of Education has been saying for several years: the majority of California’s school-age residents now come from a Hispanic/Latino background.

Census data released over the past 20 years documents the trend. Back in the 1990 Census, California had about eight million residents under age 18, of whom 46 percent were White, 35 percent Hispanic/Latino, ten percent Asian and eight percent Black or African American in terms of racial/ethnic background...

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School Boards Associations Urge Supreme Court to Overturn Camreta v. Greene Decision

March 3, 2011

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the California School Boards Association (CSBA) are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in Camreta v. Greene, noting that schools must “act in a manner that protects the safety and welfare of the children in their care.”

The case, which was heard on Tuesday by the Supreme Court and will be decided before the Court’s term ends in June, arose when a child protective services worker and police officer interviewed a student at an Oregon elementary school because they suspected her father was sexually abusing her...

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Leadership

The Role of Leadership in Changing School Culture

By John Almond - February 24, 2011

(Part VI of the series)

In this last of a series of articles on school culture and school climate, I will simply attempt to share some thoughts in guiding the process for change in this area. Initially, the superintendent of the district supported by the school board play a critical role in promoting changes in school culture and school climate. Their decisions on budget allocations, selection of staff, as well as communication of the school district’s mission, staff development priorities, and promotional activities, all play a part in encouraging change...

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Greg Jones Steps Down from SBE, Opening Up a Seat for another Brown Appointee

March 3, 2011

Another seat has opened up on the State Board of Education, giving Gov. Jerry Brown an opportunity to replace another board member who is a carryover from the Schwarzenegger administration.

Brown moved in January and February to replace seven Schwarzenegger appointees, including SBE President Ted Mitchell and SBE Vice President Ruth Bloom, and appointed new members Michael Kirst (the new SBE President), Trish Boyd Williams (the new SBE Vice President, Carl Cohn, Aida Molina, James Ramos, Patricia Ann Rucker and Ilene Straus...

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Compton School Board Unanimously Rejects Parent Petition

Parent Trigger Issue Heats Up as SBE Meeting Looms in March

By Jeff Hudson - February 24, 2011

The issue of when – and how – to implement California’s new Parent Trigger law continued to heat up this week, as the State Board of Education prepares to discuss regulations relating to the law during the upcoming March 9-11 meeting.

The current situation stems from (now former) Sen. Gloria Romero’s legislation SBX5 4, which was signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger in January 2010.  The bill called for creation of a list of 75 schools at which parents could trigger major changes (including forcing the school to be converted to a charter school) by gathering a majority of parent signatures on a petition...

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Student Shoots, Kills Teacher during Class at Vocational School in Los Angeles

February 24, 2011

In the latest episode involving a gun-related killing on a California campus, a student at the Coast Career Institute – a private vocational school serving adults in downtown Los Angeles – pulled out a semiautomatic weapon during class on Wednesday and shot his instructor at point-blank range.

The suspect was identified by the Los Angeles Times as 22-year-old Law Thien Huynh. The victim was identified as 44-year-old Roberto Herrera. Herrera worked as a security guard and had been teaching a class on the subject at the Coast Career Institute for the last three years, according to Lt. Paul Vernon of the Los Angeles Police Department...

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SBE Hears Lengthy Comments on Parent Trigger Regulations, Delays Action until March (or Later)

By Jeff Hudson - February 10, 2011

The State Board of Education – now stacked with Brown appointees – waded into the complex matter of regulations relating to last year’s Parent Trigger/Parent Empowerment legislation during Wednesday’s meeting of the SBE.  There was considerable discussion, but no concrete action on Wednesday by the SBE.

In January of last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SBX5 4 – written by Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles, who has since left office after running an unsuccessful campaign for State Superintendent of Public Instruction)...

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Leadership

How Does School Climate Affect Student Performance?

By John Almond - February 3, 2011

(Part V of the series)

School climate is a term that has been used for decades.  Most researchers agree, to put it simply, that school climate represents the attitude that exists on the campus.  The collective mood or morale of a group of people has become a topic of concern, especially in our new age of accountability.  It seems that a happy teacher is considered a better teacher, and this attitude influences the quality of instruction.

Numerous studies document that students in schools with a better school climate have higher achievement and better emotional health in a social sense...

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New Chief Deputy Superintendent Sizes Up the Task Ahead

An EdBrief Conversation with Richard Zeiger

By Jeff Hudson - January 27, 2011

When new Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson was sworn in earlier this month, he brought in a new Chief Deputy Superintendent – Richard Zeiger, who had been serving as Torlakson’s chief of staff during Torlakson’s last term as a member of the California Assembly.

Zeiger sat down with EdBrief recently to discuss his new role in the California Department of Education, and Torlakson’s agenda for the agency...

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Janitor Arrested

Elementary School Principal Gunned Down on Campus; Education Leaders Express Shock, Sadness

By Jeff Hudson - February 3, 2011

Leaders in California’s education circles expressed shock on Wednesday after an elementary school principal in the Sierra Foothills was shot to death at school, while classes were underway.

No children were hurt in the late-morning shooting in the office at Louisiana Schnell Elementary School in Placerville, but one student may have witnessed the shooting, according to Placerville Police Chief George Nielson...

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State of the Union Address

Obama Focuses on Jobs, But Touches on Education

By Jeff Hudson - January 27, 2011

President Barack Obama’s 2011 State of the Union speech, delivered Tuesday night, was mostly about the economy and jobs.

The President also touched on the topic of education – though not in great detail.

Prior to the speech, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had hinted that the State of the Union speech would include an outline of the Obama Administration’s proposed overhaul of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)...

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Torlakson Tabs Oropeza as Fiscal Deputy Superintendent, Gabel as Legislative Affairs Director

January 27, 2011

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson last Friday named Jeannie Oropeza, a veteran in matters relating to education finance, to the post of Deputy Superintendent of the Fiscal, Technology, and Administration Branch of the California Department of Education (CDE).

“No one knows the education budget and the fiscal emergency facing our schools after years of painful budget cuts better than Jeannie,” Torlakson said...

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Rhee Will Bring New Advocacy Group to Sacramento

By Jeff Hudson - January 27, 2011

One of the nation’s most visible – and many would add controversial – proponents of charter schools and changes to contracts between school districts and teachers unions is setting up shop in California’s state capitol.

In his annual State of the City speech last Thursday, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson announced that Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the Washington, DC school system, will be locating the headquarters of her new advocacy Students First in Sacramento...

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Leadership

School Culture, School Climate Are Not Identical

By John Almond - January 20, 2011

(Part IV of the series)

In my last three articles, I shared some thoughts in regard to the importance of school/district culture to the overall educational process.  Many educational leaders believe that the terms school culture and school climate are the same thing.  Although these two terms have similar characteristics, I believe that they express two separate concepts.

Although definitions vary, it is generally agreed that the terms school culture and school climate describe the environment that affects the behavior of teachers and students...

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U.S. Dept. of Education Plans to Boost Participation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

January 20, 2011

On Tuesday, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Interagency Working Group (IWG) released the first set of agency plans to increase Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) access to the federal government, including the U.S. Department of Education.

“The agency plans are part of the Administration's commitment to assure that all Americans have a seat at the table,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who serves as Initiative co-chair with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke...

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Some Charter School Advocates Unhappy With Brown's Moves

Honig Reconsiders and Withdraws, Ilene Straus Appointed to SB

By Jeff Hudson - January 13, 2011

Bill Honig won’t be serving on the State Board of Education (SBE) after all.

“I'm not going to go into it,” Honig told the San Jose Mercury on Monday. “I talked with Gov. (Jerry) Brown, and told him I would continue my involvement with state education policy, and remain dedicated to improving the quality of schools in this state – but in a different way.”

Brown’s decision to appoint Honig – announced last week – raised eyebrows in some quarters...

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SBE Meeting Marks the Changing of the Guard

By Jeff Hudson - January 13, 2011

The newly reconstituted State Board of Education held an abbreviated meeting this week in Sacramento.

The meeting occurred as the SBE is in the midst of a major transition – five Schwarzenegger appointees have already left the board, and five Brown appointees were sworn in on Wednesday.  Two more Schwarzenegger appointees will wrap up their terms on Saturday (Jan. 15), and two more Brown appointees will be take their places at the next SBE meeting...

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New Governor Revamps State Board of Ed, Appointing Seven New Members

By Jeff Hudson - January 6, 2011

As expected, the new Governor – sworn in on Monday – moved swiftly to revamp the membership of the State Board of Education. On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown announced seven appointees to the SBE, who will replace seven SBE members who were appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.  They new appointees are:

—Dr. Carl Anthony Cohn, of Palm Springs. He has been a Professor and the Co-Director of the Urban Leadership Program at Claremont Graduate University since 2009...

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Leadership

School Culture and Its Effect on Decision Making

By John Almond - January 6, 2011

(Part III of the series)

In this last of a three part series, I will attempt to share a few thoughts in regard to the importance of school culture as it relates to decision making.  Basically, I would contend that school leaders cannot make effective decisions, either individually or as part of a group, without first creating, fostering, and sustaining a positive school culture.

In looking at it from another point of view, a negative culture will contribute to an environment in which effective decision making is challenging at best...

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Transition Begins as Brown, Torlakson Sworn In

By Jeff Hudson - January 6, 2011

California got a new Governor and a new Superintendent of Public Instruction on Monday – and the implications for public education gradually began falling into place.

Jerry Brown – who previously served as Governor in the late 1970s and early 1980s – was sworn in at a comparatively low-key ceremony at Sacramento’s Memorial Auditorium (a venue Brown undoubtedly visited in the early 1960s, when he was a teenager and his father – Edmund G. “Pat” Brown – was California’s governor)...

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Torlakson Introduces Transition Advisory Team

January 6, 2011

On Monday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced the two co-chairs and 50 members of his Transition Advisory Team, a bipartisan group of educators, labor, and business leaders.

Torlakson’s Transition Advisory Team will provide strategic advice during his first few months in office as he identifies key issues impacting California students, schools, districts, and the California Department of Education and sets goals to address them...

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Leadership

Several Traits Can Foster Positive School Culture

By John Almond - December 2, 2010

(Part II in a series)

In my last article, I shared some thoughts regarding the role of leadership in developing and maintaining a positive school culture.  In particular, I noted three behaviors that any superintendent or principal can adopt in order to create a more positive culture:

  1. Be visible to all stakeholders
  2. Communicate regularly and with a sense of purpose, and
  3. Don’t forget that principals are role models...

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Leadership

The Impact of Leadership on School Culture

By John Almond - November 17, 2010

A great deal has been written about school culture and its importance to promoting student achievement.  The culture of a school consists primarily of the underlying values and beliefs that teachers and administrators hold about teaching and learning.  In the words of Dr. Kent Peterson, a professor in the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Wisconsin, “school culture is the set of norms, values, and beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, symbols and stories that make up the persona of the school.”...

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ACLU, State Announce Settlement in School Fees Case

December 16, 2010

The California affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union announced a settlement last Thursday with the State of California that will establish a comprehensive monitoring and enforcement system to ensure school districts do not unlawfully charge fees to students for educational activities.

The settlement, which requires court approval, is contingent on enactment of legislation that would empower students and parents to use the existing Williams Uniform Complaint Process...

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CDE Releases Enrollment Tally Using CALPADS – Figures Show Majority of California Students are Latino

November 17, 2010

The California Department of Education (CDE) recently announced that the 2009-10 student enrollment data – and the numbers indicate that for the first time, students from a Latino background account for more than half of California’s enrollment.

The numbers were collected for the first time using the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) – a system that outgoing State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell has been defending with press release after press release in recent weeks, after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that funded the CALPADS system...

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Gov-Elect Brown May Shuffle SBE Membership

By Jeff Hudson - November 17, 2010

It’s an old, old story in Sacramento: following the election of a new Governor in early November, the music starts playing, and a political game of musical chairs begins.

One chair that appears certain to go empty during this round of the game is California’s Secretary of Education – an appointee who serves as the Governor’s primary education advisor.

Incoming Governor Jerry Brown made it clear during the recent campaign that he feels the post of Secretary of Education is unnecessary, and doesn’t plan to fill it...

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Districts Where Parcel Tax Measures Failed Brace for Cuts

O'Connell Comments on Election Results for Local School Bond Measures, Parcel Taxes

November 11, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell last Thursday thanked California voters for approving the majority of local school bond measures on the November ballot – and also noted that parcel tax measures put forward by school districts were not as successful.

“Voters have great passion for improving their local school districts,” said O’Connell. “This passion is evident in the fact that even in these tough economic times voters approved nearly 70 percent of the school bond measures on the Nov. 2 ballot...

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SBE Moves Ahead with New Regulations on Teacher Evaluations, Layoffs – Despite Union Objections

By Jeff Hudson - November 11, 2010

With the November election now “in the books,” the State Board of Education (SBE) – entirely of appointees named by Gov. Schwarzenegger – pressed ahead ardently with several reform-oriented measures relating to evaluation of teachers and principals. At the same time, the representatives of teachers unions and some other stakeholder groups played for time, knowing that a new Governor – a Democrat, who most of the unions backed in the just concluded campaign – will take office in January...

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State Budget Cuts Prompt Reorganization at CDE

November 11, 2010

Some $5 million in budget cuts under the recently adopted state budget are apparently bringing changes at the California Department of Education (CDE).  According to reports surfacing this week, a November 5 email sent by Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell to CDE staff outlines these changes:

  1. The P-16 Division will be dissolved, and personnel in the division office and Policy Development Office will be assigned to other positions within the Department. The Intersegmental Relations Office will return to the Secondary, Career, and Adult Learning Division...

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Required Two Thirds Majority a Tough Hill to Climb

School Parcel Tax Measures Fare Poorly in Most California Districts, Though a Few Do Pass

By Jeff Hudson - November 4, 2010

Tuesday was not a good day for school parcel tax measures.  A few California districts managed to reach the steep two-thirds majority needed for approval for measures designed to supplement their hard-pressed budget with local funds. But most of the school parcel tax measures around the state came up short.

The results were a bit better for school bond measures, which need a more achievable 55 percent majority (rather than two-thirds) for approval...

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Leadership

Tips for Dealing Effectively with Difficult Parents

By John Almond - November 4, 2010

It’s Monday morning, and you’re on your way to the office. You have a full calendar, and you are hoping to have a productive day. When you arrive, your secretary informs you that you have an irate parent in the lobby, and they aren’t leaving until they speak with you.

If you have been a principal or a superintendent for any length of time, you have had to cope with situations of this nature far more than you would like. You realize, however, that dealing with parents is a part of your job, so you shift gears, and deal with the parent...

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Brown, Torlakson Prevail in Hard Fought Contests; Unions Flex their Muscle

By Jeff Hudson - November 4, 2010

Former Governor Jerry Brown rolled to a surprisingly substantial 12-point victory over Silicon Valley entrepreneur Meg Whitman in the race for California’s governor on Tuesday, and termed-out legislator Tom Torlakson scored a win over retired school district superintendent Larry Aceves for the post of State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Many political observers felt that while Brown – a candidate with decades of experience in statewide contests – ran an astute campaign, Whitman – a first-time candidate – had also damaged her own chances...

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New Rules For Student Loans at For-Profit Schools

November 4, 2010

In a move that could be of interest to high school counseling departments, the Obama Administration this week released a broad set of rules to strengthen federal student aid programs at for-profit, nonprofit and public institutions by protecting students from aggressive or misleading recruiting practices, providing consumers with better information about the effectiveness of career college and training programs, and ensuring that only eligible students or programs receive aid.

Students at for-profit institutions represent 11 percent of all higher education students, 26 percent of all student loans and 43 percent of all loan defaulters...

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White House to Convene Conference on Bullying Next Year

Feds Issue Guidance Regarding Harassment and Bullying, Outlining Local and Federal Responsibility

October 28, 2010

On Tuesday, the federal Department of Education issued guidance to support educators in combating bullying in schools by clarifying when student bullying may violate federal education anti-discrimination laws. The guidance issued makes clear that while current laws enforced by the department do not protect against harassment based on religion or sexual orientation, they do include protection against harassment of members of religious groups based on shared ethnic characteristics as well as gender and sexual harassment of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals...

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Leadership

You Can Develop Characteristics That Will Help Facilitate School Change

By John Almond - October 21, 2010

Leadership continues to be recognized as a very complex issue, and, as many studies have pointed out, effective leaders are far more than managers.  They have vision, develop a shared vision, and value the contributions and efforts of their co-workers in the organization.  Transformational leadership holds promise to further an understanding of effective leadership, especially the leadership needed to facilitate school change.

It is clear from the leadership literature that I have read that there are definite characteristics of leaders of educational change, and the most prominent are as follows...

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Obama Renews White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

October 21, 2010

In a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday, President Obama signed an Executive Order to renew and enhance the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Among the changes, the new Executive Order provides a better structure for the Initiative to take action and forge partnerships between the public, private, and non-profit sectors in local communities nationwide.  An enhanced inter-agency working group and a 30 member Presidential advisory commission will now work with the Initiative...

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Aceves Pulling Ahead on Newspaper Endorsements

SPI Candidates Struggle to Sustain Media Attention, Face Off at Arts Education Forum

By Jeff Hudson - October 21, 2010

Candidates Larry Aceves and Tom Torlakson – both of whom want to be elected as California’s next Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) on Nov. 2 – continued to scramble for voters’ attention this week, as most media coverage – and political advertising – focused on the hard-fought and very expensive race for Governor.

That trend was evident in a four-page mailer sent out by the California Teachers Association (CTA) this week, in which the first three pages praise Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown and knock Republican candidate Meg Whitman...

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Finance Equity, Employee Discipline, Special Education Top List of Legal Issues

October 14, 2010

By a 2-to-1 margin, school funding outranked such perennial hot-topic legal issues as special education, employee discipline, and collective bargaining in a recent survey of top legal issues facing K-12 education.

Members of the Council of School Attorneys (COSA) were mailed a list of 17 prominent legal issues identified by the editors of American School Board Journal (ASBJ) and NSBA’s Office of General Counsel. The survey was conducted this summer, and 189 responses were received...

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President Obama Faults Republicans on Education; Republicans Fire Back

October 14, 2010

President Obama focused on education and employment – and faulted Republicans for reducing funding for education – during his weekly radio address.

The President said “The other day, I was talking about education with some folks in the backyard of an Albuquerque home, and someone asked a question that’s stayed with me. He asked, if we don’t have homes to go to, what good is an education? It was a heartfelt question, one that could be asked by anyone who’s lost a home or a job in this recession.”...

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LAUSD Settles ACLU Lawsuit over Layoff of Less Experienced Teachers at Struggling Schools

October 7, 2010

The Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday settled a case filed in February by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and others.  The lawsuit maintained that massive teacher layoffs at several Los Angeles Unified School District middle schools had deprived thousands of low-income students and students of color of their legal right to an education consistent with prevailing statewide standards.

Under the terms of the settlement, there will be substantial changes in the district’s longstanding practice of making decisions about laying off teachers based largely on seniority...

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The Advantages of Connection between Schools and Parents

By John Almond - October 7, 2010

In my last article, I shared some thoughts in regard to how school administrators can encourage parents to become actively involved in the education of their children.  In order to sustain parental involvement, however, there must also be support from the schools.  As a public school administrator, there are a variety of things that you can implement in order to insure that parents stay actively engaged, and a few of them are as follows:

  1. Encourage your teachers to establish learning compacts with parents. These compacts would define the goals, expectations, and shared responsibilities of schools and parents as equal partners in promoting student success...

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Debate Available Online

SPI Hopefuls Larry Aceves, Tom Torlakson Lay Out Familiar Themes during Downey Forum

By Jeff Hudson - October 7, 2010

There weren’t a lot of surprises in last week’s televised forum between the two candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction – held at the Los Angeles County of Education Office in Downey on Sept. 29.

But candidates Larry Aceves and Tom Torlakson – speaking before an studio audience thick with educators – did lay out their standard arguments, and fielded some fairly detailed questions from the floor.

Aceves – as he’s often done in the past – began by stressing “I’m an educator, not a politician.”...

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The Gubernatorial Candidates Debate in Davis – and the Public Schools are Barely Mentioned

By Jeff Hudson - September 30, 2010

Gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman never really got around to discussing K-12 education during their debate at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis on Tuesday night.

In the candidates’ defense, during most of the hour-long exchange, the candidates were replying to questions posed by selected representatives of the news media – and those questions dealt mostly with the economy, the state budget stalemate, the candidates’ respective careers (as well as their respective frugality and business acumen), crime, the death penalty, and other topics...

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Leadership

Connecting Families and Schools Helps to Promote Student Achievement

By John Almond - September 23, 2010

As instructional leaders, we are all aware of the need to involve all stakeholders in the educational process.  While this concept sounds simple enough, we have to ask ourselves – how much time do we spend connecting families with schools to help their children succeed?

From personal experience, I have to admit that I should have spent far more time educating parents on how they could/should be an integral part of their child’s education...

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SBE Members Criticize Open Enrollment Act as "Flawed," But Advance Regs for Implementation

By Jeff Hudson - September 23, 2010

Last Thursday’s meeting of the State Board of Education included a lively discussion of the Open Enrollment Act (SB X5 4, by Sen. Gloria Romero) – with several SBE members making it clear they’d like to see aspects of the law changed, and soon.

The discussion focused on the controversial list of 1,000 schools that were initially described as “low performing.” Parents with children at those schools will have the opportunity to move their child to a higher performing school elsewhere in the state...

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SBE Discusses 2010 API Results, Hears Hours of Public Comment on Alisal, Migrant Education

By Jeff Hudson - September 16, 2010

This week’s meeting of the State Board of Education (SBE) in Sacramento began with an extended public comment period that covered some four hours – probably more than SBE President Ted Mitchell had been expecting.

Many of the speakers during public comment came from the Alisal Union School District, in the Salinas area in Monterey County.  In May, the SBE appointed a trustee with full administrative authority – Dr. Carmella Franco – to make decisions in the Alisal district...

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ACLU Lawsuit Targets School District Fees

September 16, 2010

There is yet another lawsuit involving statewide education policy.

Last Thursday, the California affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class action lawsuit against the State of California and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for allowing school districts throughout the state to charge fees for books and other essential educational supplies.  They contend this practice violates the California Constitution which, since 1879, has guaranteed children a free education...

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Leadership

Dealing with the Media in a Crisis Situation

By John Almond - September 2, 2010

(Second article in a series.)

In my last article, I shared some thoughts in regard to the importance of a crisis management plan.  In addition to the need for a plan, when a crisis erupts in your school district, you not only have to deal with the crisis; you most often have to deal simultaneously with the media as well.  Delivering a short “no comment” is, in all likelihood, simply not going to be adequate in today’s society.

Open and honest communication is necessary to allay fears and dispel rumors...

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Stories Airing as New School Year Begins

Newscasts, Interview Shows Focus on Teacher Evaluation and Other Reform Proposals

By Jeff Hudson - September 2, 2010

With the transition into the 2010-11 school year underway in most communities (and conventional political news around the nation’s capital in generally short supply), the attention of many broadcast news organizations focused on public education during the past week – including a spate of high profile segments examining “hot button” issues, like the recent publication of teacher rankings by a Los Angeles newspaper. (Click here to see last week’s EdBrief analysis of that situation)...

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Judge Reduces Legal Fees in California Voting Rights Case Brought Against Madera Unified

September 2, 2010

A Madera County judge ruled last week that the Madera Unified School District should pay $162,500 in legal fees as part of a settlement in a case brought under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) – far less than the $1.8 million in legal fees reportedly requested by the parties that pursued the lawsuit.

In 2008, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (or LCCR, a San Francisco-based group) sent a letter to the Madera school district...

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Judge Rules Against Lawsuit Brought by CSEA Member

Aceves Gets to Keep Designation "Retired Superintendent" as Ballot Description

September 2, 2010

Though both candidates are busy campaigning, the contest between candidates Larry Aceves and Tom Torlakson – who will face off on November 2 in a runoff election for Superintendent of Public instruction – hasn’t been generating a high volume of news coverage during the past few weeks.

But there was an interesting legal fracas over the past two weeks, which didn’t precisely originate from the Torlakson campaign...

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SBE Approves Modified $412 Million SIG Funding List and Emergency Regs for Parent Empowerment

By Jeff Hudson - August 26, 2010

The State Board of Education held a teleconference meeting on Tuesday, with just six SBE members participating by phone from locations around the state.  None of the SBE members were physically present in the meeting room at the California Department of Education CDE) office in Sacramento, where the board ordinarily meets.

The late breaking news of day was delivered by CDE senior staff member Deb Sigman shortly after the meeting began at 2 p.m.  Sigman told the SBE that within the preceding 30 minutes, she had finally received word from the U.S. Department of Education that the federal agency was willing to grant California a waiver – on a conditional basis – regarding the state’s allocation of School Improvement Grant funding...

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Public Doesn't Like Firing Principals, Teachers Without Cause

Survey Shows Slippage in Americans' Support of Obama's Education Agenda

August 26, 2010

Despite high levels of agreement with the administration’s agenda shown in two previous PDK/Gallup annual polls, Americans are now less supportive of President Barack Obama’s education agenda, according to the 2010 annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward Public Schools.  The poll results were released on Wednesday.

While the public favors Obama’s support of charter schools and efforts to make a college education available to everyone, only 34 percent would give him an A or B letter grade with regard to his performance in support of public schools — down from 45 percent last year...

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Leadership

Preparing and Updating Your Management Plan in Advance is Critical for Dealing with a Crisis

By John Almond - August 19, 2010
(First in a series.)

In my travels to a variety of school districts, I have noticed that several of them did not have an actual crisis management plan. This situation was particularly true in districts where the superintendent was new, and, if they did have a plan, they had to go looking for it.

In addition, I couldn’t help but notice that several of the plans that I saw in districts had not been updated for quite some time...

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Civil Rights Enforcement Discussed

Federal Summit on Bullying Leads to New Website, Interagency Collaboration

August 19, 2010

The first-ever National Summit on Bullying was held last Wednesday and Thursday in Washington, DC by the federal Department of Education. The summit sessions included the official launch of a new website, www.bullyinginfo.org, intended as a more centralized and accessible “one stop” site for federal resources on bullying.  In addition, the Office for Civil Rights will put additional resources into pursuing complaints of bullying and harassment...

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Secretary Reiss Leads California Team to Washington to Present RTTT Application

August 12, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and Education Secretary Bonnie Reiss sent a team from California Washington, D.C. this week to present California’s Race to the Top (RTTT) Phase 2 application on Tuesday before a review panel from the U.S. Department of Education.

“I want to thank President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan for this opportunity to present California’s plan before the reviewers, and I have every confidence our team will show the state has made very strong education reform efforts to improve public education,” O'Connell said...

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School Improvement Grant Controversy Continues - State Board of Education to Meet on August 24

August 12, 2010

The State Board of Education will likely hold an additional meeting this month on August 24 to deal with School Improvement Grants (SIG), as well as emergency regulations for implementation of the Open Enrollment Act (also known as the Romero Bill).

SBE staff told EdBrief on Wednesday morning that the original target date for the meeting had been August 19, but it was not clear that the SBE could get a quorum on that date, and in addition the notification of the meeting must be posted ten days in advance for official notification...

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Member Ruth Bloom: "We Are in a Pickle . . . a Real Pickle."

SBE Holds Off On Approving SIG Grants – Board Wants to Consider Funding Options

By Jeff Hudson - August 5, 2010

After a long and labored discussion on Monday, the State Board of Education (SBE) voted to hold off on awarding $415 million in federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) because the SBE were unhappy with the way the money would be distributed under the complex rules that govern such allocations.  The federal rules use multiple priorities and formulas to establish three tiers of funding...

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Implementation of Open Enrollment Act

Revised Emergency Regulations Posted, State Board of Education Action Set for September 14

By Jeff Hudson - August 5, 2010

On July 30, the California Department of Education (CDE) posted a revised version of proposed emergency regulations for implementation of the Open Enrollment Act – which will allow students at 1,000 California schools the option of applying at a different campus.

Recently released documents relating to Open Enrollment include:

  1. Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Comment Period (Notice Published 30-Jul -2010 DOC; 1.26MB; 5pp.)...

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Leadership

More Characteristics of Effective Leaders

By John Almond - August 5, 2010

(Part III in a series.)

In my last two articles, I focused on a few characteristics and attributes of highly effective leaders.  While there are no “silver bullets” to define effective leadership, there are additional factors worthy of consideration as you assess your effectiveness as a school/district leader.  As I mentioned in my previous articles, these factors are intended to be useful “food for thought” as you develop and hone your skills as a public school administrator...

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Court of Appeals Sides with CSBA, ACSA in Decision on Statewide Benefit Charter Authority

July 29, 2010

In a decision announced on Monday, the Court of Appeals of California, First District, Division Four sided with the California School Boards Association (CSBA), the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), the Stockton Unified School District, and California Teachers' Association (CTA), ruling that the State Board of Education overstepped its authority in 2007 by issuing a statewide benefit charter to Aspire Public Schools, which sought to operate statewide benefit charter schools in multiple counties...

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Litigation Was Filed in May by Cal State PTA, ACSA, Others

CTA to Intervene in Adequacy Lawsuit

July 29, 2010

Within the next few days the California Teachers Association (CTA) will file a motion to intervene in the Adequate School Funding lawsuit filed by the California State PTA, the California School Boards Association and the Association of California School Administrators.

The groups have welcomed CTA into the action. As interveners, CTA will be able to advance legal arguments at every stage of the proceeding and would be guaranteed a seat at the negotiating table during any settlement talks...

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Contours of Candidates' Strategy Emerging As Aceves, Torlakson Prepare for November Runoff

By Jeff Hudson - July 22, 2010

As the month of July wanes, and the fall campaign season draws closer, the contours of the coming campaign between the two candidates who will face off in the race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in the November general election are beginning to emerge.

Candidate Larry Aceves – who got the most votes in the June primary election – made some interesting remarks at the California Democratic Party’s executive board meeting, held in San Jose over the July 16-18 weekend...

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SBE Approves Regs Covering Romero Bill's Open Enrollment, Parent Empowerment Provisions

By Jeff Hudson - July 15, 2010

The State Board of Education (SBE) approved two sets of emergency regulations and authorized development of permanent regulations relating to implementation of SBX5 4 – known alternately as “the Romero Bill” and “the Open Enrollment Act.”

The legislation – authored by State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-East Los Angeles) – was signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in January as part of an effort to qualify California for funding in the first round of the federal Race to the Top  (RTTT) funding.  (California ultimately received no federal money in that first round of RTTT.)...

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Governor Suggests Abolishing Office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction

July 15, 2010

During his radio address about the state budget last Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered a number of suggestions regarding how state government could save money – with the idea of abolishing the constitutional office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction being the first among several possibilities mentioned.

“I urge the legislators to get to work and to send me a budget as soon as possible,” the Governor said.

“I want to also remind them that the worst thing we could do in this budget is raise taxes again or borrow money again.”...

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Leadership

Effective Leaders Are Consistent, Stand Up For What They Believe, and Collaborate

By John Almond - July 1, 2010

In my previous article on this topic (published June 10, 2010), I focused on a few characteristics and attributes of highly effective leaders.  Those mentioned were: demonstrating a good work ethic, being friendly toward teachers, and basing decisions on what’s best for kids.  There are certainly many other factors, however, that can help define effective leadership.  The factors discussed below are intended to provide food for thought as you develop and hone your skills as an effective public school administrator...

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Other Districts Planning Ballot Measures

Alameda Unified School District Parcel Tax Fails – By a Whisker – in Vote-By-Mail Election

By Jeff Hudson - July 1, 2010

Education advocates are reading the tea leaves this week, in the wake of last week’s announcement that the Alameda Unified School District’s parcel tax came up a whisker or two short of the required two-thirds majority for passage in a month-long vote-by-mail election, in which ballots were accepted between May 25 and June 22.

Alameda’s Measure E would have added $659 annually to the property taxes for each residential parcel, and 15 cents per square foot for commercial parcels, and would have been one of the highest local school taxes in the Bay Area...

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Payne Leaves to Launch New Venture

O'Connell Announces Appointment of Geno Flores as Chief Deputy Superintendent

June 24, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced last Friday the appointment of Geno Flores, an administrator with the Los Angeles Unified School District, to the position of Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction for the California Department of Education (CDE), effective July 1.

The appointment marks the return to CDE by Flores, whom O’Connell previously tapped to serve as a Deputy Superintendent in 2003 at the outset of his administration...

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Learning Loss, Bad Eating Habits Take Toll During Vacation

First Lady Launches Summer Initiative to Curb Student Obesity and Reading Loss

June 17, 2010

First Lady Michelle Obama last week joined four federal Cabinet Secretaries, joined Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service to launch United We Serve: Let's Read. Let's Move. The new initiative will get more Americans volunteering to combat the twin problems of childhood obesity and summer learning loss among youth.

“The United We Serve Summer Service initiative is a nationwide effort calling on all Americans to make service a part of their daily lives,” said Mrs. Obama...

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Leadership

Characteristics of Effective Leadership Include Listening, Giving Clear Directions

By John Almond - June 10, 2010

Being chosen to be a public school administrator doesn’t necessarily make you a leader, because leaders don’t automatically get the respect and acceptance of their co-workers.  To put it simply, they have to earn that respect.  

Effective leaders, however, do have many common qualities. Leaders make an effort to learn and practice skills so that they can...

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LAUSD Parcel Tax Measure Fails

Several Bay Area Districts Approve Parcel Tax Measures by Margins of 70 Percent or More

By Jeff Hudson - June 10, 2010

A proposed school parcel tax in the mammoth Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) went down to defeat on Tuesday night.  But several school parcel taxes in smaller San Francisco Bay Area school districts were approved – with several netting upwards of 70 percent support from local voters.

In Southern California, the LAUSD asked voters to approve Measure E, which would have raised $92 million annually over a four year period through a parcel tax of $100 per year per single family home...

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State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Aceves, Torlakson Advance to November Runoff – Romero Finishes Third, Out of the Running

By Jeff Hudson - June 10, 2010

It was a close three-way race, but the basic trend – established early in the ballot counting on Tuesday night – never really changed, though the percentages tightened up a bit as the evening wore on.

When the last precincts were counted on Wednesday morning, it was clear that two candidates were headed into a November runoff for State Superintendent of Public Instruction...

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California Alliance for Arts Education Survey

SPI Candidates Queried Regarding Arts Education Programs in K-12 Schools

June 3, 2010

With the primary election a few days away, the California Alliance for Arts Education’s survey of candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) offers voters a way to understand how candidates might impact arts education in public schools.

The survey asked candidates about a variety of issues related to arts education, including access, assessment and workforce preparation.  As the highest elected education official, the Superintendent brings a mandate from the public on education issues...

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Leadership

Successful Leaders are Qualified, Effective

By John Almond - May 27, 2010

Districts are faced with the daunting task of hiring qualified and effective leaders.  For the most part, educational leaders are trained in administrative programs that seldom address the real-life challenges that confront site/district leaders on a daily basis.  Therefore, while administrative qualifications are addressed in the hiring process, leadership effectiveness is not apparent until the leader assumes his/her position.

I would contend that, in order to be an effective leader, you must face the reality that your success is going to be defined by your ability to reach objectives having to do with a multitude of sub-systems...

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School District Parcel Tax Measures

Should You Try in a General Election? A Special Election? A Special "Mail-Only" Election?

By Jeff Hudson - May 27, 2010

After absorbing three consecutive years of budget cuts from the state, many California school districts are thinking about asking their local voters for a parcel tax to support local education programs, to replace some of the money that state government has recently taken away.

Or – in the case of districts that already have a parcel tax – certain districts are asking voters to approve an increase in their local parcel tax(es) that supports K-12 education. Some districts have more than one...

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Historic Education Lawsuit Filed by ACSA, CSBA Challenging State's Education Finance System

May 20, 2010

A historic lawsuit was filed Thursday against the State of California, requesting the current education finance system be declared unconstitutional. The suit further demands the state be required to establish a school finance system that provides all students an equal opportunity to meet the academic goals set by the state.

The case, “Robles-Wong, et al. v. State of California,” was filed in the Superior Court of California in Alameda County...

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SBE Approves Los Angeles Charter School Waiver, Over California Teacher Association's Objections

By Jeff Hudson - May 13, 2010

In action last Friday, the State Board of Education unanimously approved a request from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to waive an education code requirement that charter schools enroll any student who wants to attend the school rather than limit enrollment to a specific attendance area.

The waiver, which was recommended for approval with conditions by California Department of Education staff, would apply to those charter schools specifically approved by the LAUSD board to operate a LAUSD campus...

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Leadership in a Small District

Hats Off to the Superintendent/Principal – An Administrator Who Has Dual Duties

By John Almond - May 13, 2010

There is no doubt that one of the most difficult administrative positions in public education today is that of the superintendent/principal.  Administrators in these small school districts face particularly challenging jobs.  Where job descriptions exist, they are frequently impossible to fulfill and, at the same time, sufficiently ambiguous to allow for a variety of actions by those who control their positions.

Small school administrators confront all the customary tasks of running a school...

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ACSA Staffer, Brett McFadden, Takes CBO Spot in Pajaro Valley

May 13, 2010

Brett McFadden – a regular contributor to EdBrief, and Management Services Executive with the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) in Sacramento – is moving to Santa Cruz County, where he will become the chief business officer for Pajaro Valley Unified School District.

The new position fits in well with McFadden’s experience.  For a number of years he handled budget issues as an ACSA legislative advocate...

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California Will Participate in Phase 2 of Federal Race to the Top Competition, After All

May 6, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell announced that California would continue its efforts to improve student achievement and will seek federal funding through Phase 2 of the Race to the Top competition to support this work.

“California is still in the Race to the Top (RTTT),” O'Connell said. “California remains focused on finding ways to more effectively prepare all students for success in college and careers...

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Forum at California PTA Convention

SPI Candidates Offer Widely Divergent Views on Charter Schools, Student Testing Data and More

By Jeff Hudson - May 6, 2010

The four major candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction were featured in a forum at the California State PTA Convention in Sacramento last Friday.  The session produced some stark contrasts when the candidates were asked how they’d handle the job, if elected.

In her opening statement, State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-East Los Angeles) described California as “Number One in production of dropouts” – a phrase Romero repeated several times during the forum...

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SBE Appoints Trustees to Oversee Alisal, Greenfield Districts, Turns Down Piru Charter School

By Jeff Hudson - May 6, 2010

The State Board of Education – which has upheld several charter school appeals during the past year, over-ruling local school boards and county offices of education in the process – turned down a charter school appeal on Wednesday from the small Ventura County community of Piru, in the Fillmore Unified School District.

The petition for the Piru Charter School – which proposed to move into the buildings currently used by Fillmore Unified’s Piru Elementary – had been denied by the Fillmore Unified district’s school board in 2009...

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Leadership

Communicating Bad News in Tough Times

By John Almond - April 29, 2010

Part II in a series

As I mentioned in a previous article, research shows that management is often reluctant to communicate bad news.  But if open and honest communication is not a part of a district’s culture, then communicating bad news will result in more bad news.

How you and your district cope in tough times is a reflection of true character.  How you communicate during those tough times reflects your values. Here are a few tips that may help the cause as we deal with today’s realities...

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PPIC Poll Finds Deep Concern Over Budget Cuts to Schools

Ratings for State Leaders on Education Hit New Lows – Feds Seen as Doing Too Little

April 29, 2010

Concern is growing among the California’s residents about the consequences of spending cuts on kindergarten through 12th grade education, according to an annual survey released Wednesday night by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

Californians today are more likely than last year to believe that funding for their local schools is inadequate, and parents of public school students are far more likely to say that state budget cuts have had a big effect on their children’s schools...

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Exercise and Eating Right Makes a Difference

Fit, Healthy, and Ready to Lead...

By David Alvarez - April 15, 2010

First in a series of articles on staying healthy in a leadership role

In the last few years, administrators have had to make some very difficult decisions about reducing budgets, cutting back programs, and – sad to say – personnel reductions.  These days, it goes without saying that we have a lot of stress in our lives.  As a result, many of us in leadership positions find it hard to stay healthy, exercise, and eat well. 

Staying healthy while working at the site level as an administrator is even more difficult because our work schedules do not really allow for a “duty-free” lunch...

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Future Teacher Shortage Foreseen As Fewer Enter Profession

O'Connell Warns State Budget Cuts Hurt State's Ability to Produce Educated Workforce

April 8, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, Margaret Gaston, President of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, and Dr. Mary Falvey, Dean of the Charter College of Education at California State University, Los Angeles, warned on Tuesday that deep cuts to the state’s public education budget are having a dire effect on the recruitment, preparation, and support of the future teacher workforce...

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Leadership

Simple Morale Boosters for Tough Times

By John Almond - April 1, 2010

During extremely tough economic times, leaders sometimes become preoccupied and tend to forget the basics of people management.  In addition, employees can get caught up in worrying about their own well-being and whether or not they will continue to have a job.

When this happens, great leaders need to re-focus their teams by saying something like: we can’t control the economy, but here are specific things we can influence everyday as a team and as individual employees that will make us more productive...

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At Emergency SBE Meeting, Board Appoints Trustee to Oversee Alisal Union Elementary School District

April 1, 2010

The State Board of Education (SBE) convened via teleconference for a special meeting on Tuesday, and moved swiftly to appoint Monterey County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Kotowski as the interim trustee of the Alisal Union Elementary School District, based on the facts presented to the SBE regarding the district’s actions since March 11.  The SBE determined that immediate action was necessary in order to preserve the district’s resources and protect the public interest.  In terms of specific actions...

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Schwarzenegger Makes New State Board of Education Appointments

By Jeff Hudson - April 1, 2010

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reconstituted the State Board of Education (SBE) this week, appointing three new members, and reappointing a current member for a second term.

The Governor’s appointments represent the latest move in an ongoing chess game over the composition of the SBE.  Appointees to the SBE can serve for up to a year without legislative confirmation. Legislative Democrats recently “ran out the clock” on two SBE appointees named by the Governor in March 2009 – Rae Belisle and Jorge Lopez...

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Leadership

Tips for Motivating Your District's Staff – Even While Facing Budget Cuts, Pink Slips

By John Almond - March 18, 2010

More than any time in recent history, school districts are restructuring work environments and laying off staff in order to cope with the depressed economy.  In addition, it is not unusual for districts to experience symptoms of low morale including: excessive employee health problems, absenteeism, and dips in productivity.

In these challenging economic times, it is most important that district leaders take advantage of every opportunity to motivate and enhance the performance of employees...

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Recovery Task Force Insists California Complies with SFSF "Maintenance of Effort" Requirements

March 18, 2010

California Recovery Task Force Director Herb K. Schultz issued a quick response to a March 4 letter from the federal Department of Education suggesting that California is out of compliance with “maintenance of effort” requirements under the federal State Fiscal Stabilization Fund’ program.

“California has met all federal requirements for the second distribution of stimulus funding for education,” Schultz said. “I am disheartened that anyone would try to stand in the way of securing nearly a half a billion dollars in critical funding for our education system...

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SBE Wrap-up

Trustees Assigned to Two Monterey County Districts; SBE Seats Formerly Held by Lopez, Belisle Now Vacant

By Jeff Hudson - March 18, 2010

In action taken last Thursday afternoon (after last week’s edition of EdBrief went into distribution), the State Board of Education (SBE) unanimously moved to assign state-appointed trustees to work with two Monterey County school districts.

SBE president Ted Mitchell had recently visited the Alisal Union and Greenfield Union school districts, following up on presentations to the SBE by representatives of those districts in January describing the considerable challenges faced by the two districts...

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Aceves, Torlakson, Lenning Discuss Layoffs, Race to the Top and More at Candidate Forum

By Jeff Hudson - March 18, 2010

Three of the major candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction – all of whom have worked as classroom teachers at some point in their careers – faced off at a forum at Freeborn Hall on the UC Davis campus on Monday – the day it was announced that nearly 22,000 California teachers and other school staff had received layoff notices, largely stemming from reductions in state funding to local school districts.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said candidate Larry Aceves, a Bay Area educator who said he’d seen layoff notices go out before during his 15 years as a school district superintendent...

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Interventions Loom

CDE Identifies 188 "Low-Achieving Schools" on Monday, Then Revises List on Wednesday

By Jeff Hudson - March 11, 2010

After several delays, the California Department of Education (CDE) released a “preliminary” list of 188 California public schools identified as “persistently low-achieving” on Monday – and then revised the list of secondary schools (Tier II) substantially late Wednesday.  The revised Tier II list was effectively approved late Thursday morning when the State Board of Education (SBE) unanimously approved a set of waiver requests relating to the federal School Improvement Grant program.

The process left many educators up and down the state feeling exasperated, as schools in their district were initially labeled as “low-achieving”...

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Leadership

Some Administrators Shine in Tough Times

By John Almond - March 4, 2010

To say that the budget forecast is grim is definitely an understatement.  Nonetheless, as a superintendent, you’re expected to be an instructional leader as well as a manager and continue to move the school district forward in terms of student achievement.  Unfortunately, many young principals have never experienced an economy of this nature, or, at a minimum, have only a faint memory of what it can be like to try to do more with less.  It’s during these tough times that leadership skills are put to the test.  The following leadership skills are extremely valuable during the good times and essential during challenging times...

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State Board of Education

Jorge Lopez Steps Down, Rae Belisle's Long-Delayed Confirmation Hearing Still On Hold

By Jeff Hudson - February 26, 2010

There’s an open seat on the State Board of Education (SBE) – and there might be a second opening a few weeks hence, depending on how events shake out between now and March 11.

SBE member Jorge Lopez, appointed in March 2009 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, has resigned. In a letter announcing his decision, Lopes cited “recent family health issues and a new baby” as well as his duties as head of the Oakland Charter Academy...

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Leadership

Six Tips for Successfully Communicating Budget News During Difficult Times

By John Almond - February 19, 2010

Budget cuts and staff reductions translate into reduced services, which in turn adversely impact the quality of education for students.  When districts are forced to cut staff, successful programs are cut along with them.  Other critical services that create successful learning environments suffer during a budget crisis, especially when the budget crisis is of the magnitude that we face today.  Ultimately, students are the ones that have been most victimized by California’s unresolved school finance issues...

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UCLA Study Dubs Charter Schools "A Civil Rights Failure" – Charter Supporters Dispute Findings

By Jeff Hudson - February 12, 2010

Are charter schools less likely to be racially diverse, as compared with regular public schools?

A report published last week by the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA found that charter schools continue to stratify students by race, class, and possibly language.

Titled “Choice Without Equity: Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards,” the report also concluded that...

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Thomas Resigns as California's Secretary of Education after Turbulent Year in Sacramento

By Jeff Hudson - February 5, 2010

California State Secretary of Education Glen W. Thomas announced on Tuesday that he is stepping down as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Secretary of Education.  Thomas cited family reasons for his decision.

“It has been the highest honor to serve the Governor, but family is always first priority,” said Thomas.  “My 96-year-old mother is not well.  Twenty-four years ago I cared for my father, and I told my mother that when the time came I would do the same for her...

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Annual State of Education Message

O'Connell Renews Call for 55 Percent Threshold for Approval of School District Parcel Taxes

January 29, 2010

State Superintendent Public Instruction Jack O’Connell delivered his annual State of Education Address last Friday, highlighting progress made over the past seven years in improving student achievement.  O’Connell applauded California's educators for doing the hard work to achieve these results even as the state reduced funding for K-12 education.

O'Connell also urged the adequate funding for California's public school system and called for passage of Senate Constitutional Amendment 6 by Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto)...

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Leadership

A Five Step Strategy for Problem Solving

By John Almond - January 22, 2010

In my last article, I shared some thoughts in regard to reducing stress in the workplace.  Since stress is normally the result of problems, I thought that it might prove helpful to examine a problem solving process.  The process that I will describe is only a guide, and, although these concepts are not new or innovative, they may nonetheless prove helpful when you are faced with a particularly difficult situation...

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Governor's State of the State Message:

"I Will Protect Education Funding" – But Also "Get Rid of Incompetent Principals

By Jeff Hudson - January 8, 2010

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made some statements in Wednesday’s “State of the State” message that will likely go over well with California educators – but he also made a few statements that will likely cause some consternation among educators as well.  And many educators are waiting to see what sort of budget resources will back up the ideas outlined by the Governor in his speech.

The Governor – who has dealt huge cuts to K-12 education during the past few years – said “I am drawing this line...

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Hundreds of Local Educational Agencies Intend to Participate in Race to the Top

January 8, 2010

Speaking on Monday, when final legislative action by the California legislature on federal Race to the Top requirements was still pending, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and Secretary of Education Glen Thomas announced that almost 800 California local educational agencies (LEAs) have indicated their intent to participate in the federal Race to the Top (RTTT) reforms and support the state’s RTTT application.

Under the Obama Administration’s guidelines, in addition to prompting legislative education reforms required for states to compete...

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SBE Advances Charter School Plans, Hears from DAIT Districts with Challenging Demographics

By Jeff Hudson - January 8, 2010

Charter schools and school districts in the DAIT (District Assistance and Intervention Team) process generated plenty of discussion at this week’s meeting of the State Board of Education (SBE) – a meeting that extended over an unprecedented three-day span.

On Wednesday, the SBA approved two charter school-related agenda items that had been denied by local education agencies.  The SBE approved the Ingenium Charter School (which had been denied by the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles County Board of Education)...

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O'Connell Names New Deputy Superintendent of Government Affairs and Charter Schools

December 18, 2009

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell on Tuesday announced the appointment of Lupita Cortez Alcalá as Deputy Superintendent of the Government Affairs and Charter Development Branch.

“As California continues to implement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, competes in the Race to the Top, and negotiates our own state’s ongoing economic crisis, it is reassuring to know that a person of Lupita’s leadership ability, experience, and knowledge will help guide efforts to improve public education,” O’Connell said...

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Leadership

Six Steps to Effective Problem Solving

By John Almond - December 18, 2009

I recently wrote an article on how to deal with stress in the workplace.  As we all know, stress normally is the result of problems, either the number of them, the magnitude of any one problem, or both.

The problem solving process consists of a sequence of steps that fit together depending on the type of problem to be solved. Nothing that I will present is going to be a new concept for any public school administrator.  But it may prove helpful to think in terms of a complete process...

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Carefully Planned Campaign Nets Parcel Tax Approval for Walnut Creek School District

By Jeff Hudson - December 4, 2009

The Walnut Creek School District in suburban Contra Costa County rolled to a 75.73 percent “Yes” vote for a renewal of their $82 per year parcel tax in the November 3 election – a margin of victory nine points higher than the two-thirds majority required for passage.

And Walnut Creek’s parcel tax is now open-ended, with no expiration date – meaning that the district will not have to go back to the voters in another four years to ask for a renewal...

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Nine Proven Strategies for Coping with Stress

By John Almond - December 4, 2009

In a time of high stakes testing and accountability, political dissonance, tremendous fiscal uncertainty, ever-changing political directives, overwhelming paperwork, unparalleled student diversity, and waning public perception, public school administrators are under a tremendous amount of stress.

I would maintain that a limited amount of stress can actually be healthy.  It motivates us and makes us stronger as individuals.  

Too much stress, however, can make us irrational, and – quite literally...

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SBE Faulted for Tardy Agenda Materials

By Jeff Hudson - November 20, 2009

Time to read, absorb and thoughtfully respond to late-appearing documents relating to fast approaching deadlines – or more specifically the lack of such – was a topic that surfaced again and again at this week’s State Board of Education (SBE) meeting in Sacramento.

On Wednesday, the SBE was the target of several complaints.  Leading off was Ken Burt of the California Teachers Association (CTA), who strode to the microphone during public comment and reminded the SBE of the Bagley Keene Open Meeting Act (which dates from 1967)...

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School Boards Association Withholds 'Legislator of the Year Award' Due to State's Draconian Cuts to Schools

November 13, 2009

After consideration of the $12.5 billion in cuts to education enacted this year, and additional delays in the allocation of billions of dollars of school funds, the California School Boards Association (CSBA) decided last week not to grant an Outstanding Legislator of the Year award for 2009.

The decision was enacted by a unanimous vote of CSBA’s legislative committee, following a comprehensive analysis of each nominee’s 2009 voting record on budget-related bills and key policy legislation...

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New Student Representative Appointed to SBE

November 6, 2009

Charlene Lee, 16, of Walnut (Los Angeles County), has been appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the State Board of Education (SBE).  Lee is an honor student in her senior year at Walnut High School, in the Walnut Valley Unified School District.  Lee will be sworn in at the Nov. 18-19 meeting of the SBE.

Lee worked as a U.S. Senate page in 2009 and was an intern for the district office of then-Congresswoman Hilda Solis in 2008.  (Solis was picked earlier this year as the Obama Administration’s Secretary of Labor.)...

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Global Tides Petition Being Reviewed by Districts; Torlakson Seeks Additional Requirements

By Jeff Hudson - October 30, 2009

Scores of California school districts have been evaluating charter school petitions for the proposed Global Tides online charter school.

In an unrelated development on the charter school front, Assemblyman Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch) has introduced a bill that would put additional requirements on new charter schools and existing charter schools that are renewing their charter – while also lift the state cap on the number of charter schools, a move sought by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and others...

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The Basics of Successful Leadership

By John Almond - October 23, 2009

There has been quite a bit written about the basics of successful leadership.  But if you are like many of the superintendents that I know, you may not have had the time to read it.

Yet many writers, and any leaders – in education, and in other fields – reach similar conclusions. Many of them agree that there are three categories of practices that have been identified for leadership success...

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SPI Candidates Criss-Cross State Seeking Voter Support

By Jeff Hudson - October 23, 2009

The voters won’t go to the polls until June 2010, so these are still early days in the race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  But several candidates have been busy traveling the state and giving speeches.  Although the office is nonpartisan, most candidates have been stumping among members of the political party to which they belong, seeking early supporters for the campaign ahead.

— Larry Aceves was in Ventura County during early October.  According to an article in the Ventura County Star, Aceves told the Santa Paula Rotary Club that he is concerned because  “We’re not teaching kids to do critical thinking...

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Changing Times Require New Skills

The Fine Art of Balancing Instructional Leadership and Management Strategies

By John Almond - October 9, 2009

There are many different opinions about how much emphasis educational leaders should place on instructional leadership relative to management skills and other competencies.  Some very good leaders could not truly be called instructional leaders, but they are effective because they know how to nurture good teaching and learning amid external pressures.  At the same time, some leaders who have excellent instructional leadership skills have experienced difficulty because they are not competent managers.  In this environment, it takes more than just instructional leadership to maintain quality teaching and learning in a school setting...

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Online Charter School Submits Petitions to 91 California School Districts

By Jeff Hudson - October 2, 2009

A Southern California nonprofit group has filed charter school petitions with a total of 91 California school districts, with the goal of establishing an online K-12 charter school program that could enroll students in any part of the state.

Charter School Development Systems, of Newport Beach, has reactivated an existing but until recently dormant nonprofit organization known as Global Tides Online Charter School, which proposes to open in September 2010.  Global Tides proposes to launch with six teachers, and initially serve 100 students who would work from home...

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Sec. Duncan Awards Early Reading First Grants – Two California Districts among Recipients

September 25, 2009

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Tuesday announced the award of more than $108.8 million in Early Reading First grants to 28 local education agencies (LEAs) and other public or private organizations in 18 states and Washington, D.C., to improve the school readiness of young children, especially those from low-income families.  The Department of Education awards Early Reading First grants to school districts and non-profit organizations to improve the instruction and environment provided by preschool programs supported by the Title I program, Head Start, and publicly funded or subsidized child care...

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SBE Ponders More Frequent Meetings, Examines DAIT Changes and Reading Program Funding

By Jeff Hudson - September 18, 2009

In an effort to secure as much funding as possible of an estimated $10 billion to be made available nationwide under the federal Race to the Top (RTTT) program, the State Board of Education (SBE) may be scheduling additional meetings in coming months.

And it will now be possible for educators around the state to follow the SBE’s discussions, since the California Department of Education is piloting a program to carry live streaming video of the proceedings through the CDE website...

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Do you recognize yourself?

Good Boss/Bad Boss Behaviors

By John Almond - September 11, 2009

Part II of the Series

In my last article, I addressed the concept of good boss/bad boss behaviors.  Many leaders love to give orders or critique the work of others, but have unclear or ambivalent ideas about what they are actually trying to accomplish.  They certainly know what they want at the moment, but the big picture is blurred.

  1. Bad boss position on feedback: Now everyone will tell me when I’m right.
  2. Good boss position on feedback: Now everyone must tell me when I’m wrong...

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Obama to Address Nation's Students on Tuesday

By Jeff Hudson - September 3, 2009

President Barack Obama will give a special address for K-12 students on Tuesday (September 8) at 9 a.m. Pacific Time.  The broadcast will be carried live over the White House website (www.whitehouse.gov) and will also be carried live on C-SPAN (www.c-span.org).  The speech will likely be available for replay at both websites after the live broadcast.

A technology tip from Tina Burkhart, Director of District Support Services with Total School Solutions: “If the schools in a district are planning to watch the speech live...

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Are You a Good Boss? Or a Bad Boss?

By John Almond - August 28, 2009

In all of the articles that I have written about leadership, I have never really addressed the issue of “being the boss.”  After all, there are times when you simply have to make decisions, and live with the consequences.

Yet it’s also important to realize this related reality: few things can incite an employee like asking him/her to talk about a “bad boss.”  People aren’t just annoyed when they perceive poor leadership; they often get downright angry and begin to sputter as they describe their superior...

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Avoid "Donor Fatigue"

Be Considerate When Asking for Classroom Supplies

By Tahir Ahad - August 21, 2009

The school year has started at many school districts.  Kids bring home backpacks containing notes from the teachers outlining their coursework for the weeks and months.  Frequently, teachers also send home a request asking parents to provide supplies, workbooks, agendas, journals and other necessities, some as innocuous as tissue paper.

Public education has always relied on the support and generosity of the community.  The gift of goods, supplies and services to schools and classrooms has a long and rich history...

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Fiscal Perspectives: Things Education Leaders Should Keep in Mind

By Brett McFadden and Tahir Ahad - August 14, 2009

The dust continues to settle on many aspects of the recently adopted 2009-10 revised state budget.  But as we figure out how to implement this one, we need to start thinking about the next.  Unfortunately, we are not out of the woods by any stretch.  The following are some perspectives we recommend education leaders consider as they implement this latest version of the budget and begin thinking about the rest of 2009-10 and start planning for 2010-11.

Continued trouble ahead...

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Districts Monitoring Voting Rights Lawsuits, Some Switch to Trustee Elections by District

By Jeff Hudson - August 7, 2009

Numerous California school districts are mulling over a change in the way they elect school board trustees – and several districts have already switched to “by district” elections – as a result of a the efforts of a group known as the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR).

In March of last year, the Madera Unified School District (in the San Joaquin Valley, about 20 miles north of Fresno) received a letter from the LCCR, followed by a second letter in June 2008...

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Preparing for the First Day of School, A Good Idea

By John Almond - August 7, 2009

Are you a first year principal, or a veteran with many years of experience?  For the purposes of this article, it really doesn’t matter.  At this time of the year, all principals are preparing for that first day of the new school year, and they certainly want it to run smoothly for kids, parents, staff, and themselves.

The best advice I ever received as a principal preparing for that first day was to plan, and then plan more extensively.  You should develop a list of key items such as the following: hiring staff, the master schedule...

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Obama to California: Change Your Ways If You Want Federal 'Race to the Top' Funding

By Jeff Hudson - July 31, 2009

The Obama Administration challenged California’s education practices again last Friday.  And this time it was the President himself who did the talking.

“Any state that makes it unlawful to link student progress to teacher evaluation will have to change its ways if it wants to compete” for the $4.35 billion that will soon be available for competitive grants under the new federal “Race to the Top” program, Obama said in a speech at the federal Department of Education in Washington.  The President mentioned California specifically...

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Everyday Administrative Challenges Can Place You in Unusual Situations

By John Almond - July 24, 2009

For the past two years, I have had the privilege of “coaching” approximately twenty new administrators.  All of these individuals were qualified to assume their respective roles, but most of them had very limited administrative experience.  While the administrative credential program is highly beneficial, it can’t possibly deal with the tremendous variety of everyday administrative challenges that one inevitably faces on the job.  A few of these challenges are listed below, and while some of them may sound far-fetched, every one of them actually occurred.  There were times when I had to laugh after hanging up the phone...

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Effective Leaders Develop Skills – Listening, Setting an Example, Handling Conflict

By John Almond - July 10, 2009

Being chosen to be a public school administrator doesn’t necessarily make you a leader, because leaders don’t automatically get the respect and acceptance of their co-workers.  To put it simply, they have to earn that respect.

Effective leaders, however, do have many common qualities.  Leaders make an effort to learn and practice skills so that they can:

  1. Listen openly to others.
  2. Offer and accept constructive suggestions...

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Commentary

Reaffirming Our Core Mission During Crisis

By Tahir Ahad (TSS) and Brett McFadden (ACSA) - June 26, 2009

Nowadays, more often than not, these words are uttered by many decision-makers in K-12 education:

“We don’t have any money”

And then critical spending, including that which would be needed to help enhance student learning and achievement, is put on hold.

Yet even though school districts around the state have taken significant losses due to state budget problems and the nationwide recession, our core mission as education leaders has not changed...

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California Court Decision Favors Management

By Brett McFadden (ACSA) and Dr. Ruben Ingram (SEAC) - June 26, 2009

We finally have some good news to report.  On June 18, the California Supreme Court issued its opinion in the San Leandro Unified School District mailbox case, regarding distribution of campaign literature.  The opinion was 7-0 in favor of the district and school management organizations involved in the case.  The court concluded:  "We hold that the District may constitutionally determine pursuant to (Education Code) section 7054 that internal school mailboxes should be kept free of literature containing endorsements of political candidates."...

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Analysis and Commentary

Pending Budget Reductions Could Scrap California's K-12 Accountability System

By William Splading, Tahir Ahad (TSS) and Brett McFadden (ACSA) - June 19, 2009

While it is difficult to make prognostications regarding what will finally emerge from the current negotiations over the expected reductions in the state budget, it is possible that we may be witnessing the slow dismantling of the Public School Accountability Act and California’s home-grown (and original) system of education accountability.

While the Academic Performance Index (API) remains in place, other components of California’s original accountability system appear to have been abandoned, with additional aspects of the system apparently on the chopping block...

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Successful Meetings and Group Discussions are Usually Thought Through in Advance

By John Almond - June 12, 2009

The vast majority of work accomplished at meetings is normally done through group discussion.  This fact is significant since discussions are a time when everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the group as a whole.  Group discussion is particularly valuable when more than one individual is working on a project.  The ideas generated within a group often don’t come alive when one person is working alone.  Discussion time within a meeting, however, is also a time when frustrations can build.

If, as the leader, you sense that frustration and anxiety are becoming all too prevalent at your meetings, you may need to re-think the purpose behind having group discussions...

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Larry Aceves, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, Picks Up 300 Endorsements

By Jeff Hudson - June 5, 2009

Larry Aceves, retired school district superintendent and candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, announced this week that he’s received over 300 key endorsements from educators, superintendents, and education leaders throughout the state.

Aceves has been endorsed by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), the largest umbrella leadership organization for school leaders in the nation, representing more than 16,000 school leaders.  Charles Weis, President of ACSA and an individual endorser of Larry Aceves said, "Larry Aceves has been committed to working with students and educators for over 30 years...

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Districts Urged to Support Legislation Lowering Threshold for Parcel Tax Passage

By Laura Preston, ACSA - May 29, 2009

The Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) is urging local school boards to pass a resolution in support of legislation that will make it easier to pass local parcel taxes to support educational program.

SCA 6 (introduced by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto) places a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2010 to ask voters if they support school districts having the ability to pass local parcel taxes with a 55% vote threshold, instead of the currently required two-thirds majority.  This would make the vote threshold for parcel taxes the same as for local general obligation bonds for school facilities...

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Tips for Delegating Authority

By John Almond - May 15, 2009

As pointed out in a previous article, everyone's leadership style is situational.  Your leadership style depends on the importance of the task to be completed, the capabilities of the individuals with whom you work, and the time available to obtain the desired results.

As a leader, you make daily decisions about the appropriate leadership style to utilize in each work situation.  When possible, delegating authority will definitely help to foster employee involvement and empowerment in order to enable your colleagues to demonstrate their best effort at work...

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SPI Candidate, Aceves Ramps Up Campaign, Stresses Background as Educator

By Jeff Hudson - May 22, 2009

Larry Aceves – who's served as superintendent in several California school districts – is spending lots of time these days recruiting many of his former colleagues as supporters in his race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“I have been doing some travel, but mostly I've been on the phone with people, generating support – and fundraising,” Aceves said in an interview with EdBrief on Wednesday.  “I've spoken with over 300 people, most of them superintendents.  And most of them have said ‘Thank God you're doing this – we need an educator rather than a legislator for SPI.’”...

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Garcia Appointed as New Executive Director of SBE

By Jeff Hudson - May 8, 2009

The State Board of Education (SBE) today named Theresa Garcia as the new Executive Director of the State Board of Education.

"We are excited about the leadership she will bring to the board. The board is confident that her vast experience in education, coupled with her commitment to the children of California make her the right choice for the board," said Ted Mitchell, President State Board of Education.

Garcia has an extensive background in California education...

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Lopez Named to State Board of Education

By Jeff Hudson - May 8, 2009

Jorge Lopez, of Moraga, was sworn in as a new member of the State Board of Education (SBE) on Wednesday. 

Lopez has served as the executive director for Oakland Charter Academy.  Prior to that, Lopez was the program director for Sacramento Youth Project/MAAP2004 and held the same position with Migrant Education Region XXVI (Area III) in 2003. He worked at Dolores Huerta Learning Academy where he served as the principal from 2000 to 2001 and teacher from 1999 to 2000...

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Bersin Joins Obama Administration as "Border Czar," Leaves State Board of Education

By Jeff Hudson - April 24, 2009

Alan Bersin – a member of California's State Board of Education (SBE) – is moving on.

Bersin is joining the Obama Administration in a position dealing with issues on the U.S./Mexico boundary, including drug-related law enforcement. The new job is not unlike the post that Bersin held in the 1990s during the Clinton Administration.

Back in the 1990s, Bersin worked under Attorney General Janet Reno as the nation's Southwest Border Representative...

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The Importance of Feedback

By John Almond - April 3, 2009

As a leader, whether you recognize it or not, you are constantly providing feedback to your employees and colleagues.  How you provide that feedback will often make the difference in terms of whether the employee is successful or unsuccessful.

Some of the most common types of feedback are as follows:

    1. Silence – When you give no response to your employee’s work, you aren’t maintaining the status quo. In fact, you are likely to be encouraging a decrease in both their performance and confidence over the long term. The employee has no way of knowing if their actions are appropriate, and silence can even create a degree of paranoia...

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How to Know if You are an Effective Leader

By John Almond - March 27, 2009

“Leadership is the art of getting someone to do something you want because they want to do it.”

This thought came from our thirty-fourth President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower.  A leader is responsible for getting results.  That means planning and delegating in situations where it is warranted.  If you are not being effective, there will be some definite signs or indicators that are easy to identify.  Here are some indicators that your leadership style might need improvement...

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Effective Leadership Supports Student Success

By John Almond - March 13, 2009

In a time of high stakes testing and accountability, political dissonance, fiscal uncertainty, ever-changing policy directives, overwhelming paperwork, unparalleled student diversity, and waning public perception, effective educational leadership has never been at such a premium.

Effective leadership is critical to student success.  Educational reformers and support providers continually study effective schools in an attempt to identify those characteristics that most often foster student success – academic, personal, social, emotional, and physical...

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With Increased Flexibility Comes Increased Responsibility: A big picture perspective

By Tahir Ahad and Brett McFadden - Marth 6, 2009

Much has been made of the recently adopted “flexibility” in the use of categorical program funding, and some have celebrated the newly introduced funding as a political victory. However, the fact remains that the flexibility, although helpful, comes with historic overall reductions in K-adult funding, and specific reductions to programs and services to students.

Therefore, we recommend a careful analysis of the new flexibility provisions in relationship to your Local Educational Agency (LEA)’s overall mission and student needs...

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Are You Running Effective Meetings?

By John Almond - February 20, 2009

Effective meetings are the result of a process that accounts for the needs of those who organize the meeting and those in attendance.  The basic componentes of this process include preparing for the meeting, conducting the meeting, and following up after the meeting is closed.

While this certainly sounds simple enough, how many times have you been in a meeting where you wondered why you were there?  An effective meeting can be described as one which achieves its goals and involves all participants...

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Tips for Maintaining Balance in Your Life

By John Almond - December 12, 2008

In my last article, I focused on the concept of assessing whether or not you are maintaining balance in your life. As we all know, in today's hectic world, it is easy for one's life to become totally consumed by work. Here are some helpful tips to help you maintain a sense of balance:

  1. Find time for exercise on a regular basis.  Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be an athlete to exercise...

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Are You Maintaining Balance in Your Life?

By John Almond - November 14, 2008

As public school administrators, we often feel as though there is "not enough of us to go around." In today's hectic world, we all try to fill multiple roles, and are often pulled in a variety of directions.

The end result can be that one's life becomes totally out of balance.

Your ability to maintain balance in your life will be determined by your leadership style and your ability to live your priorities...

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Time Well Spent? . . . Not Always

By William Spalding - November 7, 2008

If you've been in K-12 education for a while, and have observed some of the trends and models of instruction that have gone in (and out) of fashion, you might remember the movement for "time on task" as the driving force in instruction and emphasis in evaluation.

"Time on task" featured an evaluator equipped with a stopwatch and map of the classroom, intermittently checking the percentage of students that were "on task" at a particular moment...

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Organization – The Key to Success

By John Almond - October 31, 2008

I believe that we can all agree that there has never been a more difficult time to be a top level administrator in public education, particularly in California.

In a time of high stakes testing and accountability, political dissonance, fiscal uncertainty, ever-changing policy directives, overwhelming paperwork, unparalleled student diversity, and waning public perception, educational leadership has become a daunting task...

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Educate Your Board Candidates

By Tahir Ahad - October 24, 2008

On November 4, 2008, when the voters elect a president and members of federal and state legislatures, they will also pick the elected leadership of their local school districts.

About half of the school districts in California will hold board elections on the same ballot that includes the presidential contest. Typically, these local elections produce a new crop of school board trustees, serving on an elected board for the first time...

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The Qualities of a Leader – Part III

By John Almond - October 17, 2008

This article is the last of a three part series pertaining to the qualities of highly effective leaders. In previous articles, I have cited fourteen characteristics that I believe are essential to serve as a true leader and move your organization forward. The final seven qualities are as follows:

  • Quality No. 15 – Relationships: If You Get Along, They’ll Go Along...

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The Qualities of a Leader – Part II

By John Almond - October 3, 2008

As pointed out in my previous article (Part I), highly effective leaders possess many qualities which set them apart from their colleagues.

At that time, I cited seven characteristics that I believe are essential for a leader to move any organization forward.

There are many other qualities, however, that are also of great importance. Here are seven of them...

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What Secretary of Education Long Has to Say Now

By Jeff Hudson - September 26, 2008

Sometimes, a long-planned presentation at a regularly scheduled meeting takes on greater significance.

That was the case with a routine meeting of the Yolo County School Boards Association in Woodland on September 22, where David Long – who’s served as Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Secretary of Education since March 2007 – was the scheduled guest...

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The Qualities of a Leader – Part I

By John Almond - September 19, 2008

As pointed out in a previous article, educational reformers and support providers continually study effective schools in an attempt to identify those characteristics that most often foster student successes.

While the findings of said researchers range from teacher expectations to curricular alignment, most agree that strong, effective leadership is essential for school success...

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Leadership Development is a Key Element in Determining School Success

By John Almond - September 1, 2008

In a time of high stakes testing and accountability, political dissonance, fiscal uncertainty, ever changing policy directives, overwhelming paperwork, unparalleled student diversity, and waning public perception, effective educational leadership is at a premium.

Educational reformers and support providers continually study effective schools in an attempt to identify those characteristics that most often foster student success- academic, personal, social, emotional, and physical...

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Key Traits To Be A Successful Principal

By John Almond - September 1, 2008

The following is the first of two articles about the Key Traits of a Successful  Principal, which we hope will assist school districts who are struggling to attract and keep high quality Principals.

There is no doubt that serving as a principal is one of the most intense and stressful jobs in public education. In particular, being a principal of a large comprehensive high school is probably the single most stressful job with the possible exception of being the bus dispatcher for Los Angeles Unified...

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